Dr. Joely Proudfit directs the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at Cal State San Marcos, where she is the department chair of American Indian Studies. Honored recently by the California Conference on American Indian Education as Educator of the Year, Dr. Proudfit is a descendent of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians and returned to her native homeland when she joined the CSUSM family in fall 2008.

She had intended to join the military after becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school, but a counselor suggested she apply to Cal State Long Beach.

There she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Long Beach and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from Northern Arizona University. She is a three-time tenured CSU professor (San Francisco State, Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State San Marcos).

Since arriving at CSUSM, Dr. Proudfit has collaborated with the Office of Tribal Liaison, the Native Advisory Council and Tribal Communities and students to develop award-winning curriculum, materials and campaigns that are culturally relevant to Native American students. She leads campus community outreach efforts to nearly 35 tribal nations in the region as well as research in support of the maintenance of sovereignty and culture within the tribal communities.

Providing services from career training to cutting-edge research, the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center’s work has earned support from at least one local tribe, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in San Bernardino County. In November 2013, Proudfit’s staff hosted the inaugural San Diego American Indian Film Festival.

“I am so humbled by the opportunities that the CSU has provided me—I now look to serve, mentor and educate at every occasion,” Dr. Proudfit says. “I’m proud to say that CSUSM is the premiere American Indian-serving institution, with more than 430 American Indian and Alaska Native students, the highest in the state per capita—and we are still growing.”