San Manuel’s Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies Opens at Claremont Graduate University

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) has officially opened the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies, the new home for its School of Community & Global Health and a nexus for researchers to address health and well-being challenges prevalent in underserved communities. The naming of the center honors the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, whose funding supports the path to equality in community-based health research.

Yuhaaviatam is a Serrano word meaning People of the Pines; 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 a bookstore on the perimeter of the campus that served The Claremont Colleges. Another gift from the Tribe helped fund renovations to the interior of the architecturally significant building. 

“The Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies is a wonderful example of partnership,” said CGU President Len Jessup. “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.”

Claremont Graduate University President Len Jessup speaking to attendees during the Yuhaaviatam Center dedication on Thursday, May 11.

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,” Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena says. “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.”

Jessup and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena sharing a moment together after cutting the ribbon of the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies.

Valbuena, Tribal Secretary Audrey Martinez, and Council Member Ed Duro attended the official opening of The Yuhaaviatam Center 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 San Manuel Tribal Chairman Deron Marquez, Ph.D., who is also a CGU alumnus and a member of CGU’s Board of Trustees.

Marquez 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.”


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