Native American space to serve as ‘a visible presence’ to campus’ indigenous commitments, new outdoor classroom

Xanthe Schaub, Reporter

During the recent Faculty and Staff Town Hall, it was announced that the Board of Regents approved escalated renovations to the Ahmanson Science Center, an installation of an outdoor classroom in Kingsmen Park and a Native American space on campus.

“The Ahmanson Science Center remodels’ next phase will consist of second-floor upgrades including both interior space (labs) and infrastructure (roofing, heating, and air conditioning),” Associate Vice President of Facilities Planning & Operations Ryan Van Ommeren said in an email interview. 

Van Ommeren said the outdoor classroom in Kingsmen Park, which will start construction in the summer, will have enough space for 20 seats and will have a permanent roof, audio-visual and some heating.

Vice President of Enrollment, Management & Student Success Matthew Ward said the new space will be a partnership with the Chumash Tribe “in order to build it out in a way that honors the culture.”

Ward said his hopes for the space are to have students engaged with it, while also honoring students who identify as indigenous or have an indigenous background.

“This space would reflect a broader intention of the institution to recognize the land on which we reside and who was here before us,” Ward said. “The indigenous space will be a work in progress and I hope that it continues to transform as we would like to find a way to curate it like an art gallery and bring new things into the space.”

Religion professor Colleen Windham-Hughes said that having a visible presence to hold our campus’s indigenous commitments is an important part of embodying our relationships with one another. 

“There is some unlearning we need to do at the institution as well as learning we can do in order to know more about indigenous wisdom,” Windham-Hughes said.