Providing community and opportunity: AIRC's Angel Riotutar

American Indian Resource Center Director and UCSC alumna Angel Riotutar supports students

American Indian Resource Center Director (AIRC) and UC Santa Cruz alumna, Angel Riotutar (Oakes ’14, sociology)
The AIRC's logo was created in collaboration with Native graphic designer Ray Rivera. The logo's design incorporates a circle which represents many things in Native cultures, most commonly the cyclical nature of life. The design also uses the four colors of the medicine wheel: red, white, yellow and black.

When Angel Riotutar (Oakes ’14, sociology) attended UC Santa Cruz, she engaged with the campus’s four ethnic resource centers, El Centro, the AAPIRC, the AARCC, and the AIRC. She was a self-described untraditional student who came to UCSC with an extensive background working with native organizations in programming, event planning, and providing resources. She served as a mentor for students and continues to do so as UCSC’s newly appointed Director of the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC).

Riotutar started in the AIRC Director position in mid-July and said it’s been a wonderful experience to come full circle back to her alma mater. 

“What drew me back to this position was the opportunity to work in the ethnic Resource Center and work with Native students and be able to take it to a different level than what I was doing before,” Riotutar said. I was really excited about that and just being in an environment that’s comfortable, homey, and safe. Also, loving the interaction of the students and watching them excel in their academics is just amazing. It’s a win-win situation.”

The AIRC’s objectives are to promote the value of a college education for American Indians, to serve as a supportive space for students, to center Indigenous knowledge and practices in activities and help preserve the culture and heritage of American Indian students, and to serve as a liaison between Native communities and the university.

Riotutar encourages students to visit the AIRC office, even if they are not looking for anything in particular. 

“I emphasize that the space is open to everyone regardless if they need resources or not,” she says. “If they just need a place to come and relax, to get away, or have some quiet time to just sit with themselves and study, the space is open to anyone who needs a space like that.”

The AIRC supports the needs of American Indian students and increases Native visibility on campus by hosting student-centered programs and cultural events and providing tools for academic success and personal well-being. 

The center is a vital link between American Indian students, the University, and tribal communities that fosters growth through mentoring leadership opportunities, and scholarly development. 

“The environment is really conducive to support and community,” Riotutar says. “What I want to encourage when you’re in a college setting is being in community with other folks and being able to feel that this is where you’re meant to be.” 

Prior to returning to UCSC in the AIRC Director role, Riotutar volunteered for various Native Organizations as a Board Chairperson, Board Member, and organizer of traditional ceremonies. She also volunteered with the Santa Cruz Indian Council, the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, the Costanoan Research Institute, and has supported various American Indian organizations. 

Riotutar attended Cabrillo College, Gavilan College, earning her A.A. degree, and received her B.A. in Sociology from UCSC as a first-generation graduate. 

“It has been absolutely amazing [at UC Santa Cruz],” Riotutar said. “When I think about coming back here full circle, it just reminds me that we’re all on a journey, and we don’t always know where our journey is going to take us, but it’s important to be able to embrace it, and then to realize that we are where we are meant to be. So I truly believe that I am where I am meant to be, and I’m excited.”