I believe the American Indian Studies program is an interdisciplinary array of studies within itself. The range of topics from political, cultural and literature, as well as many off campus opportunities, furthered my Native education.
Denise Castillo has always had an interest in her Native American heritage, but as she progressed within the American Indian Studies program at USAO, she discovered her deeper interests lay in the legal and policy aspects of her culture.
“Growing up around a Native community exposes you to a lot of culture, but at times the law and policy areas are limited. I realized that regardless of the major I had chosen, I was being exposed to areas of sociology, psychology and business at USAO. Having a base knowledge in the liberal studies helps me maintain and progress in my line of work.”
Denise is currently a Social Services Specialist with Grady County’s Department of Human Services. She assists clients by determining their eligibility, provides timely services and resources, and refers clients to other state resources or service organizations to ensure they receive the help they need.
“I recently attained Level II in my position which I am very proud of,” Denise said. “It is rewarding to be able to encourage those less fortunate to strive to attain their goals and be self sufficient.”
Initially Denise says she chose USAO because of its lower cost and location, but after her first year at USAO, she knew it was where she wanted to graduate because of its small community atmosphere.
“I believe most Native Americans are accustomed to a small community feel,” said Denise. “My American Indian Studies advisor is not only knowledgeable in his area, but is living his culture and beliefs daily.”
Denise said USAO’s encouraging professors were a huge part in helping her reach her goals.
“Without attaining a bachelor’s degree, I wouldn’t have been able to consider applying for the position I’m in now. USAO’s highly educated professors actually take the time to assist students when extra help may be needed.”
Denise added that the interdisciplinary studies broadened her learning experience.
“I learned the importance of thinking for myself, while considering the world around me. Most importantly, I learned to never to stop learning and always encourage others to reach their goals.
“I'm grateful I had the encouragement of an amazing advisor, as well as the support from a great group of friends at USAO.”