Oral Histories

Sara Goeking


Sara Goeking


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Sara Goeking, class of 1992, comes from Mt. Morris, a small rural community. She heard about IMSA from her older brother, who was one year too old to be part of the charter class, and she knew she wanted to apply. Her guidance counselor was discouraging, but her parents supported her. In her application, she remembers writing about wanting to be challenged and to learn among other smart, motivated students.

Starting at IMSA, Goeking knew she liked math. Through her classes, she realized that she also really liked physics, thanks to Dr. Workman, and she enjoyed the humanities and language classes. She remembers liking X-days, because they offered a chance to catch up and reflect. On one of those days, Carl Sagan gave a lecture and she remembers meeting him with a group of other students. More recently, reading one of his books, she realized it covered the same ground as the lecture he gave at IMSA and almost unconsciously that lecture had influenced her thinking about science and society.

Goeking reflects that IMSA was one of the most diverse places she's been, ethnically and socioeconomically. Learning from others and making close friends along the way was an important experience. The most challenging aspect of her time at IMSA was figuring out what to do with her interests and what a career path could look like.

Goeking was a first-generation college student and attended the University of Illinois. At first, she felt like it was too easy. She started out in engineering and ended up studying forestry. Towards the end of her undergraduate degree she got involved in research. Now, Goeking works for the U.S. Forest Service where she monitors forests, examining how much carbon is in forests, how it's changing, and why. She is also involved in sharing monitoring technologies developed in the U.S. with other countries. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in hydrology, looking at the effects of forest disturbance and tree mortality on water resources. Both IMSA's service and society-oriented outlook and collaborative approach to problem-solving have been influential in her work.

Interviewer: Sara Goek. Duration: 24:17




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Sara Goeking