Staff & Interns

Hello, and welcome!

We are pleased to introduce the members of our team at the UCSC American Indian Resource Center for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Scroll down to read more about each of us. 


    Dr. Rebecca Hernandez, Director

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    I majored in Fine Arts as an undergrad and earned a BFA in Painting from the College of Santa Fe, then an MFA in Exhibition Design and Museum Studies at CSU Fullerton. Later, I completed an MA in American Indian Studies at UCLA and went on to receive a doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. My dissertation, "Past is Perfect in the Present Tense: Exhibiting Native America in Museums and Culture Centers," combines my passion for the arts and cultural theory, and examines inherent complexities in the public representation of culture(s) -- including how the describing and defining of Native American objects aids in the construction of the AmerIndian identity. I am Mexican American and Native and grew up in Los Angeles. When I'm not at work I create art, like to try new recipes, read mystery novels, visit museums, and serve on several boards and commissions in Santa Cruz County. 

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  • Jemzi Ortiz, Program Coordinator

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    I am a proud mixed Cheyenne and third-generation Mexican American woman and first-generation college graduate. I recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Human Biology (Class of 2019). I was affiliated with Merrill College and participated in many campus organizations during my undergraduate career. I was an intern at the American Indian Resource Center for 3 years and wanted to continue working with Dr. Hernandez as the program coordinator to support and advocate for the Native American students on this campus and in our community. Working at the Ethnic Resource Centers was one of the best experiences I had at UCSC and I wanted to continue to grow, give back, and learn in this space. Areas that I am passionate about are decolonizing health and health inequalities, Indigenous people in STEM, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and urban Indian related issues. I love to hang out with my partner and family, dance, go to concerts, watch movies and reality shows, read, travel, cook, nap, and watch basketball! I also love to meet new people and talk with others so please come visit me at my office at the ERC! 

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  • Mariah Kelley-Huron, AIRC Graduate Student Intern

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    Haa marúawe! My name is Mariah and I am Xicana, Irish, German, and Comanche (Nʉmʉnʉʉ). I was born and raised in Sacramento, California on the ancestral homelands of the Plains Miwok people. I am a danzante who practices the traditions of Danza Mexica Azteca. I graduated from CSU Channel Islands in 2019 and majored in History with minors in Chicanx Studies and Anthropology. I am currently a Ph.D. student in the History Department at UCSC. As a graduate student, I study the environmental and cultural history of the North American Great Plains, particularly the story of our Buffalo relatives. I hope that my research will aid in the Native-led efforts to rematriate land back to Indigenous peoples and bring Bison back to the Great Plains where they once roamed in the millions. In the past few years, I have been reconnecting with the Earth through my love of plants and Indigenous herbalism. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with the AIRC and PoCSC, and to connect with BIPOC students, faculty, and speakers!


  • Chris Lang, PoCSC Graduate Student Intern

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    Hi! I grew up in Woodside and Redwood City, CA, and I identify as biracial/Black (Black/white). As a 4th year grad student in Environmental Studies and an intern for the POCSC, I hope to shift narratives around sustainability to provide alternative strategies for eco-social wellbeing. In my own research, I study the relationships between consumer behavior and environmental injustice, and uplift BIPOC vegans who strive for zero waste livelihoods.

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  • Amanda Collins, Lead Intern

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    Hello! My name is Amanda Collins and I’m from Los Angeles County. I’m the daughter of a first-generation Mexican mother and my father who is African-American/Muskogee Creek.  As an AIRC intern, I want to nurture the sense of welcome and community I felt from the center when I first joined, especially now with remote learning. I want fellow Native students to know we are still a strong presence in our school and we are here to help them grow. In my free time, I love  writing, game nights with friends and family, and watching book rants on Youtube.  I am also a member of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at UCSC, a group that emphasizes the intersection of ethnic identity and faith.

  • Serah Zemaryalai, Lead Intern

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    Hello! My name is Serah, I am a Paiute, Shoshone, and Pomo Native from Modesto, California, and an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe in Nevada. As a first-generation college student, with very little connection to campus life here at UCSC, I sought out the internship with the AIRC to find community amongst other Native students and to engage in projects that further my understanding of Native culture and the many issues that Native people face. This internship has provided me with these opportunities and more and I hope to continue working with the AIRC for the remainder of my undergraduate career. With my degree, I hope to become a social worker that caters to the needs of Native children currently in the foster care system. My ultimate goal is to one day start a program that funds the restoration of reservations all throughout the United States and Canada to provide Native people with safe and suitable living conditions. In my free time, I enjoy watching movies and TV shows, listening to music, and beading with my mom and sister. 

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  • Azarely Bedolla, Intern

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    My name is Azarely and I go by the pronouns of she and her! I was born in Mexico but grew up in Southern California. As an undocumented, first generation college student here in the US, I find that it's especially important for people to find their own community in order to feel included, That is why I participated in UCSC's 540 extended orientation for undocumented students and other events. From there, I decided that I wanted to include myself in other diverse communities like PoCSC! I also love being present in the outdoors and for that reason I decided to study Environmental Science. I enjoy learning about the chemistry of the environment that can be applied to finding solutions to environmental issues that are detrimental to both the environment and society! I am very grateful to be interning for PoCSC because it is one of the first steps that can be taken to bring more awareness to the Sustainability Movement!

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  • Julia Gavin, Intern

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    Hi! My name is Julia and I'm Diné (Navajo) and Blackfeet. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Growing up in the city, it was hard for me to feel connected to my culture. However, when I moved to Santa Cruz and started interning at the AIRC, I was able to connect with the Native community here on campus! As an intern, I hope to provide Indigenous students with a sense of belonging and help create awareness about Native issues. As a Feminist Studies and prospective Environmental Sciences double major, I hope to study the relationship Indigenous peoples have with the environment. I’d then like to use that knowledge to help dismantle systems of oppression that affect my community and recreate better systems that contribute to the protection and preservation of the land and its stewards. Outside of school, I enjoy drawing, reading, running, drinking coffee, and thrifting. I'm so grateful to be here in Santa Cruz and on this journey with the AIRC :)


  • Tahnee Henningsen, Intern

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    Hi, there! I’m Tahnee Henningsen and I am an enrolled member of the Concow, Maidu Tribe of Mooretown Rancheria, located in Oroville, CA. I am a first generation transfer student from Cabrillo College and I am currently majoring in Psychology. I have been given this amazing opportunity to get a higher education, and I intend to use to to give back to my people. I hope that I can help improve mental health issues and addiction in my tribe, and work towards healing the intergenerational trauma felt by Indigenous people. In my free time, I love to travel around the world, buy plants and then forget to water them, practice (and fail) and pouring latte art, and spend time with my son, who happens to be a dog, Wilson. I am so happy to have found my home here at UCSC with the AIRC. To be among so many incredibly bright and inspiring colleagues makes me beyond excited for my time as a banana slug!

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  • Arely Hernandez, Intern

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    Hello! I am Arely Hernandez, I am an Indigenous Central American (Maya Mam from Guatemala and Otomi from Mexico) born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I am a visual artist who loves to paint, draw, make sculptures and pottery. I loveeee the beach and the sun, and do not like rain (winter quarter is rough!) Through my studies I hope to work towards dismantling the western canon of fine art and incorporating Indigenous perspectives, visual culture, and narratives into contemporary spaces, as well as incorporating Indigenous cosmology and knowledges to academia. As an intern I hope to provide and create a space for Native and non-Native students to succeed and find happiness in their pursuit of higher education while drawing attention to issues affecting American Indian communities. I also want to highlight American Indian resilience and beauty to students as I/we occupy their land in the movement towards Indigenous sovereignty.

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  • Kameiko Hostler, Intern

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    Hi! I’m Kameiko Hostler, I am an enrolled member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. I’m originally from Humboldt County where my tribe resides, but graduated high school in Sacramento, California. I started this internship with the American Indian Resource Center because it was important for me while attending UC Santa Cruz to find a Native community to interact with. Having the ability to be surround by other Native students like me has allowed me to create relationships and work to establish the visibility of Native students on campus. As well as having an opportunity to reach out to other students on campus who are Native and those who are not to make them aware of our Native students and resources on campus. My goal after graduating is to attend medical school to become a surgeon. Following my residency and whatever else may come my overall goal is to establish a hospital on my reservation in order for my people to have a better access to health care. 


  • Andrea Lopez, Intern

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    Hello everyone! My name is Andrea and I use she/her pronouns. I am a first year majoring in Biology. I am currently an intern at AIRC and my tribal affiliation is Lakota. I am affiliated with Rachel Carson College which is amazing! I am from East Los Angeles, California which is quite the drive from SC. One day I hope to become a biologist, I have always loved science which drives me to be my best. I am looking forward to the rest of the year! 


  • Valeria Mena, Intern

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    Hello, hello! I grew up in a city southeast of Los Angeles called Huntington Park, CA. I later moved to the city of Fresno, CA. I am a first generation student with the goal of making my parents proud by getting a higher education. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with the AIRC and PoCSC this year. From my experience working in the SEC, doing research with faculty, and creating my own projects at UCSC I've gained so much insight and skills that I am excited to apply and continue learning during my time with the AIRC/PoCSC.

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  • Josy Villagrana-Puentes

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    Hi! I'm Josy! My favorite color is black and my favorite thing to eat is tortas ahogadas. My pride and joy is my zero-waste business called Claiming Our Future in which I want to spread awareness about social and environmental issues in my community of East Oakland. I'm also a huge Bad Bunny fan, and my favorite song at the moment is probably La Difícil. 

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