About the Staff


    AIRC Director

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    Dr. Rebecca Hernandez, PhD

    Pronouns: She/Her
    Tribal Affiliations: Mescalero and Warm Springs Apache
     
    majored in fine art 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 CS​U 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 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. I have been Director of the American Indian Resource Center for four years.
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  • Lead Intern

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    Ashley Carrillo

    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliation: Navajo

    Major: Cognitive Science

    4th year

    Campus Affilations: SANAI, Research Assisant for Cognitive Psychology Department

    Yá'át'ééh! My name is Ashley Carrillo and I am a member of the Navajo nation. This will be my fourth year as an intern for the AIRC and my second year as a Lead intern. I am currently majoring in cognitive science and am interested in using virtual reality as a tool for education, social disorders, entertainment and more! The AIRC is a great place to work at because we get to connect face to face with Native: students, faculty and community members. In spite of our low numbers at UCSC, the AIRC/PoCSC team strives to promote Native visibility and together we stand as a symbol of resiliency for our people!
    In my spare time I like to listen to music (alternative/indie is my favorite) or catch up on some of my favorite shows ( The Good Doctor or Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

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  • Lead Intern

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    Rennea Howell

    Pronouns: She/Her

    Major: Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

    4th year

    Campus Affiliations: SANAI, Research Assistant, UCSC Libraries 

    Hi all, my name is Rennea. I am a fourth year MCD biology major and a second year intern from Yuba City, California. I am passionate about issues within Native communities, particularly those concerning access to education, traditional foods, and cultural/language revitalization. I hope to be the first in my family to graduate, and eventually work to increase the number of Native students who go into STEM disciplines. The AIRC has provided me a gateway into the intersection of higher education and ethnic identity and I hope to continue both learning and educating about this work post-graduation.

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  • Lead Intern

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    Jemzi Ortiz-Franks

    Pronouns: She/Her/ Ella

    Tribal Affiliations: Northern Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux

    Major: Human Biology B.S.

    4th Year

    Campus Affilations: Grupo Folklorico Los Mejicas de UCSC, Hermanas Unidas de UCSC, The Cove, CARE, ITS, Orientation Leader

    I am an enrolled Northern Cheyenne tribal member and 3rd generation chicana from Billings, Montana navigating the university as a first generation student. Working at the American Indian Resource Center and the Ethnic Resource Centers has helped me to learn about the issues faced by my community and find community with people who can relate to my struggles as a first gen, mixed person. I have a passion for health sciences and having grown up using Indian Health Services, I would like to give back to my community and better it from within as a pediatrician. Na'este. 
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  • Intern

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    Margarita Vargas

    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliation: Hopland Band of Pomo Indians

    Majors: Politics and History

    3rd Year

    Campus Affilations: UCDC

    Hello! I am a tribal member of the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians and have lived all throughout California my entire life. I am a 3rd year undergrad double majoring in Politics and History, with a focus on American political development. This will be my second year interning with the American Indian Resource Center. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz, I plan on attending law school and establishing myself in the field of politics. As someone from an underrepresented and underprivileged community, activism is important to my, so I hope to use my experience with the AIRC to strengthen my advocacy skills and help create real positive change. Other than working and studying, I enjoy reading, traveling, playing video games, Netflix binging, and spending time with my family and friends. 

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  • Intern

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    Amanda Collins

    Pronouns: She/Her/Hers


    Tribal Affiliation: Muskogee Creek


    Major: Psychology with a minor in Theatre Arts


    2nd Year

    Campus Affiliations: Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, SANAI

    Hello! My name is Amanda Collins and I’m Mexican on my mom’s side and Black/Muskogee Creek on my dad’s. Going into Santa Cruz, I knew very little about my Creek ancestry and felt very disconnected from that side of myself. However, through clubs like SANAI and events hosted by the AIRC, I’ve learned more about Native culture and why I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m passionate about issues regarding mental illness, and it breaks my heart to know many Indigenous people are dealing with depression, anxiety, and addiction without resources for help. As an AIRC intern, I want to learn more about Native history and communities so we can work together to remedy this issue. I also want to create engaging, welcoming spaces for both Native and non-native students to be seen and heard and to learn more about Indigenous culture. In my free time, I love reading, writing, watching YouTube, and referencing Disney movies with my siblings.


  • Intern

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    Serah Zemaryalai

    Pronouns: She/Her


    Tribal Affiliations: Lovelock Paiute Tribe, Pomo, Shoshone


    Majors: Sociology and CRES

     
    1st Year 


    Campus Affiliations: College 10

    Hello! I am a Paiute, Pomo and Shoshone Native from Modesto, California and an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe in Lovelock, Nevada. This school year has been a lot of “firsts” for me. It’s my first year of college, my first year interning with the AIRC and I’m the first person in my family to go to college. As a first generation student, with very little connection to campus life here at UCSC, I sought out the internship with the AIRC to find community amongst my other Native peers and to engage in projects that further my understanding of Native culture and the many issues that face Native people. This internship has provided me with these opportunities and more and I hope to continue working with the AIRC throughout my undergraduate career. With my degree, I hope to become a social worker that caters to the needs of Native children 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 suitable living conditions. 

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  • Intern

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    Brisa Santana

    Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
    Tribal Affiliation: Tecutnut Ohlone, Mexica
    Majors: Latin American Studies and Politics
    1st year
    Hello! My name is Brisa Santana and I am one of the new interns here at American Indian Resource Center. I am current proposed under a double major as Latin American Studies, as well as Political Science, in hopes of getting involved with my community back home once graduated. Growing up surrounded by a mixture of indigenous cultures, Aztec dancing being a huge one for me, I've stayed passionate about native peoples rights and cultures throughout my life, and hope to carry that interest with me through my education here in Santa Cruz. And that's how I wound up on this wonderful team of fellow native students! I look forward to meeting more people and getting more connected to the native community here on campus. 
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