Staff & Interns

Scroll through and meet the members of the AIRC team! 

    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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  • Stan Rushworth, Elder in Support

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    Pronouns: He/Him

    Tribal Affiliation: Chiricahua Apache Nation

    Stan Rushworth was born in 1944 and raised on the banks of the Stanislaus River in the east San Joaquin valley in California by his grandfather, who was of Cherokee descent.  He served as an Army volunteer in the Far East during the Vietnam war, and attended San Francisco State University after coming home, where he received a Master of Arts degree in Language Arts and Creative Writing in 1970. During the seventies, he lived and worked among the Maya in Guatemala, and moved to Hawaii in the eighties before returning to California in 1991. He has taught Native American Literature at Cabrillo College, in Aptos, California for the last twenty-eight years, including similar work at the University of California, Santa Cruz as a lecturer, and worked for eighteen years at Cabrillo’s Watsonville Center teaching basic skills and critical thinking surrounding Indigenous peoples’ issues. He authored Sam Woods: American Healing (Station Hill Press, New York) in 1992, and Going to Water: The Journal of Beginning Rain (Talking Leaves Press, Freedom, CA) in 2014. As a tenured faculty emeritus, he currently teaches Native American Literature at Cabrillo College, and works as an activist and advocate for Indigenous people as a teacher, writer, and speaker. He is an enrolled citizen of the Chiricahua Apache Nation and is also a member of the Santa Cruz Indian Council, where he is an Advising Cultural Elder. He is married with two sons and one grandson.


  • Chris Lang, 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 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 for the AIRC!


  • Amanda Collins, 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/Muscogee 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.


  • Desiree Morsea-Foley, Intern

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    Hi! I am a Diné (Navajo) student from the Diné (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 ended up changing my major to Ecology and Evolutionary biology with the vision that I can help solve environmental issues that burden communities of color. I hope to learn more about other American Indian cultures and create a welcoming environment for all Native students on campus during my time here as an AIRC intern. When I am not working or studying, I enjoy going to the gym or swimming, spending time with friends, watching Netflix, and traveling.


  • Serah Zemaryalai, 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 my other Native peers 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 throughout 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 suitable living conditions.

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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 help provide resources and a sense of belonging for other Indigenous students and help create awareness about Native issues. As a Politics and prospective Feminist Studies double major, I hope to use my education to help dismantle systems of oppression that affect my community and recreate better systems that contribute to the protection and preservation of Indigenous communities everywhere. 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. 


  • Kameiko Hostler, Intern

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    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 better access to health care.


*Our profile images were inspired by the African American Resource and Cultural Center's staff page :)