Staff & Interns

    AIRC Director

  • Dr. Rebecca Hernandez, PhD


    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliations: Mescalero and Warm Springs Apache

    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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  • Program Coordinator

  • Jemzi Ortiz


    Pronouns: She/Her/Ella

    Tribal Affiliations: Northern Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux, Blackfeet

    Major: Human Biology B.S.

    Campus Affiliations: Grupo Folklorico Los Mejicas, Hermanas Unidas, ACE, The Cove, CARE, ITS, Orientation Leader


    Hello, I am the new program coordinator for the American Indian Resource Center! 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 here and I wanted to continue to grow, give back and learn in this space. 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 am super excited to be part of this team and to make more great memories. 


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  • Graduate Student Intern

  • Chris Lang


    Pronouns: He/ Him

    3rd Year

    Doctoral Program of Environmental Studies 

    Hi! I grew up in Woodside and Redwood City, CA, and I identify as biracial/Black (Black/white). As a graduate student, I study the relationships between consumer behavior and environmental injustice. I look at the geographies of pollution and the politics of disposability as catapulting points to envision collective zero-waste, plant-based livelihoods. I hope to stoke movements of eco-social justice, and I know that Black and Indigenous solidarities can serve as vehicles for Earth healing and planetary alignment. As someone who comes from both voluntary and involuntary settler lineages to this land, I feel compelled to learn more about Native American diversity, histories, and present-day forms of indigenization to deepen my understandings of allyship, interdependence, and Liberation. I am very grateful for this opportunity to learn and participate as a graduate student intern at the AIRC!

  • Lead Intern

  • Margarita Vargas


    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliation: Hopland Band of Pomo Indians

    Majors: Politics and History

    4th 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 4th year undergrad double majoring in Politics and History, with a focus on American political development. This will be my third 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 me, 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

  • Amanda Collins


    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliation: Muskogee Creek Nation

    Major: Psychology w/ a minor in Theatre Arts

    3rd Year

    Campus Affiliations: Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, First Gen Supporter

    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. Going into Santa Cruz, I knew very little about my Indian ancestry and felt very disconnected from that side of myself. However, through 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 seek to create welcoming spaces and provide creative, engaging ways to promote understanding amongst Natives as well as non-Natives. In my free time, I love reading, writing, referencing Disney movies with my siblings, and learning to cook.

  • Intern

  • Serah Zemaryalai


    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliations: Lovelock Paiute, Shoshone, Pomo

    Majors: Sociology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies w/ a minor in Legal Studies 

    2nd Year 

    Campus Affiliations: College 10, EOP, CRES Undergrad Collective, First Gen Initiative

    Hello! I am a Paiute, Shoshone and Pomo Native from Modesto, California and an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Indian Colony in Lovelock, Nevada. 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

  • Desiree Morsea-Foley


    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliation: Navajo Nation

    Majors: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 

    2nd Year

    Campus Affiliations: Rachel Carson College, EOP, EOP STEM

    Hello! I am a Diné (Navajo) student from the Navajo Nation, located in the Four Corners region of the southwest. I grew up in the small town of Gallup, New Mexico with my mother who is a first-generation college student. I came to UC Santa Cruz because I was interested in Marine Biology and fell in love with the beautiful campus. I am now a second-year undergrad studying Ecology and Evolutionary biology with the vision that I can help solve environmental issues that burden our Native communities. I hope to learn more about other Native communities and create a welcoming environment for Native students on campus during my time here as a new AIRC intern. When I am not working, studying or going to class, I enjoy going to the gym or swimming, spending time with friends, watching Netflix, and traveling.

  • Intern

  • Julia Gavin


    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliations: Diné, Blackfeet

    Major: Politics

    1st Year

    Campus Affiliation: Merrill College

    Hello! My name is Julia Gavin and I’m a first-year intern at the AIRC. I’m Blackfeet and an enrolled member of the Navajo Navajo, and I’m looking forward to connecting with the Native community here on campus! I was born and raised in Los Angeles. As an AIRC intern, I hope to provide resources and a community for Indigenous students, and create awareness about Native issues through our events on campus. As a Politics major, I hope to learn more about different political systems and international public policy. In the future, I want to work at a nonprofit organization to protect Indigenous rights on a global scale. Outside of school, I enjoy hiking, thrifting, painting, and discovering new music. I’m excited to explore Santa Cruz for the next four years!

  • Intern

  • Kameiko Hostler


    Pronouns: She/Her

    Tribal Affiliations: Hoopa Valley Tribe 

    Major: Human Biology 

    1st Year

    Campus Affiliation: Stevenson College 

    Hi! I’m Kameiko Hostler, I am an enrolled member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe from the village of Tak’mil’din. 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. Having the ability to be surrounded by other Native students like me has made the transition into college much easier. 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 end goal, is to establish a hospital on my reservation in order for my people to have a better access to health care.