My name is Carlie Rae Whiteman, and I am originally from a tiny town in California’s central valley, Linden, which is known for its fruit and nut trees (specifically cherries and walnuts). My high school had about 650 people total, and we mostly grew up together through elementary and middle school. I started learning more about my identity as an indigenous person in my senior year of college and started discovering more about my affiliation with the Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma. Aside from being indigenous, I am also queer and a first-generation student.
When I first began looking into colleges, UC Davis wasn’t even on my radar. My dad was in the process of getting his bachelor’s degree from Davis, and I felt like I wanted to move a little further away from home than down the street. But the more I researched and visited other schools, the more I was attracted to how much support and community UC Davis offered. The schools I thought were my “top choices” were schools that pitted students against each other or didn’t have a centralized campus.
After choosing UC Davis, I knew that I wanted to find my community and make Davis my home. But in my first quarter, I struggled with classes and finding a place where I felt like I belonged. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of clubs and community centers on campus, and I wasn’t sure where I would fit in. As a minority student, my intersecting identities made it difficult to know which space to choose.
Finding the Right Fit
I visited a lot of campus centers during that first quarter, and eventually landed on the Native American Academic Student Success Center, more affectionately known as “The Nest.” The Nest has pretty much everything you could want: a great study space, meeting rooms, a library, kitchen, tutoring, counseling and lots of activities! The Nest, like so many other centers on campus, is a place to explore your identities, find academic and mental health support, and build community.
What really won me over about The Nest, aside from how quiet it is to study, is the amazing people I met there. The staff and friends I met at The Nest are people who are always in my corner supporting me. Through my time there, and at other campus centers, I built a supportive, encouraging community that offers stability and guidance when I need it the most.
Another amazing aspect is the mental health support that is offered. The Nest, like other centers, offers counseling services to all students. The Community Advising Network (CAN) is a diverse team of counselors who support students so they can achieve their goals and find academic success. The CAN counselor at The Nest, Tracy, is always there to talk and offer guidance.
Support is Everywhere
There are centers similar to The Nest all over campus! Programs like the Strategic Asian and Pacific Islander Retention Initiative (SAaPIRI), Center for African Diaspora Student Success (CADSS), Center for Chicanx and Latinx Academic Student Success (CCLASS), the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), and the Transfer and Reentry Center also have their own counselors on site to help you through things like time management, cultural adjustment, family expectations, relationship issues, academic difficulties and many more.
There are even more spaces at the Student Community Center such as the LGBTQIA+ center, AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, Cross Cultural Center, and Student Recruitment and Retention Center (SRRC). They also provide counselors, study rooms, lounges and academic support. No matter who you are or how you identify, there is a space on campus for you to find support!
Tutoring and academic help are also available through the Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers, and many of the other spaces on campus. At The Nest, there is drop-in academic advising, career advising and writing support. Whether you need help with a paper for class, what classes to take, how to talk to professors to make the most of your classes, your math homework or what to do after graduation, the advisors and specialists are there to help you make the most out of your time in college.
Waffles, Leadership and Poetry
One of my favorite events that The Nest has done is their “Waffle Wednesday” where we make our own waffles complete with all the toppings you could ever want, destress from classes, and talk to staff and students in a more informal setting. Some of the other events that I have enjoyed are movie nights, study jams and beading circles.
I was even able to start a club for students who are interested in poetry and creative writing with some of my friends that I met at The Nest! This club, the Society of Native American Poets and Storytellers (aka SNAPS), became a place for us to explore our interests, learn about new things and develop community. Additionally, I have been able to get involved with the Native American Student Union (NASU) and the American Indian Recruitment and Retention (AIRR) program at the SRRC to meet others and develop my leadership skills further.
Throughout my time at UC Davis—both in-person and virtual—I have found support and community by utilizing all that the centers on campus offer. The Nest has become my home away from home and a place where I spend most of my time on campus. Take advantage of the centers on your campus and the resources they offer, too! You never know what support you might find or what people you will meet.