Marian Avila-Breach

Cowell ’20, politics and philosophy

Marian Avila-Breach (Cowell ’20, politics and philosophy)

When Marian Avila-Breach, 25, transferred from a community college to UC Santa Cruz, she thought she knew what was in store for her during the next two years.

“I was wrong, in the best way possible,” she said.

Initially, it was the natural beauty and the presence of smart, ambitious friends who led her to the campus. But Avila-Breach’s intellectual curiosity and adventurous spirit led to unexpected opportunities that shaped the rest of her time at UCSC and influenced her professional goals.

After taking a course in applied ethics, Avila-Breach joined the Ethics Bowl team, a non confrontational alternative to the traditional competitive form of debate. In 2018, she was part of an Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team that squared off against a group of San Quentin prison inmates in a friendly and spirited debate that was more about finding common ground than "winning" or "losing."

The topic was “disproportionate disenfranchisement of African Americans as one symptom of a biased criminal justice system,” and Avila-Breach had a memorable rebuttal that was quoted in the San Quentin News: “Considering broader racial inequities, where is the justice here?”

Her politics and philosophy professors urged Avila-Breach to take the next step. She joined the research center for UC Santa Cruz’s Human Rights Lab, and worked as the team manager. This project uses high-tech sleuthing tools to investigate human rights abuses across the globe. The Humanities Institute funded her participation in the lab.

Now that she is on the verge of graduation, and hoping to attend law school, Avila-Breach looks back on her time at UC Santa Cruz with fondness and gratitude.

“To all future UC Santa Cruz students I say welcome, and remember that beside the classes and degree, there is an academic world and community right at your fingertips,” she said, before leaving the next generation of Slug scholars with a one-word call to action: “Engage!”