Building a Career as a Genetic Counselor to Support Native Families

Timara Gordon '23This article was originally published on the University of Redlands Bulldog Blog under the title, “Understanding the genetics of Native American communities.”

As a Native American, Timara Gordon ’23 remembers being perplexed by the lack of biological research about her heritage. When she learned about the University of Redlands Health, Medicine, and Society major, she realized she could turn her interest in DNA and gene mapping into a career in genetic counseling.

As a genetic counselor, Gordon hopes to help other Native families understand inherited medical conditions through biological research on past and present generations. “During my first-year seminar, which was on Native American health, Professor [Larry] Gross brought in a Redlands alumna who was working on a master’s degree in genetic counseling, and I was able to talk to her about my path forward,” she says.

After her first-year seminar, Gross became Gordon’s advisor and helped her navigate course selection and registration based on her academic interests—something she says was a big help to her as a first-generation college student. As she found her footing on campus, she embraced a newfound sense of independence and sought out groups of other Native students.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a part of Native Student Programs and the Native American Student Union,” she says. “We all support each other and are open about sharing our heritage and inviting others to come and learn about it.”

On a larger scale, Gordon has been surprised by the sense of community she found on campus. After applying to attend state universities, she assumed that college classes would large and the campus, unfamiliar. But the way that different cultures and groups connect at the University of Redlands has enhanced her student experience. What she values most about Redlands is the feeling of social accessibility: “The different communities all feel very interconnected and open to everyone,” she says.

These valuable experiences were made possible by the San Manuel Excellence in Leadership Scholarship. “Coming from a family of nine, going to college didn’t really feel like an option for me,” she says. “The scholarship made coming to Redlands and everything else that came after that possible.”

Being away from home has taught Gordon how to do things on her own—filing her own taxes and filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—but her family and the larger Native American community is never far from her mind and serve as a grounding force.

“In college, you’re representing a whole set of people,” she says. “I’m here to represent my people and my family.”

Learn more about Native Student Programs and the Health, Medicine, and Society major.

By Katie Olson
Katie Olson Web Editor