Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Connecting with her culture

“My culture is a big part of who I am,” says Kyrin Skinaway ’25. “Being a part of [the Native American Student Union] has really helped me to learn about other peoples’ Native identities, because there are so many different tribes and people. It’s a great community to be a part of.” (Photo by Carlos Puma)

As a high school student in St. Paul, Minnesota, Kyrin Skinaway ’25 began learning about her cultural background after taking a Native American literature class. Now a student at the University of Redlands, she is continuing that process.

“It was really cool to see how Native American culture was portrayed,” she says, remembering the high school course. “I love reading and my culture, and having them put together was something I think everyone should experience.”

Skinaway, who received the San Manuel Excellence in Leadership Scholarship and eventually wants to teach American Indian studies, plans to combine her interests by taking courses from the Race and Ethnic Studies and English programs at Redlands. During her first year on campus, Skinaway and her passion for introducing others to Native culture have been welcomed by Native Student Programs and the Native American Student Union (NASU).

Attending the group’s weekly meetings and planning events, and getting to know members has been a highlight of Skinaway’s time on campus thus far. In October, NASU hosted an event called Culture Not Costume, which enabled students to gather and talk about the many issues that Native Americans face and how Halloween costumes often appropriate culture.

“My culture is a big part of who I am,” she says. “Being a part of [NASU] has really helped me to learn about other peoples’ Native identities because there are so many different tribes and people. It’s a great community to be a part of.”

In addition to learning about others, she is also learning about herself. Her First-Year Seminar focused on Native American health and was taught by San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair of Native American Studies Professor Lawrence Gross, who, like Skinaway, is from Minnesota. Because of that, she says, “it feels like he understands where I’m coming from.”

Professor of English Sharon Oster has also had a hand in shaping Skinaway’s academic experience by encouraging and advising her with techniques to improve her writing. Both Gross and Oster facilitate interactive lectures, allowing her to grasp concepts and think deeply. The personal connection that professors make with students at Redlands is an aspect of college she didn’t expect, especially after attending a large high school.

Although Skinaway says that she has “always been [her] own person,” she has gained confidence in relying on herself. As a first-generation college student, moving from Minnesota to California was a test of strength—but it was also a step she needed to take to start over and express herself in new ways.

“Being away from my family and friends has taught me to be more independent and to show myself more kindness,” she says. “Everyone is going through something different. But the community here is really encouraging, and we uphold and take care of one another and keep each other accountable.”

This sense of togetherness is what Skinaway values about being a member of the University of Redlands community, and it has even allowed her to envision her future more clearly. “I know that I want to be a teacher so that I can help educate and inform others,” she says. “My friends are always pushing me to pursue what I really want, and knowing that other students are also trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives is really encouraging.”

Learn more about Native Student Programs or Race and Ethnic Studies and English departments at the University of Redlands.