Last February marked the anniversary of the death of Elizabeth Butler, a 1996 Kresge College graduate and Santa Cruz police officer.
Butler, a 38-year-old mother of two, was shot and killed on duty, along with her colleague Butch Baker as they investigated an alleged sexual assault on Feb. 26, 2013, a day Chief of police Kevin Vogel called “the darkest day in the history of the Santa Cruz police department.” They were the first officers to be killed in the line of duty in Santa Cruz.
“When the tragedy h+appened with Beth, it was devastating,” said UC Santa Cruz community studies director and endowment organizer Mary Beth Pudup. “After that initial feeling of ‘oh my gosh how horrible,’ I thought to myself it would be really nice to create some type of memorial.”
Influenced by her field study experience at the La Familia Center in the Santa Cruz Beach Flats neighborhood where she worked with young Latino students, Butler was inspired to find a career that would benefit the community.
“Beth was born in Los Angeles but ended up in Santa Cruz and decided to make this place her home where she raised her family,” Pudup said. “As a community studies major she worked with the La Familia Center and in a sense, she really modeled how your commitment to a community forms as a UCSC student.”
Pudup reached out to Butler’s fellow alumni and proposed a scholarship endowment in honor of Butler exclusively for community studies majors, intended to support them during their full-time field study. Through this grassroots-type effort and support from Butler’s family, including her partner Peter Wu, the Elizabeth Butler Scholarship Endowment was formed.
“[Butler] worked in the community and lived with that commitment in her professional life. That’s what we’re trying to embody with this scholarship,” Pudup said.
Though the rubric for the scholarship has not been fully organized, scholarship winners will be awarded on the basis of both academic merit and an understanding of how their work will relate to the social conditions in Santa Cruz.
Sienne Hayes, a former UCSC student in the community studies department, remembers the difficulty of financing her field study without the help of outside sources.
“Field study is very hard to finance as a student, especially if you want to relocate,” Hayes said. “I was on financial aid and was fortunate to get money back.”
Hayes worked at a hospital in the Galapagos Islands where she shadowed a gynecologist and taught sex education — her work emphasized health activism. While enrolled at UCSC, Hayes did similar work for her field study at the Santa Cruz Women’s Health Center, where she is now the executive assistant.
“It’s funny because it has come full circle. I’ve been working at the Santa Cruz Women’s Health Center for five years now and I’m actually hosting a community studies student for their field study this year,” Hayes said. “Santa Cruz students really grow into wonderful activists and care a lot for their community.”
Community studies program manager Joan Peterson helped Pudup organize the scholarship and thinks it will bring students within the community together.
“I’m very student-centric, so whatever we can do to help students is good — and money is always beneficial,” Peterson said. “There has always been the tension between the town and gown, and this scholarship is an opportunity to build bridges. Not only for the university to reach out to the community but vice versa.”
Currently there are numerous opportunities for social work in Santa Cruz, including organizations at La Familia Center, the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center and the Live Oak Family Resource Center.
“Anything we can do to knit together the campus and the community in which the campus is situated, the better,” Pudup said. “Beth’s experiences exemplify the need for students to be correctly perceived as resources for the city.”