CGU gets $4 million, expands pioneering tribal program

As part of a $4 million donation by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Claremont Graduate University (CGU) will expand the San Manuel Tribal Administration Certificate Program, adding another year of advanced courses.

This latest contribution by San Manuel makes for a combined total of $7.4 million donated by the tribe to an endowment at CGU for the program, which provides training and education for tribal management and employees. This program is the only one of its kind in the country. 

To commemorate the program expansion, San Manuel Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena and Secretary Ken Ramirez were set to present CGU President Deborah Freund with a check this morning at the San Manuel Indian Reservation. The money will be used for the advancement of training, practicums and classes for this innovative course of study. The new program will be available for students who have completed the first-year certificate.

“What started as an opportunity to enhance the skill sets and leadership potential of our managers and employees, in addition to broadening their understanding of tribal sovereignty and government, has quickly grown into the premiere tribal certificate program in the country,” Ms. Valbuena said. “This direct investment in education has generated proud, knowledgeable graduates who are stepping up to take leadership roles and make better decisions in the workplace.”

CGU awards graduates of the program with certificates indicating their completion of a two-semester sequence of courses.

“Program graduates learn the meaning of tribal sovereignty and how it is the cornerstone of a robust government and economy benefiting them, their families and the broader Inland Empire economy,” Ms. Valbuena explained.

Ms. Freund said she is proud of the school’s partnership with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and looks forward to the expanding course offerings available to tribal governments.

“Claremont Graduate University educates leaders about tribal governments and the distinctive issues they face to enlarge the understanding of tribal sovereignty, helping to make better decisions for future generations,” she said CGU. 

“A nationally recognized faculty and prominent guest lecturers from throughout the country teach the Tribal Administration program at CGU. 

 “This exclusive program focuses on a variety of tribal topics including how to conduct business when working with a tribal nation. It gave me hands-on training that I was able to bring back to the reservation and make instant, positive changes for the tribe,” said John Klein, director of public safety for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Marisol Inzunza, manager of operations and grant administration, who is involved with community outreach for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, agreed that the CGU program has great value.

“The specially-designed courses for our industry have allowed me to return to the reservation and share this knowledge with our team so that together we are all making better decisions in the workplace,” she said.

Founded in 2006, the San Manuel Tribal Administration Certificate Program provides training and education for the management and employees of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, with a focus on the issues related to working for a tribal government. 

Classes, which are held at CGU, have the following aims: nurturing a new generation of leaders within the tribal government workforce; fostering the professional development of San Manuel’s employees; equipping students with the latest on federal, state and Indian laws, tribal sovereignty and the tenets of managing developing economies; and providing a culturally-informed curriculum that focuses on Native American issues of local and national importance and issues distinctively relevant to California tribes.  

The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians is a federally-recognized American Indian tribe located near Highland. The Serrano Indians are an indigenous people of the San Bernardino Valley, today known as the Inland Empire, who share a common language and culture.

The San Manuel Reservation was established in 1891 and recognized as a sovereign nation with the right of self-government. As an indigenous community, the origins and history of the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians stem from their relationship with the land and to all who share it.  

As one of the largest employers in the Inland Empire today, San Manuel is able to answer the call of Yawa, a Serrano word meaning “to act on one’s beliefs. The tribe does so through partnerships with numerous philanthropic organizations and with its commitment to Native American causes nationwide. For more information, visit




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