Writings of Zitkala-Sa Explored at New Student Orientation

Campuswide Honors Collegium Welcome Week Orientation for incoming students went online in September to introduce new students to CHC staff and faculty and prepare for their first quarter at UCI as members of the Collegium.

Although introductions to the Collegium had to be delivered remotely, there remained a sense of excitement surrounding student entrance into the UCI community. CHC Director Lisa Roetzel commenced the webinar, giving students an overview of the year ahead, as well as detailing the Campuswide Honors’ community values. Moreover, the orientation included remarks from CHC faculty, as well as a presentation on the biographical fiction book, American Indian Stories, by Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin). Zitkala-Sa’s novel, introduced to CHC students as a summer reading, can be found here

Rodrigo Lazo, Professor of English and Former Director of Humanities Core, presented and discussed the honors summer reading. American Indian Stories details a semi-fictitious account of events that occurred during Zitkala-Sa’s childhood, both in her tribe and an American boarding school. Professor Lazo explains the rationale for choosing the reading: “The reading was originally thought of in relation to many of the ongoing debates across the country regarding questions of social justice and the history of racism in the United States, and how it has affected many different populations.” American Indian Stories is a reading that allows students to think about a specific population of the United States– Native Americans. According to Campuswide Honors Associate Dean, Ted Wright, the reading was thoughtfully selected for “incoming students to amplify, and encourage critical thought about, the voices and experiences of underrepresented individuals.”

A student who attended the orientation wrote, “Dr. Lazo dove into the work, pulling quotes from the novel and details from the author’s life, as well as examining the literary elements of the story. Then it was time for students to discuss their thoughts and insights about the passages.”

The closing statement was made by Associate Dean, Ted Wright. He emphasized the importance of staying engaged and connected to learning in a time of challenge and change. He encouraged the exploration of the many opportunities students will come across. Dr. Wright left new students with these words:

“You were selected for the Campuswide Honors Collegium because you are talented, dedicated students. You belong here.”

Contributed by Angie Sarabia and Beatriz Lopez Galeana ‘24