Anthropology Staff Spotlight Series: Tamara Hoksbergen

Written by Alberto Eduardo Morales, March 22, 2019

In the Anthropology Department office suite, Tami sits quietly working behind two computer screens, piles of university forms, and a stack of Girl Scout cookies she and her daughter sell to raise funds for various community service events. When you approach her at her desk, she will stop momentarily and look away from her screens. A serious gaze meets the eyes, yet Tami will answer your questions with a cheerful demeanor. It is the jovial way of a once adventurous and animal-loving spirit, an enthusiast of family genealogy and history, and a relentless advocate of community service.

Tamara Hoksbergen is the Anthropology Department's Assistant Analyst. She graduated from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona majoring in Animal Sciences and minoring in zoology and physiology. At Cal Poly Pomona she was able to connect her family's farming tradition with her fascination for horses by specializing in Equine Studies. Her love for various kinds of animals has taken the California native to live in places like Virginia, New England, and Down Under.

While in college, Tami spent an academic year abroad at Lincoln University in New Zealand. There, Tami worked on an Elk farm and explored the main island to learn about land management. "We would travel to so many places in New Zealand. Sometimes it would begin to rain, and you would think that they would cancel the trips. Oh no, you took a plastic bag with you, put it over your notebook, and took notes inside the plastic bag in the rain. We would always have tea and milk in the afternoon."

Tami recalls living some of her most exciting adventures during that year abroad such as snorkeling in Rarotonga or the Cook Islands and riding camels through the harvested cane fields in Australia. "I originally always wanted to go to Australia, but I went to New Zealand and liked it better than Australia. New Zealand is very different. They have different kinds of animals that they raise over there, like elk. You don't see a lot of elk farms here. They don't have those concentrated animal farms as we have here either. Over there the animals are all out in the paddock, and that's how they feed. "

Tami was born in Escondido, CA and raised in Cerritos and Artesia, in what used to be Dairy Valley, about 25 miles north of Irvine along the Orange County border with suburban Los Angeles. In this part of Southeast Los Angeles County, next to the San Gabriel River and south of the Pio Pico State Historic Park, dairy producing families from Holland replaced Californio ranchers and prospered alongside Portuguese-speaking farm workers from the Azores (one of the autonomous regions of Portugal). This area used to have the largest concentration of dairy farms in the United States. "My family's dairy was on what is now Cerritos High School. When I drive by there, I think to myself: Wow! I used to play by some of those big trees that still stand there."

Dairymen in Cerritos were generally from the Netherlands, as were Tami's uncles who arrived in California by train in the 1930s. Tami's paternal grandmother was born in Holland. Her father was born in Iowa in 1933 and came to California in 1934. "My grandmother did not think my dad was going to make the train ride here as he got ill during the trip. Fortunately, he made it. My father is the only one of all the kids that did not end up doing dairy. He became an electronic engineer, and he worked on the Atlas, which was the first intercontinental ballistic missile developed in the United States."


Tami began her career at UC Irvine in January 2012 with the Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) - a leader in research, development, and deployment of clean energy systems. During her sojourn at APEP, she assisted in organizing the annual International Colloquium on Environmentally Preferred Advanced Generation, a clean energy conference with a focus on microgrids and sustainable energy resources. In October of 2012, Tami was hired in the Anthropology Department by Norma Miranda. In the Anthro Department, her job duties are plenty and include: managing the schedule of classes, figuring out logistics for colloquium speakers, executing reimbursements, department purchases, and desk copy orders for faculty and lecturers. She also facilitates Lambda Alpha Kappa (UCI's chapter of the Collegiate National Honor Society in Anthropology), the Anthropology Certificate program, and the department's undergraduate Honor's program.

Before joining UC Irvine, Tami worked in various other sectors including banking, life insurance, and third-party warranties sales and management. "I wanted to work with horses. I ended up doing office work since I had been doing a lot of temping work to pay for college."

For the last 26 years, she has also worked backstage at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center part-time as a facility assistant overseeing volunteers at the center. "It is a weird job; you get to meet performers and see the ways they treat people just because they are famous. Some have strange habits. They have to have a certain color of M&Ms in their changing room. Some require a specific number of towels. There are nice ones too. I have met a lot of people there."

Tami still maintains her networks across campus. She has spent the last seven years zooming up and down the 405 carpooling in electric cars with colleagues from engineering in vehicles operated through the university's National Fuel Cell Research Center. "It is part of APEP and the National Fuel Cell Research Center. The engineers and graduate students monitor and keep all the records. We have gone from riding in a Toyota Rav 4 EV for five years to a Prius for one year. Now, we are in a KIA Soul. They are also testing some of the smaller electrical cars on campus with some professors driving the smaller Scion-IQ on campus."


Some of Tami's hobbies include conducting historical research in her spare time at local genealogy data centers and leading her 13-year old daughter's Girl Scout Troop in various community service activities.

Genealogy is one of the top three hobbies in the United States, especially now that there is a prevalence of genetic-filled family histories fueling biotech-based software and websites (i.e., AncestryDNA or 23andme). However, it takes a detail-oriented person to scour through thousands of records of family history to be able to trace one's familial ties back to the coming of the Mayflower.

Tami has become an accomplished genealogist and family historian researching at the National Archives and Records Administration in Laguna Niguel, CA. "My mother's family got off the Mayflower (1620). I have Spanish in me too and some American Indian from Michoac√°n, Mexico. But I grew up with my dad's side of the family and my aunts. They were all Dutch from Elburg in the province of Gelderland, Netherlands."

South Orange County is also the home of the Laguna Niguel California Family History Center. This center harbors centuries-old records. It was while trying to find out more about her maternal family that Tami ended up learning more about her father's kin. "It is amazing how much history you learn just through doing genealogy. My great-grandfather died January 15, 1863, in the American Civil War (1861-1865) of Typhoid fever. His father fought in the War of 1812 and his great grandfather in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783)." All of them were mainly Irish descent, originally from the southwestern part of Northern Ireland. They settled in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa.

Tami's love for genealogy and history does not surpass her commitment to empowering young women through the Girls Scouts. Working closely with her daughter's troop out of Long Beach, Tami spends most of her spare time carrying out community service, including composting at the Victory Garden in Long Beach and planting trees throughout Southern California. The troop also helps out at marathons, participates in flag ceremonies and parades, serve meals to those in need, and get involved in events like Angel Tree where they collect toys for families in need during the holidays. "Our troop is made up of 8th and 9th graders. They are high achieving girls. Three of them will more than likely sell over 1,000 Girl Scouts Cookies. Through these sales, the girls learn how to work with people, do their marketing campaign, take inventory, manage cash flow, and set budgets for the funds they raise."

Tami still lives in the Cerritos, Artesia area in what used to be her grandmother's home. The farms have now all moved to Chino and Mira Loma near Riverside, CA. Some of the farmers of Dutch-descent, like her cousins, have even moved as far north to Washington state where they still produce dairy. Tami can tell you a lot about Southern California. She is warm and witty, and she will guide you through the dizzying paperwork that the university will sometimes require of you. "When you work in a university, it is kind of like a little city. It is also similar to the theater. I smile and try to do what I can for any request that comes to my door."

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