By UO student Chelsea Fullmer
University of Oregon graduate Geoffrey Roth ’98 works in Washington, D.C., as the Senior Advisor to the Director of the Indian Health Service, advocating for federal health care for the American Indian and Alaska Natives communities. A descendant of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota, Roth came to the UO College of Education where a trip to the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., changed his life and career path.
Originally from Oregon City, Roth came to the UO impressed by its uniqueness. At first, Roth took courses in political science, thinking that would be his major, but eventually decided to pursue his degree in educational studies. Roth found his interest in working on policy issues within the College of Education and knew he had made the right choice.
“I needed to have a subject that I care about and that I’m concerned about,” Roth said.
While a student at the UO, Roth kept busy by working as a student advisor for undergraduate students in the College of Education, attending meetings with the Native American Student Union (NASU), enjoying a short stint in the University Theatre department, cheering on the Ducks in Autzen Stadium, and going to Perry’s downtown with friends.
After a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the Department of Education, and with the advice from the former College of Education dean Martin Kaufman, Roth knew that he wanted to pursue a career in educational policy from a different angle than teaching.
“After continuing to talk to Marty, there was a career out there for me working on policy issues where I could help my community, the Indian country, and not be in a classroom working with kids,” Roth said.
Post-graduation, Roth worked in Oregon doing work with Hispanic and Native American education in the state, served as the Executive Director for of the Native American Youth Association in Portland, and started Camp Starlight for children affected by HIV/AIDS.
“I worked for the first couple of years in Oregon and it was nice because I had a really solid foundation,” Roth said. “Oregon is a different breed; the university and the state itself.”
Roth worked for the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education, working on grants for the discretionary programs within the department. From there, Roth became the Executive Director of the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) from 2006 to 2010. The NCUIH advocates for the health care interests of urban American Indians and Alaska Natives. While serving as the executive director, NCUIH was being zeroed out of the federal budget and for three fiscal years Roth had to fight for funding and ended up increasing the budget each year. Roth worked on the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) and the Affordable Care Act at his time with the NCUIH. Roth also served as the President of the Board of Directors for the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center for six years.
Now the Senior Advisor to the Director of the Indian Health Service, Roth strives for the implementation of IHS reform efforts concerning the health interests of urban Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.
Even though Roth is far away from his home state of Oregon in Washington, D.C., he found his Duck family through the UO Alumni Association’s D.C. Ducks chapter. He also gets together with a small, unofficial “D.C. Indian Ducks” group.
“I just think there is a real sense of community here and it continues for a lifetime,” Roth said.