Notable Alumni

A list of notable Politics alumni.

    Law and politics

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    Ken Alex (Stevenson '77)

    Ken Alex is a senior policy advisor to California Governor Jerry Brown and director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Alex was the Senior Assistant Attorney General, heading the environment section of the California Attorney General’s Office. From 2000-2006, he led the California Attorney General’s energy task force, investigating price and supply issues related to California’s energy crisis. In 2007 he received the ABA award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy in 2007 for his work on global warming. He has taught courses on environmental law and policy at Stanford, Hastings, and Golden Gate University.
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    Kelvin D. Filer (Stevenson ’77)

    Kelvin Filer is currently a judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in California. After graduating from UCSC he received his J.D. from UC Berkeley. He then worked as a public defender where he won a landmark California Supreme Court case holding that criminal defendants have a right to wear civilian clothing during their trials. He later served as a commissioner for the Compton Municipal Court. In 2002, he was appointed as a judge of the Superior Court in Los Angeles. He published a memoir of his eventful life, Race Ipsa Loquitur: A Poetic Diary of My Journey from Compton to the Los Angeles Superior Court Bench (Xlibris, 2013).
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    John Laird (Stevenson ’72)

    John Laird is currently secretary of the California Resources Agency, a key position overseeing the state's environment. Laird is a former three-term member of the state Assembly, where he served as chair of the Budget Committee. As an assembly member he established the landmark Sierra Nevada Conservancy, restored community college health services, expanded state civil rights protections, and significantly expanded water conservation. In 1983, Laird was elected mayor of Santa Cruz, and became the first openly gay mayor in the United States. He was also a founding member of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP). He also served as a city council member and taught environmental policy at UCSC.
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    George Robert Perkovich (Cowell ’81)

    George Robert Perkovich was former speechwriter and adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden and is one of the most influential voices on international nuclear arms issues. He is currently the vice president for studies and director of the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Perkovich is the author of the award-winning book India's Nuclear Bomb (2001) and coauthor of the Adelphi Paper, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, published in 2008 by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. In 2008 he was awarded the Division of Social Sciences' Distinguished Alumni Award.
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    David Sotelo (Merrill ’83)

    David Sotelo is currently a judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. After graduating from UCLA law school, Sotelo worked as a prosecutor. In the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, Sotelo was recruited to be part of a team prosecuting police and government officials accused of abuse or other criminal activity. He was then appointed as a Court Commissioner where he was challenged to help start a non-adversarial drug court in East L.A.

  • Lawyers

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    Charles Harder (Merrill ’91)

    Charles Harder is the go-to litigator in Hollywood for issues related to defamation, reputation protection, First Amendment, privacy, media law, entertainment, intellectual property and business litigation. The Hollywood Reporter recently described his as “arguably the highest-profile media lawyer in America.” His has represented celebrities including George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Lena Dunham, Jude Law, and Clint Eastwood. Most recently, Harder won a $140 million verdict for Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) in an invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media, and won several defamation suits on behalf of First Lady Melania Trump.

  • Media and journalism

  • Bratt

    Peter Bratt (Cowell '86)

    Peter Bratt is an award winning screenwriter and independent filmmaker whose first feature Follow Me Home premiered at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and won the Best Feature Film Audience Award that same year at the San Francisco International Film Festival. In 2009, he and his brother Benjamin produced La Mission, a film that received the prestigious Norman Lear Writer’s award. Peter also cowrote and directed Doloresa feature documentary about the life of activist Dolores Huerta, with Brian Benson and Grammy Award winning musician Carlos Santana. Bratt is also a San Francisco Film Commissioner and a long time consultant for the Friendship House Association of American Indians, a local non-profit serving the Bay Area’s Native population.

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    Azadeh Moaveni (Oakes ’98)

    Azadeh Moaveni was raised in San Jose with Iranian exile parents. After UCSC, she won a Fulbright Fellowship to Egypt and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo.  She later lived in Iran and married an Iranian with whom she has a son. She’s written two books, Lipstick Jihad and Honeymoon in Tehran, and co-wrote Iran Awakening with Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi. She now lives in Cambridge and teaches journalism at Kingston University in London and has also contributed to the Guardian and Foreign Policy.

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    Dana Priest (Merrill '81)

    Journalist, writer and teacher Dana Priest has written for the Washington Post for nearly 30 years. Her work as an investigative journalist earned two Pulitzer prizes, one for her 2007 exposé of the deplorable conditions facing wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and another in for her work exposing the government's secret 'black site' prisons. She also received the prestigious George Polk award for her work on CIA detention centers. In 2006, she received the Division of Social Sciences' inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award.
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    Julie Snyder (Kresge ’95)

    Julie Snyder is currently a senior producer of the popular radio show This American Life and co-creator of the runaway podcast hit Serial. Her career in radio began at UCSC where she took a class on radio journalism. She later became news director at Santa Cruz's public radio station KZSC and worked as a reporter for WGN radio in Chicago before joining American public radio personality Ira Glass at WBEZ and and its parent company, Chicago Public Media.

  • Academia and higher education

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    Cristina Beltrán (Porter, ’92)

    Cristina Beltrán is an associate professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. She is also a s a frequent commentator on television talk programs. From 2001 until 2011, she taught in the Political Science Department at Haverford College; in 2013-14, she was a resident member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Her current research project (provisionally titled The Right Kind of Difference: Latino Republicans and the Pleasures of Race) is an exploration of how Latino conservative thought is shaped not only by ideology but through a potent combination of emotion, expression, and aesthetics.
  • Wendy Brown

    Wendy Brown (Crown ’77, Politics and Economics)

    Wendy Brown is UPS Foundation Professor in Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and Class of 1936 Chair, Emeritus, at the University of California, Berkeley. A pioneer in feminist political theory, she is the author of numerous influential books and articles, including States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (1995), In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (2019), and Nihilistic Times: Thinking with Max Weber (2023). She taught at UCSC from 1989–99.
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    Theresa Enright (Ph.D. ’12)

    Theresa Enright is an Assistant Professor in the University of Toronto's Department of Political Science. Enright's research is situated at the intersection of critical theory and urban politics, focusing on transit-oriented development, mega-projects, urban democracy and global suburbs. She is the author of The Making of Grand Paris Metropolitan Urbanism in the Twenty-First Century.
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    Lincoln Mitchell (Kresge, ’89)

    Lincoln Mitchell is a writer and specialist in political development. Mitchell has worked on democracy and governance related issues in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. He is the author of several books including Uncertain Democracy: US Foreign Policy and Georgia’s Rose Revolution and The Democracy Promotion Paradox. In addition to being an accomplished scholar, he also works with businesses and NGOs globally, particularly in the former Soviet Union. Mitchell was the national political correspondent for The New York Observer from 2014-2016 and is also a frequent blogger on The Huffington Post where he writes primarily about US politics.
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    James Rowe (Ph.D. ’09)

    James Rowe is a tenured associate professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria in Canada. His research and teaching areas are political ecology, political theory, and social movement strategy. He co-authored the book Globalization, Governmentality, and Global Politics with UCSC politics professor Ronnie Lipschutz. Rowe’s work appear in many journals in the fields of political ecology and political theory.

  • Other notable alumni

  • Other accomplished alumni from the social sciences division include Pulitzer prize-winning Associated Press National Writer Martha Mendoza (Kresge '88, journalism and education), founder David Talbot (Stevenson '73, sociology), LA Times journalist and political author Hector Tobar (Oakes '85, Latin American studies/sociology), and Kris Perry (Merrill ‘86, psychology) the named plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged, and eventually overturned, Proposition 8, a 2008 California constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

  • Photo credits

  • Ken Alex image via here, Kelvin Filer image via here, John Laird image via here, George Perkovich image via here, David Sotelo image via here, Charles Harder image via here, Azadeh Moaveni image via here, Dana Priest image via here, Julie Snyder image via here, Cristina Beltran image via here, Theresa Enright image via here, Lincoln Mitchell image via here