Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Building confidence through community involvement

Seneca Silva '22 says that embracing his identity as a Native student at the University of Redlands has allowed him to grow personally and professionally.

As a business administration student, Seneca Silva ’22 was recently assigned to take the HEXACO personality inventory—an assessment that measures the six major dimensions of personality. When he received his results, he was pleasantly surprised that he had scored above average in confidence, and then realized his improvement and his time as a student at the University of Redlands were linked.

“In middle school and high school, I was really quiet and in my own bubble,” he says. “At Redlands, I’ve been able to become the person I always wanted to be as a result of the experiences I’ve had and being able to pursue anything I wanted to. There are no boundaries or limitations.”

Silva has always had big goals, but the independence he found as a college student has encouraged him to develop his skills while exploring potential professional paths. Initially interested in becoming a lawyer, he completed an internship that made him decide otherwise. Silva then landed on business, attracted to entrepreneurship and the idea of being his own boss while building something that can benefit others.

He says his advisor, Professor Mara Winick, is to thank for his journey of academic self-discovery. In addition to having conversations about his postgraduate life, Winick has made a point to check in with her students, one by one, virtually throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve spoken about which degrees I should pursue next and how they will lead into certain professional fields, which wasn’t really something I was thinking about—she has always supported me and is deeply knowledgeable about the nonprofit sector,” says Silva, noting that he’s looking forward to focusing on a nonprofit when he takes Winick’s consulting class next year.

As a result of his courses, Silva has been able to treat his involvement in various campus clubs and organizations as a kind of entrepreneurial case study. As a first-year student, Silva joined the Native American Student Union (NASU) and interned for Native Student Programs. Three years later, he is the president of NASU and sits on residential life committees after working as a community assistant in Anderson Hall.

“My big vision when I was running for president of NASU was to make the club more visible to the campus community and promote it as an organization that any student can join, not just Native students,” he says. After he was elected, he worked with his cabinet members to put the concepts he learned in his business courses to the test. They created a logo, brand, and merchandise for the group, helping them to raise funds for programming and events.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also required him to be innovative, resulting in a pivot to digital gatherings in which club members engage in ice breaker activities and games to release some stress at the end of a day or week of virtual classes. Members have also created content for social media platforms to raise awareness about Native American identity and cultural appropriation.

“In a way, NASU feels like my first start-up,” he says. “I’m learning a lot about what members want and how to receive feedback and respond to it.”

Silva, who is a recipient of the San Manuel Excellence in Leadership scholarship, believes that embracing his identity as a Native student on campus has allowed him to grow personally and professionally. “Growing up, I was always more of a listener and a watcher,” he says. “But now I’m someone who speaks up and takes action. As a Native man, it feels refreshing to know that I can help fellow students of color.”

Learn more about Native Student Programs.