University of Connecticut rising junior Samantha Gove ’24 (CLAS), a sociology and human rights major who has a minor in psychological sciences, has been selected as a 2022 Udall Scholar. The honor is awarded on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment; Tribal public policy or Native health care; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement.
A native of Granby, Gove is the ninth Udall Scholar in UConn history, and the third in the past four years.
She is just one of 55 students nationally to earn the distinction in 2022, from a pool of 382 nominations. Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the scholar. Udall scholars will also gather this summer in Arizona for a series of discussions and meetings.
“This richly deserved recognition is validation of the contributions Samantha is making to both UConn and the broader community,” says Vin Moscardelli, Director of UConn’s Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships, which administers the process through which students are nominated for the Udall Scholarship. “She joins a diverse and impressive network of young Native American leaders, and together, they will fuel each other’s efforts to address issues important to Native communities here and elsewhere.”
The scholarships are given by the Udall Foundation, which was established by Congress in 1992 to honor Arizona Congressman Morris K. Udall’s lasting impact on the nation’s environment, public lands, and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives. In 2009, Congress enacted legislation to honor Morris’ brother, former Secretary of the Interior and Arizona Congressman Stewart L. Udall, and add his name to the Udall Foundation.
UConn rising senior Chase Mack ’23 (CLAS) was named an honorable mention selection for the Udall Scholarship, just one of 55 nationally to earn that honor. He is an intern in UConn Office of Sustainability, president of EcoHusky and a resident assistant on campus.
“Through my entire life, I have been proud of being Native American and a Mashantucket Pequot,” says Gove. “I am constantly trying to learn more about my family, history and culture from my father and grandparents. From visiting reservations and our museum, it is something I have always embraced personally, but not necessarily publicly because that was hard to do in a small, predominantly white town growing up. So, when I got to UConn, I knew it was time to embrace my indigenous identity and let go of what I thought other people would say about it.”
In addition to the Udall Scholarship, Gove was named a Newman Civic Fellow, which recognizes and supports community-committed students who are change makers and public problem-solvers at Campus Compact member institutions, such as UConn.
Gove began her advocacy work as a senior at Granby Memorial High School and worked at the National Conference for Community and Justice, located in Windsor.
“I started learning about peer education and social justice there and realized that was the work I had to do,” says Gove. “I always thought I was going to be an engineer, but I realized I had to pursue human rights. I was always passionate about human rights, but didn’t see a path for that type of work at first.”
Gove worked on a number of issues at first, but then realized there was a gap in Native American and Indigenous activism in both Connecticut and around the country.
“I saw that it was something that people wanted to learn about and be more involved in, but they just didn’t have the knowledge or the experience,” says Gove. “I had that as a Mashantucket Pequot youth, so I knew I had to do that.”
A Commitment to Scholarship and Activism
Gove joined the Native American and Indigenous Student Association when she first came to UConn in the fall of 2020 and recently has been elected president of that group for next year. She is also the student coordinator for the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP) at UConn.
“I have planned a lot of events that I knew people would be interested in based on our culture and current events,” says Gove.
She is involved a program to teach the Minoritized Languages of the North Atlantic, such as Irish Gaelic and Mohegan-Pequot Algonquian, at UConn with professor of history Brendan Kane. A research project she is involved with examines police use of force against Native people in the United States and is under the direction of assistant professor of sociology Ryan Talbert.
“Samantha is an advisor’s dream,” says Talbert. “She has demonstrated an active enthusiasm for pursuing justice, amending inequalities, and advocating for marginalized groups. Her intersecting identities and experiences provide her with valued, novel, and important experiential knowledge and insights that cannot be acquired simply via immersion in a research literature. To this end, in one of her ongoing projects, Samantha is identifying, analyzing, and theorizing patterns of police violence experienced by Native American communities.
“Samantha is and will continue to develop as a leader, voice, and scholar for marginalized populations. Her intellect and passion are most prominently on display when she uses her platform to speak against anti-Native injustices. Samantha’s skills, sustained participation in tribal-related efforts, and work as a UConn/Native liaison will propel her to a myriad of wonderful educational and professional opportunities in the future.”
Gove serves as an executive board member of the Native American and Indigenous Students Association (NAISA), is a member of the Human Rights and Action Learning Community, and the Youth Advisory Team for the organization Human Rights Close to Home. She is a mentor for the UConn Indigenous Nations Cultural and Educational Exchange (UCINCEE), where she works with Native youth and their families.
In addition to the trip to Arizona, Gove will be an intern at The Naugatuck Valley Project this summer, a social justice organization. Following graduation, she hopes to get a master’s in American Indian studies, attend law school and have a career in public policy.
The Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships (ONSF) is a resource for students interested in learning more about the Udall Scholarship and other prestigious scholarships and fellowships that support study in all fields. ONSF is part of Enrichment Programs and is open to all graduate and undergraduate students at the University, including students at the regional campuses. For more information about the Udall Scholarship and other prestigious, nationally-competitive awards, please visit ONSF at www.onsf.uconn.edu.