The University of California, Santa Cruz, also known as UC Santa Cruz or UCSC, is a public, collegiate university; one of ten campuses in the University of California. Located 80 miles (130 km) south of San Francisco at the edge of the coastal community of Santa Cruz, the campus lies on 2,001 acres (8.10 km2) of rolling, forested hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay.
Founded in 1965, UC Santa Cruz began as a showcase for progressive, cross-disciplinary undergraduate education, innovative teaching methods and contemporary architecture. Since then, it has evolved into a modern research university with a wide variety of both undergraduate and graduate programs, while retaining its reputation for strong undergraduate support and student political activism. The residential college system, which consists of ten small colleges, is intended to combine the student support of a small college with the resources of a major university.
Although some of the original founders had already outlined plans for an institution like UCSC as early as the 1930s, the opportunity to realize their vision did not present itself until the City of Santa Cruz made a bid to the University of California Regents in the mid-1950s to build a campus just outside town, in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Santa Cruz site was selected over a competing proposal to build the campus closer to the population center of San Jose. Santa Cruz was selected for the beauty, rather than the practicality, of its location, however, and its remoteness led to the decision to develop a residential college system that would house most of the students on-campus. The formal design process of the Santa Cruz campus began in the late 1950s, culminating in the Long Range Development Plan of 1963. Construction had started by 1964, and the University was able to accommodate its first students (albeit living in trailers on what is now the East Field athletic area) in 1965. The campus was intended to be a showcase for contemporary architecture, progressive teaching methods, and undergraduate research. According to founding chancellor Dean McHenry, the purpose of the distributed college system was to combine the benefits of a major research university with the intimacy of a smaller college. UC President Clark Kerr shared a passion with former Stanford roommate McHenry to build a university modeled as "several Swarthmores" (i.e., small liberal arts colleges) in close proximity to each other. Roads on campus were named after UC Regents who voted in favor of building the campus.