Meet Samantha Gove, a rising junior navigating her path at UConn while embracing her Native American Heritage! She hopes to inspire other Native American Students who have faced similar experiences by sharing her success during her time at the University of Connecticut.
Chelsea Osei: Please tell us why you chose your major or area of academic interest?
Samantha Gove: I am a junior double majoring in sociology and human rights, with a minor in psychological sciences. Originally when I started at UConn, I wanted to study both Sociology and Psychology. I love to learn why things are the way they are and how people interact and think because I wanted to better understand social issues. I also wanted to formally study human rights because activism is a huge passion of mine. I wanted to be better educated on human rights issues to be more informed on the best ways to improve conditions for marginalized groups in our society.
CO: Have you had to overcome any academic difficulties, as an Indigenous/Native American during your time at UConn? And if so, how did you overcome them?
SG: As a Native American, anything about being Native is hard academic difficulties. In high school, I noticed the history being taught in classrooms was not what I was being taught at home. The history of Native People and the conditions and conflicts with white people were glossed over, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving. I was taught at home, in an age-appropriate way, that Thanksgiving was a way of celebrating the massacre of my tribe, the Mashantucket Pequots, and that was sad to me. It is not as though we did not celebrate Thanksgiving, but we celebrate it differently. Our family and our community come together to uplift each other.
In college, I would not say that I have had many academic difficulties as a Native person. Some of my professors have been amazing at being mindful and cognizant of the history of Native people, and they express that by representing it accurately. They are also mindful that there might be a Native student in the room and are sensitive to those subjects. I have also noticed when professors do address it, it serves to educate non-Native students. Some professors talk as if there are no native students in the classroom, and sometimes, I find that can be harmful.
CO: How did you become involved in NAISA (Native American & Indigenous Students Association) and helped you in your academic success?
SG: I was looking for a way to connect with other Native and Indigenous students on campus, so I was excited that UConn had a student’s association that was offered as a safe space for Native students. Being a member of NAISA has provided me with an amazing and supportive community. That is how I met Sage Phillips and Zoe Blevins, who is the president and vice president (respectively) of NAISA and the student coordinators of the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP). They encouraged me to apply for a position at the Native American Cultural Programs and an executive board position at NAISA. I was grateful to be chosen for both positions because being involved in these organizations has been amazing for my academic success. It is great to have a safe space and a supportive community on campus and people who understand any frustrations and struggles that I might experience.
CO: How do the clubs and activities help to supplement your academic interests?
SG: My involvement in NAISA and NACP has grown since I first got involved, so it takes up most of my time. Through NACP, we run NAISA and UConn Cultural and Educational Exchange with Indigenous Nations Cultural and Educational Exchange (UCINCEE), which is a mentorship program for tribal youth. I also serve as a representative for the vice president of student affairs on the Student Leadership Council. It is a group of about 20 student leaders and some staff who participate in conversations for critical change on campus surrounding many topics and issues. I have also had experience in the film appreciation club; however, I am not a member anymore, but it was very interesting to look at the movies we picked and talked about. I am also a member of the Human Rights and Action Learning Community, which has been an amazing experience to connect with other students who are passionate about the same things I am.
CO: What career are you interested in in the future and how does that tied to your identity/relate to your current interests now?
SG: I am not sure what I want to do in the future. I am just finishing my second year, so I am trying to figure out what I want to do within the next couple of years. All I have ever really known is that I have been passionate about activism since middle and high school. I have worked at different nonprofits or community-based organizations. I love the idea of being able to help people. Whether it is by advocating for positive change within society, institutions that might negatively affect certain groups of people, or by going out and educating people on social issues to be active members of their communities. I am strongly considering Law or Graduate School to continue learning and refine my skills. I always want to keep my background in mind; my tribal community is important to me, so I always consider how I can apply what I have learned to help my community.
CO: Who were the people that supported you in your success?
SG: I have such an amazing network of support I say my parents are the best, so I have to mention them first. They have supported me in my academic success all my life, from high school until now. They have helped me proofread college essays, scholarship applications, and provided emotional support. As I mentioned before, everyone I work with at the Native American Cultural Programs at UConn has been incredibly supportive of me and everything that I am involved in. I also have to thank my faculty advisor and my academic advisors for working with me on the Share Award Projects spring semester. I have also received a lot of support from my friends, and people at the human rights national learning community. There are the people who I always go to first when I need advice on how to accomplish anything I want. I could not do all the things I do on campus, considering how busy I am, without the support I receive.
CO: What is one piece of advice you give to incoming first-year student?
SG: I would encourage students to get involved. I think the involvement fair and UConntact were great resources I used. It is an amazing way to meet new people and highlight your passion. If there is a learning community that fits one of your interests, I recommend applying to get involved. Learning communities are a great way to meet not only members of faculty and staff who can help you in your journey but also students you share your same interest with. When joining clubs and organizations, it is important to keep an open mind. You will be surprised by the number of ways you can apply a casual interest to academic and professional interests, even if they do not seem to go together. I did not expect to have opportunities such as publishing a film analysis from a sociological perspective or working on a project with Brendan Kane relating to minoritized languages. Getting involved can also help you build a network and just have a place to do something other than academics to focus on. on.