- Lani Hansen
Still finds fulfillment as AIGC director of Scholarship Operations
BY JACOB CHAVEZ
EDITOR BRITTNEY BENNETT
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - The southwest has gained one of northeast Oklahoma’s most focused advocates for Native American students in higher education.
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma member Corey Still is the newest director of Scholarship Operations at the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
He specifically oversees 23 scholarship programs underneath AIGC, which strives to assist American Indian and Alaska Native students with financial support while they pursue undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.
Students throughout the country can work with Still to receive assistance in every aspect of the AIGC scholarship process including applications, documentation and awards.
“I love it here because I get the opportunity to be a part of one of the oldest and largest organizations helping Native students,” said Still. “As a Keetoowah, this means a lot to me. Through this position I am able to give back to my community, which includes some UKB students who are involved with our scholarship programs.”
AIGC will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, a vital milestone for an organization assisting students in Indian Country looking to enter higher education.
“We’re here to help you,” said Still. “This journey is not easy by any means. Everyone is going to struggle with hardships and failure, but you have to find friends, mentors, faculty or family that are going to be there for you. It is hard, but I believe students can do it.”
He said that one of the most common barriers to higher education in Indian Country is not having enough open conversations about the path to college.
“We need people saying, ‘this is what college looks like,’” said Still. “College readiness programs are a big part of what AIGC offers for students who might not fully understand what all college entails. And I am so glad that this is here for them, because not a lot of these students have anyone to go to for advice on the challenges of higher education.”
AIGC can bridge the gap by helping guide students to whatever resources necessary in navigating to, and through, an institution of higher learning.
It all starts with its own scholarship process.
While a high GPA and good grades are common factors for awardees, Still notes there are other factors to consider besides traditional academic achievements. Students are encouraged to showcase whatever leadership skills and community service involvement they might have as well.
“We have to talk about ourselves,” said Still. “Natives are not comfortable when asked to talk about their achievements because, for most of us, we were not brought up that way. Leadership roles extend beyond officer positions in student groups. Students get leadership in a lot of roles through churches, schools and volunteer organizations.”
Still himself is no stranger to leadership roles.
In 2009, he was named a Gates Millennium Scholar and utilized the program throughout his college career to pursue various leadership opportunities on his way to a doctoral degree.
He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with his doctoral degree in Adult and Higher Education in 2019.
A week after graduation, Still was notified about his new position at AIGC and moved to New Mexico in the following weeks.
“It is hard not being close to my people, friends, and family, but there are a lot of Natives here, it’s just different. I love this opportunity though. It gives me a chance to give back to an organization that gave me so much, it’s wonderful,” he said. “One of the main highlights of this position is the opportunity to travel all over the country to potentially help students reach their goals in higher education. And that is really one of my goals, shedding light on services and scholarships for these students so that they can get better connected.”
Still says that his future plans will be focused on working with AIGC and continuing his research with American Indian leadership, historical Native American Greek life and Indigenous masculinity in higher education.
He hopes to continue to give back everything that he has learned in order to get students where they want to be academically.
“I see myself doing great work here,” he said. “I encourage our Native students to check out our website and look at all our scholarships. If anyone has any questions about anything, I am more than happy to help point you in the right direction.”
AIGC scholarships opened Jan. 1. Undergraduate scholarships close May 1 and graduate scholarships close June 1.
For more information, visit aigcs.org, email email@example.com or call 505-881-4584.