May 17, 2023

New Era for Research into Health and Well-Being Begins at CGU

Ribbon cutting for the Y-Center opening

Claremont Graduate University has officially opened the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies, which serves as the new home for the School of Community & Global Health and provides a nexus for researchers to address health and well-being challenges prevalent in underserved communities.

The Yuhaaviatam Center was made possible because of a $14 million gift from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which allowed the university to purchase the Huntley Bookstore property on the perimeter of the campus. Another gift from the tribe helped fund renovations to the interior of the architecturally significant building, whose name, Yuhaaviatam, is a Serrano word meaning People of the Pines.

“The Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies is a wonderful example of partnership,” CGU President Len Jessup said. “I could not be more grateful to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and our other supporters for their belief in CGU’s commitment to make a difference in the world. The center will benefit our faculty and students, but most important, it will expand their ability to improve lives, especially in communities that need it most.”

Faculty and students are researching an array of health issues such as diabetes prevention and management, smoking cessation, burnout among healthcare providers, and stress among children and adolescents. They are also focusing on “diseases of despair,” including drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide, that disproportionately afflict socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

The gift to CGU in December 2020 exemplifies San Manuel’s philanthropic commitment to inland Southern California—a commitment rooted in the call of Yawa’, a Serrano word meaning acting on one’s beliefs, often expressed through a culture of giving. Over the past 20 years, San Manuel has provided more than $300 million to support education, healthcare and well-being, transitional housing, and a host of other initiatives.

“Among our priorities is providing resources that promote healthy and resilient communities, and research is a key pillar in those efforts,” San Manuel Tribal Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena said. “As healthcare continues to evolve along with factors that determine quality of life, it is important that underserved communities are represented in solutions to better living. We hope the Yuhaaviatam Center will serve as a place for thought leaders to collaborate and bring forth solutions for all people regardless of their ability to access the best care.”

Valbuena, Tribal Secretary Audrey Martinez, and Council Member Ed Duro attended the official opening on May 11, along with guests from Prime Healthcare, which also provided philanthropic support. Valbuena and Jessup spoke at the dedication ceremony, as did former Tribal Chairman Deron Marquez, who is also a member of the university’s Board of Trustees.

Marquez, who earned his master’s and PhD in politics at CGU, was instrumental in establishing the Tribal Administration Certificate Program at the university in 2006. Endowed by the tribe and offered at no cost to participants, the two-year program provides instruction for San Manuel employees on topics including tribal sovereignty, tribal gaming and governance, federalism, and executive leadership.

San Manuel’s ties with CGU date back to the 1990s when CGU alumnus and Board of Trustees member Alfred Balitzer worked with San Manuel on a California ballot proposition to legalize gaming on tribal lands.

“Our relationship with San Manuel is grounded in respect and trust, and it began long before I became president,” Jessup said. “It’s important to acknowledge those who built that relationship over the decades.”