New Provost Announced for Merrill College

March 10, 2023


The Division of Undergraduate Education is pleased to announce the appointment of Associate Professor Aims McGuinness as Provost of Merrill College, effective July 1.

McGuiness is an associate professor in the Department of History and an affiliated faculty member of the Latin American and Latino Studies Department. Aims joined UC Santa Cruz in August 2020.

Aims McGuiness is inspired by Merrill College and its renown for empowering students to learn about diverse identities and cultures and to work toward a more inclusive and just world. He is “excited to honor that history by meeting the needs of students in the present and continuing the work of building a strong foundation for the future.” And, “looks forward to joining other college provosts in ensuring that liberal arts education thrives on our campus, so that we can continue to serve as a beacon for other campuses in the University of California System and beyond.”

Merrill College’s theme, “Cultural Identities and Global Consciousness,” resonates with McGuinness's commitments and passions as a scholar and teacher. His first book, Path of Empire: Panama and the California Gold Rush (Cornell U. Press, 2008), reframes the California Gold Rush as an event in Panamanian history and considers how Panama became a proving ground for U.S. empire. He teaches classes on the California Gold Rush in global history, U.S. empire and the Panama Canal, and an undergraduate research seminar entitled “Myths of California.” He is also interested in the history of democratic socialism in the United States and is writing a book about the unusual history of municipal socialism in Milwaukee, WI, in a transnational context. His work has been published in English and Spanish translation in the United States and Panama as well as Cuba and Costa Rica. He looks forward to joining new colleagues in the teaching of the Merrill Core Course, “Reading Ourselves, Reading the World.”

McGuinness expressed gratitude and admiration for the long-term leadership of current Merrill Provost Elizabeth Abrams, observing that “Elizabeth has done a remarkable job of leading Merrill College as provost and has played a critical leadership role in developing the Academic Literacy Curriculum, among many other contributions to our campus.”

Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education and Global Engagement Richard Hughey was impressed with McGuinness’s commitment to students, especially students in need, individually or collectively. “When meeting a student facing challenges navigating the campus, their education, or life, Aims ensures that the student is directly connected to the resources that can best help them.”

McGuinness first connected with Merrill College soon after arriving at UCSC, when a friend who is a proud alum of Merrill gave him a tour. “At that time in the pandemic,” he recalled, “there were very few people on campus. Seeing the Merrill Moat helped me to feel connected to students and the university, and it gave me hope.” Incoming Merrill Provost Aims McGuinness has a favorite mural on the Merrill Moat, which he will reveal to you if you ask him.