UCLA Newsroom] American Indian graduates celebrate their academic success at UCLA

Jessica Wolf | June 15, 2017

The first women of Tongva descent to be awarded Ph.D.s at UCLA celebrated that milestone today at the Graduate Division Doctoral Hooding, held on a campus that now sits on the ancient land of their ancestors.

Theresa Jean Ambo and Yve Chavez of the Tongva Tribal Nation proudly stood with their colleagues, friends and family members today at Royce Hall. But they were not alone in celebrating academic success. This year, 14 American Indian students are being presented with undergraduate degrees at UCLA; seven more are receiving master’s degrees. Last month, six American Indian students graduated from the UCLA School of Law. In total, all the graduates represent more than a dozen tribal nations from across the country.

Both Chavez and Ambo, who were involved in the tightly knit community of American Indian students at UCLA, say that the network of support they found on campus was instrumental to their success.

“My experience within the community of American Indian students at UCLA was very positive and a vital component of my academic achievements,” said Chavez, who received her Ph.D. in art history. She is especially grateful to the American Indian Graduate Student Association where scholars focused on educating others about Native American culture support one another.

As a researcher of the Chumash and Tongva artistic legacies found at four Southern California missions, Chavez wants to ensure that the story of California Indian artistic agency is at the forefront of California mission art studies. A graduate of Stanford, she chose UCLA for graduate studies because of the reputation of the art history department and the physical proximity of the campus to her native homeland and heritage. She is the recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Chavez will continue to work with native communities.

Ambo has been actively involved in the UCLA American Indian community, which she describes as “small but powerful,” for nearly 15 years. She first met her husband, an American Indian student of Juaneno descent, at a campus meeting of the American Indian Student Association in 2005. Her sister is also graduating from UCLA this year, with a B.A. degree.

Now a Bruin with three degrees from UCLA, Ambo received her Ph.D. in education, from the Division of Higher Education and Organizational Change. A researcher who focuses on Southern California tribes and members’ access to higher education, she will begin teaching at UC San Diego in the Department of Education in the fall. She received support from a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Read the full article at: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/american-indian-graduates-celebrate-their-academic-success-at-ucla