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Native American Studies Institute gift to boost tribal student body presence at UGA

Alan Flurry

The University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Institute for Native American Studies has received a gift to recruit and support scholarships for Native American students at the university. The gift by UGA alumnus Chris Goeckel is designed to bring graduate students from across the United States to study at UGA and to promote the importance of the Native American Studies curriculum for the campus community.

The UGA Institute of Native American Studies (INAS) is one of few such programs in the Southeast. The program allows students to add a certificate demonstrating expertise in Native American Studies alongside tradition disciplines and majors. The UGA campus, located in proximity to the Oconee National Forest, the Chattahoochee River, and the Qualla Boundary – the federally recognized home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is well-situated to educate students about the old homelands of Southeastern Native peoples.

Chris Goekel (BBA ’84) enjoyed a successful career in banking before moving into the software industry in the late 1990’s. After working for Oracle, he started an Atlanta-based boutique consulting firm that worked with utility companies around U.S. as well as variety of Fortune 500 firms. He continues to work internationally consulting across a variety of different industries.

"My great-grandmother was a strong woman that had a significant influence in my maternal family lives, and I wanted to support and honor Ruth Pack and the Cherokee nation," Goeckel said.

Dedicated to his late great-grandmother’s legacy, Goeckel established the Ruth Pack scholarships to support Native American students coming to UGA over the next several years. 

“While continuing my family research over the years and reading Dr. Saunt’s books about the removal from American Indian tribes across the Southeast, I feel more strongly than ever about the importance of the native American tribes to the early success of the United States and connecting that history to our university.”

Claudio Saunt, Richard B. Russell Professor American History at UGA, is author of “West of the Revolution” (2014), and “Black White and Indian” (2005). His most recent book, Unworthy Republic (2020), was awarded the Bancroft Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

“UGA currently has a very modest ratio of Native students on campus, and we think Chris’ generous support can help introduce fundamental change to this campus demographic,” said LeAnne Howe, Eidson Distinguished Professor in American Literature and interim director of the UGA Institute of Native American Studies. “There is great opportunity to bring more Native students into the UGA family, and also expand the learning environment on campus for all UGA students.”

In addition to scholarships for graduate students, Goeckel’s support for Native American Studies at UGA will help the institute leverage its capacity to expand course offerings, programming open to the community, research that benefits native communities, and present Native American voices on campus.

“As an alum and a parent of five children that attended UGA, it’s important to me to help strengthen a university that I love, that has been one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Goeckel said.

“UGA is incredibly fortunate to have committed alumni like Chris Goeckel and his family,” Howe said. “With this wonderful gift honoring his late great-grandmother, we will be able to share the best of the university with a wider, more diverse array of extraordinary students.”

Image: Chris Goeckel

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