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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    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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  • Lead 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 4th 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


    3nd 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

     
    2nd 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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