Campus Hires First Director of Native American Retention Initiatives

Michelle Villegas-Frazier, who had worked in outreach programs on campus for a decade, returned April 1 to become the first director of strategic Native American retention initiatives in Student Affairs.

Most recently program coordinator in the office of Student and Resident Diversity at the School of Medicine, she brings with her more than 20 years of experience in Native American outreach and retention services and programs.

Closeup of woman's head and shoulders
Michelle Villegas-Frazier (Gregory Uriquiaga/UC Davis photo)

The new position is among campus efforts to develop and expand initiatives to support the recruitment and academic success of historically underrepresented groups — African American, Chicano/Latino and Native American — and reduce the time necessary for all students to earn their degrees.

Villegas-Frazier will provide strategic leadership to identify opportunities to enhance the persistence, achievement and graduation rates for Native American students. She will lead efforts to develop partnerships across the university and develop and implement a plan to serve students from orientation through graduation.

She reports to Milton Lang, associate vice chancellor of student life, campus community and retention services.

In her most recent post at the medical school for eight years, she helped organize programs to encourage Native American high school and college students to pursue university studies and those in college and university to explore the health professions. She also served as an outreach officer for the school.

On the Davis campus from 1994 to 2004, Villegas-Frazier was an outreach officer for undergraduate admissions and a regional outreach coordinator for the Early Academic Outreach Program.

Among her current professional and volunteer activities, Villegas-Frazier has served as vice chair of the Sacramento Native American Health Center since 2013 and been a board member of since 2009. She has been a reader of undergraduate applications at UC Davis since 2012 and a member of the university’s Native American workgroup since 1994.

She has also chaired the UC American Indian Counselor Recruiters Association; been a member of the Pinoleville Tribal Nation’s education committee; and managed the health and nutrition component of California Indian Headstart, a program that supports the school readiness of children from low-income families.

Villegas-Frazier received a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in higher education leadership from Sacramento State.

She is the third director of strategic retention initiatives to be hired. Kayton Carter started as the director for African American initiatives in fall 2014, and Cirilo Cortez began as director for Chicana/o and Latina/o initiatives last July.

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