A new native college fills educational void

Photo courtesy of Toni Bakal. Bakal’s public speaking students at the UCR Palm Desert campus.



The California Indian Nations College (CINC), opened its doors one year ago on Oct. 1, 2018. In that short period, the Coachella Valley’s newest higher education institution has already made a considerable impact on growth alone.

The idea of forming CINC has been brewing for over a decade, as school founder Theresa Mike floated it around and created a round table discussion that led to the creation of the CINC Advisory group. This group attracted over 30 professionals in Indian County who supported the idea of a 2-year tribal college in Southern California.

Interim President Celeste Townsend, along with Dr. T. Robert “Bob” Przeklasa, the vice president of academic affairs, and two others put together the framework to what they saw as a much needed educational opportunity.

Until CINC was created, there was no tribal college available in the state of California. So, creating an institution built for the Native American community was the only rational thing to do.

When CINC first opened its doors, it had just three courses, four staff members and 40 students. Since then, the college has grown significantly, boasting eight courses and 80 students. The majority of classes are offered at the University of California Riverside (UCR) campus in Palm Desert, and a second location was added at the Sherman Indian High School in Riverside.

“Native American students do a lot better in tribal colleges than they do in non-tribal colleges,” Przeklasa said. “In fact, students who transfer to a four-year school from a tribal college are four times as likely to finish their bachelor’s degrees as those that start at a four-year college.”

But some were not keen on the creation of the school. “Some people were questioning how we were going to go about getting students and did not see us attracting any,” said Townsend.

The only costs for the students are textbooks. “Our goal is to have 200 students in five years and I know we are going to surpass that,” said Townsend.

Accreditation is the longest process they are confronted with at the moment. This is where CINC’s partnership with College of the Desert comes to play. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which is the same accreditor for College of the Desert and the same body CINC will have to go through to ensure their courses are transferable.

If CINC students plan to transfer, then their credits must do so as well. “Since accreditation takes perhaps a decade to achieve, we needed to offer courses in conjunction with an already accredited entity,” Przeklasa said. Through this process, what the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) refers to as an incubation partnership, the accreditation is incubating within the body of COD.

“We have received a lot of support from Vice President Annabelle Nery, President Joel Kinnamon, and from a number of faculty and staff at College of the Desert,” said Przeklasa.

Przeklasa also added that adopting COD program frameworks has been vital in preparing students. “We have mirrored some of those EDGE/pLEDGE activities in that we’ve got our own intensive math workshop coming up in January, and over the summer, we offered our intensive English workshops to prepare students for English 1A and Sociology 3.”

CINC will be celebrating the school’s first anniversary on Nov. 9 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the UCR Palm Desert campus. The event, which is named The Gathering Under the Stars, will have free food, native performances, the swearing-in of CINC to the Board of Trustees and Assemblyman James Ramos as the honored speaker. The event will be free and open to the community.

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