30 Grads in 30 Days: Irene Vasquez

Irene Vasquez (photo by Jim MacKenzie)

Name: Irene Angel Vasquez

Age: 22

Majors: Environmental studies and economics

Hometown: Mariposa, CA

UCSC college: Merrill

Favorite class or professor and why?

The Future of the Rainforest class was one of my first electives and major fullfillment. I remember coming to class prepared by doing all the reading because I was super interested in the subject. I always left the class a little depressed but anxious to go out and effect change in some way.

Most memorable experience at UCSC?

My most memorable experience at UCSC has to be during the Multicultural Celebration. I invited my mom and brother for the weekend and we just enjoyed the free music and dance performances and the food and jammed out with all my friends.

Favorite spot on campus and why?

I like the area by the media theater where you come over the ridge out of the forest and look out to the ocean. I love this spot because it makes me feel happy to be where I am and relaxed and calm, ready for class or my day.

How has UCSC shaped you?

UCSC has really made me not just accept but embrace my identity and my role in this world. I have grown and developed a secure sense of myself. I am more aware of the struggles my community and other people of color face and am devoted to making an impactful change.

What are your future plans?

I have studied environmental studies and economics at UCSC with the goal of working for the National Park Service so that I can help protect the place where I am from, Yosemite, while also helping my people, the Southern Sierra Miwuk tribe, gain federal recognition.

How did you choose your college, and how has your college affected your education?

I chose College Eight because it was the environmental college and it had a nice view, but they put me in Merrill instead, which really does fit me because it's the college that fits with my interests of global consciousness and identity. I've met many amazing, beautiful people on the top of that hill. Merrill also made me feel comfortable surrounded by other people of color. I wouldn't say my entire two years in the dorms was amazing but being both a freshman and later an R.A. made me focus and strive to be a friend and ally.


I think most of what I have accomplished here has been in representing my Native American ancestry by being involved and active with SANAI (Student Alliance of North American Indians), TWANAS (Third World and Native American Students Press Collective), and with the resource centers. Attending and directing money toward different student organization events through the Cultural Events Planning Committee is another skill and accomplishment I'm proud of. I have also managed to graduate in four years, the first of my family, and study abroad in New Zealand for an entire year, which was a year of learning and travel.

There aren't many Native students at UCSC, and the recent state budget cuts are really affecting my community. Our Native American resource director, Dennis Tibbets, retired, and in his place no one is expected to be hired. I hope the greatest acheivement of mine will be in expressing why such a position is needed on this campus and attaining a commitment from the university to hire a director so that students like me are supported and feel comfortable enough to continue their education at UCSC.