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UCLA plans to open American Indian and Pacific Islander Living Learning Community

Dykstra Hall, a student dormitory. Dykstra Hall will serve as the home of UCLA’s new American Indian and Pacific Islander Living Learning Community, which will welcome its first residents in the fall. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Constanza Montemayor

May 9, 2022 3:44 p.m.

UCLA will offer students the opportunity to join a new Living Learning Community focused on the Native American and Pasifika student experience beginning in the fall.

Sponsored by both the American Indian Student Association and the Pacific Islands’ Student Association, the American Indian and Pacific Islander LLC will be housed in the west half of Dykstra Hall’s eighth floor. The LLC expects to be able to accommodate about 50 students, said Abigail Johnson, the interim assistant director of academics and first-year experience for Residential Life.

Both AISA and PISA pushed for the LLC and have been involved in its ongoing development, Johnson added. Camryn Redmond, a first-year economics student and social media manager of AISA, will serve as the resident assistant in charge of the AIPI LLC this fall.

Redmond said the LLC will serve as a way to welcome and support Native students to find community at UCLA, especially those coming from areas where the majority of the population is Native.

“When you feel like you’re at home, you do a lot better, you want to succeed, you have people around you who are supporting you,” said Redmond, who is a member of the Navajo Nation.

Johnson said she first got in touch with AISA and PISA leadership through the office of Student Affairs in February and has since been meeting virtually with the groups to discuss logistics and programming for the LLC.

One focus has been helping the student organizations by putting together the 9 Deliverables, a list of nine key events and advertising projects and their deadlines that creates a plan to facilitate student engagement with the LLC, she added. Some of these include creating a logo for the LLC, planning a retreat and creating a signature program.

“Really, a lot of it was getting acquainted and me hearing from them about the need for this community and the direction they wanted to take it,” she said.

New LLCs usually begin planning about a year before their fall quarter debuts, but the AIPI LLC planning process has been expedited and is on schedule to open this upcoming year, Johnson added.

Although they are still brainstorming events for the LLC, Redmond said AISA was considering a formal as the main event for the end of the year and cultural events associated with the organization such as food nights, workshops or movie screenings relating to their communities.

AISA brought the idea for an LLC up with the administration in recognition of the significance of Native support and community in motivating and inspiring their fellow Native students, said Kokonow Kinney, a fourth-year biology student and co-chair of AISA.

Desirae Barragan, the co-chair of AISA and a third-year American Indian studies and human biology and society student, said conversations about the LLC and its initiatives have been happening for the last few years, but the return to campus after its closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed the organization to renew their efforts and host meetings to get the administration’s approval for the LLC.

UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk said in an emailed statement that Student Affairs staff hope to support Native and Pacific Islander communities with the upcoming LLC and will work with students and faculty-in-residence to ensure success and improve each year. The university has also begun advertising the LLC to student organizations, returning student residents and incoming students, he added.

“The university was in a good position this year to find the space to make it possible, and we have staff who are passionate and excited to support these communities,” Kisliuk said in the statement.

AISA has begun recruiting residents and advertising for the LLC through social media, word-of-mouth and Native events for incoming freshmen, said Cheyenne Faulkner, a second-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student and the AISA Pow Wow coordinator.

Their organization decided to work with PISA to develop the LLC because of close ties and previous collaboration between the two groups, said Faulkner, who is of Lumbee and Shoshone-Bannock heritage, adding that the joint effort could help the groups branch out to support more students.

PISA did not respond to requests for comment.

Barragan said many students expressing interest in moving into the LLC are from out-of-state and from reservations. A key goal of the LLC is to assist students’ transition to campus, she added.

“We have a lot of interest from our incoming students, as well as our underclassmen. … Our main focus for this first year is just ensuring that students have community, a safe space where they can be unapologetically Indigenous on the floor, navigating and understanding Native communities,” said Barragan, who is an enrolled member of the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians.

Emily Silver-Campbell, a first-year psychobiology student planning to live in the LLC next year, said living at UCLA was a large shift from her hometown life.

Originally from a small town, Silver-Campbell, who is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe of North Carolina, said she was used to living in a population of mostly Native Americans.

With UCLA’s Native student population making up less than 1% of the student body, moving to the university is an adjustment that the new LLC could help with, she added.

“I feel like living in the LLC with other Natives will be a great way to know that I’m not alone, and if you have any questions about our cultural practices … I think it’d be really great (to) just get advice from other Natives,” Silver-Campbell said.

The LLC’s quick approval for the fall was a surprise, but the success has motivated their community to continue pushing for demands for the administration to address more Native issues, Barragan said.

“It was a really amazing experience to get to tell our admits that, ‘Hey, this upcoming year, we’re going to have a floor for you to consider living on,’ and almost every single student had mentioned, ‘Hey, this is a reason why I want to come to UCLA,’” Barragan said.

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Constanza Montemayor | Features and student life editor
Montemayor is currently the 2020-2021 features and student life editor. She was previously a News reporter, Photo contributor for the news beat and Arts contributor. She is also a second-year global studies student at UCLA.
Montemayor is currently the 2020-2021 features and student life editor. She was previously a News reporter, Photo contributor for the news beat and Arts contributor. She is also a second-year global studies student at UCLA.
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