UAA Alumni Spirit INDEX Fall 2020 • ISSUE 14
UAA Alumni Spirit INDEX Fall 2020 • ISSUE 14
UAA Alumni Spirit INDEX Fall 2020 • ISSUE 14
FEATURES
8
UAA prepares students for their careers with academic programs — both in long-standing and emerging fields — that offer skills-based curricula built in consultation with community partners and industry professionals.
12
“Unprecedented” has been a buzzword for the year 2020, and with no end in sight to the global COVID-19 pandemic, UAA administrators, faculty and staff had to get creative to keep students motivated and on track for the spring and fall semesters.
16
Researchers at UAA’s Alaska Center for Conservation and Science in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management are studying bees due to their vulnerability to climate change.
SPOTLIGHTS
14
The all-alumni staff at Native Student Services talk about the importance of representation and the revamped Native Early Transition Program.
15
Joining UAA in July 2020, Chief Diversity Officer Jennifer Booz is responsible for stewarding the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
17
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and pre-nursing student Merlin Lang found himself unemployed, UAA’s Student Support Fund provided a financial safety net so he could continue his education.
18
Meet this year’s four Alumni of Distinction recipients: Alumni of Achievement Laurie Fagnani, Alumni of Achievement Leverette Hoover, Alumni Humanitarian Ghazal Ringler and Alumni Emerging Leader Reem Sheikh.
ON THE COVER
Viral transport media to supply Alaska’s COVID-19 testing centers, made in UAA’s new Advanced Instrumentation for Microbiome Studies core facility.
Matt Jardin on Zoom with Others
From the editor

Not to be cliche given what season it is or insensitive in light of the year we’ve had, but there remains much to be thankful for. With that, it seems appropriate that gratitude be the focus of this issue of Spirit.

Some of the Seawolves you’ll hear from include the all-alumni staff of Native Student Services who appreciates the opportunity to guide incoming classes of Alaska Native and rural students. We profile new UAA chief diversity officer Jennifer Booz who welcomes the responsibility of fostering a more inclusive atmosphere on campus. And we spotlight pre-nursing student Merlin Lang who expresses his gratitude for the Student Support Fund scholarship.

lonnie ridgeway
from an alumnus

Today, I met with my team for an hour about how we can better serve the Anchorage community by providing resources regarding adolescent substance misuse. After the meeting, I scanned some recently published journals regarding the effects of COVID-19 on substance misuse just before I interviewed Ben Westhoff, a nationally known investigative journalist who recently uncovered international truths about the business of illegal drugs. After the interview, I went to a local coffee shop where I sat at a table and listened to Michael Buble’s “I’m Feeling Good” on repeat while I responded to emails and wrote an outline for an upcoming podcast I’m recording to raise suicide awareness. I can’t believe I’m receiving a paycheck to do these things.

UAA:
Smaller, focused
and resilient
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, university administrators across the country watched as case counts in their respective cities and states continued to steadily rise. As leaders of the higher education community, we grappled with the difficult question of how to move forward with course delivery and campus operations.

In May I announced to the UAA community the fall 2020 semester would be a mix of alternate delivery and face-to-face instruction. Ultimately, only 20% of the university’s fall courses would be delivered face-to-face; the majority took place through alternate delivery methods.

Making this decision early was important to provide clarity regarding our academic courses, events and campus operations. This allowed us to shift our thinking about the pandemic from a deficit model that virtual courses are less than those delivered face-to-face. We prepared for a new normal and embraced College During COVID as the path to success for our community. Operating from this perspective in a pandemic has been a catalyst for creativity and innovation.

READY
FOR
THE
MAIN
EVENT
Universities serve many roles, both to their students and communities. Perhaps the most important of these is the function to prepare graduates to enter the workforce. It is a responsibility UAA takes great pride in doing well.

According to a 2018 survey from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 75% of hiring managers polled believe that a college education is an essential quality in a candidate.

Conversely, a 2020 survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 74% of hiring managers polled agree that demonstrable skills are more important in a candidate.

Hiring managers reviewing a resume from a UAA grad will undoubtedly notice the best of both worlds. Many of our academic programs — both in long-standing and emerging fields — offer skills-based curricula built by consulting with industry professionals and community partners.

College
During
COVID
Brittney Horn reads off instructions to her lab partner as UAA Medical Assisting Program students learn to sterilize medical instruments during their first in-person lab of the Fall 2020 semester. While 80% of UAA’s courses have shifted to online delivery this fall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person labs are still being offered for some health-related, vocational and science fields in which hands-on learning is considered critical.
COMING TOGETHER FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
If there was a buzzword for 2020, “unprecedented” would be it. As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic sunk in mid-March this year, UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and senior administrators campus-wide mobilized quickly to change course for the remainder of the spring semester. It was a seismic shift, moving more than 14,000 students and over 1,000 faculty online to alternate course delivery, while also closing campus and transitioning more than 1,000 staff to work from home — all within a few weeks. But seismic shifts are not uncommon at UAA, and supporters from all corners of the university rallied together to aid the university’s students and ensure their success for spring semester. Chancellor Sandeen was able to quickly pivot to a new unprecedented learning and work model, where “Zooming” became the norm for classroom lectures, meetings and campus events.
The New Native Student Services
FROM LEFT: STUDENT SERVICES COORDINATOR PAULA JONES, O.E.C. ’19, B.H.S. ’20; OFFICE MANAGER CHERYL TURNER, A.A.S. ’00, B.H.S. ’08; INTERIM ASSISTANT DIRECTOR QUENTIN SIMEON, B.A. ’06; AND DIRECTOR AMBER CHRISTENSEN FULLMER, B.A. ’03.
alumni profile
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a year of many changes. Some are adverse, but others have been for the better, including the new alumni staff at UAA’s Native Student Services (NSS): director Amber Christensen Fullmer, B.A. Sociology ’03; interim assistant director Quentin Simeon, B.A. English ’06; student services coordinator Paula Jones, O.E.C. Conflict Resolution ’19, B.H.S. Human Services ’20; and office manager Cheryl Turner, A.A.S. Human Services ’00, B.H.S. Human Services ’08.

“We’re hearing from students that they don’t feel represented in the ranks of faculty, staff or administration. That’s why this team is a good fit because we are these students,” said Fullmer. “Having somebody like us who came from where they come from and experienced the things they experience, I hope that shows them they can succeed without having to check their indigenousness at the door.”

Housed in Rasmuson Hall, NSS provides a space for Alaska Native and rural students — which make up about 20% of first-year UAA students — to study or relax. Their flagship initiative, the Native Early Transition (NET) Program, invites those students to live on campus a week earlier than other students in order to acclimate to more urban life.

Creating A Better Institution Through Equity
Leadership Profile
Diversity and equity have become the long-overdue topic of public discourse. And it’s a conversation UAA Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Jennifer Booz is prepared to have. As CDO, Booz is responsible for implementing UAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) and overseeing its initiatives.

Adopted in 2017, the DIAP provides a roadmap for UAA to meet the needs of all students, faculty and staff concerning the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Not only is it the right thing to do, but it improves us as an institution,” said Booz. “Research shows that diverse institutions have better outcomes. We do better in class, we do better research, we have better faculty teaching evaluations and we have better financial outcomes.”

In the near term, Booz’s primary goal is for UAA’s students, faculty and staff to more accurately resemble Alaska’s unique makeup via more inclusive recruitment and retaining methods.

The bee collectors
With Alaska experiencing climate change at twice the rate as the Lower 48, researchers at UAA’s Alaska Center for Conservation and Science (ACCS) in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management are closely monitoring and studying our state’s pollinators. According to Justin Fulkerson, botanist at ACCS, pollinators are extremely sensitive and vulnerable to climate change, which is why he and a team of researchers set out this summer to study Alaska’s bee populations to learn more about what bee species exist in the state and the key roles they play in our ecosystem.
Providing Relief When Students Need it Most
When pre-nursing student Merlin Lang graduated from high school, he started his first semester without a clue of what he wanted to do, so he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and pursued an engineering degree. But as the semesters progressed, the “Fs” piled up and his confidence spiraled down.

“Each semester kept getting worse and worse and toward the end, I just wasn’t going to class at all,” Lang said. He was struggling with his mental health and when he pulled the plug on his degree, he’d destroyed his GPA and had racked up considerable student loan debt. He needed to reevaluate life, so he took a few years off to work in the service industry, traveled to Europe and became his grandmother’s caretaker.

It was during this time that he realized taking care of others was a strength, something he loved doing and could turn into a career.

GOOD MORNING, SEAWOLF NATION!
UAA Homecoming Breakfast
On Oct. 9, more than 140 UAA graduates joined the Homecoming Breakfast from across the country to reconnect with their university and to honor the achievements of this year’s four Alumni of Achievement. In just one hour, the gathered alumni raised over $16,000 in donations, sponsorships and gift matches to benefit UAA programs and scholarships, all before 9 a.m.

Typically a ticketed event taking place at the Alaska Airlines Center — which is currently a coronavirus medical facility — this year’s Homecoming Breakfast made the familiar transition to an online event. Thanks to sponsorships from R&M Consultants, Neeser Construction, ATS Alaska, Northrim Bank and 2Core Films, the event was open to the entirety of Seawolf Nation.

Despite the change, the early morning alumni celebration featured many of the hallmarks of an in-person Homecoming Breakfast, including a performance of the alma mater by the UAA Glee Club, an address from Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and messages of thanks and encouragement from the university’s community partners.

This year, the UAA Alumni Association was thrilled to welcome keynote speaker and alumnus Ragu Bhargava, B.B.A. Accounting ‘88, to share his story of success through philanthropy. Bhargava is the CEO and co-founder of Global Upside, Inc. An experienced, award-winning entrepreneur and executive, he has helped clients successfully navigate some of the world’s trickiest business environments.

Alumni Life
Social work alumna Celeste Hodge Growden, A.A. ’92, B.S.W. ’96, speaking at the March on Alaska, organized by the Alaska Black Caucus where she serves as president and CEO. Photo by documentarian Joshua Albeza Branstetter.
Biological sciences alumnus Tyler Fox, B.S. ‘19, working as a research technician in UAA’s new AIMS Core Facility. Since opening in March, the lab has played an important role in Alaska’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Languages alumna Natasha Price, B.A. ’06, teaching a workshop as part of her floral business, Paper Peony Alaska. Photo by Donna Marie Photography.
Music alumna Kat Moore, B.A. ’15, aka The Forest That Never Sleeps, filming a performance of original song “Old Growth.” Photo by journalism alumni Alex Troutman, B.A. ’13, of Blackfish Media and Ryan Syvertson, B.A. ’18.
Justice alumna Katya Bowen, B.A. ‘89, preparing to assess the swallowing from a COVID-19 patient at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Journalism and public communications alumnus Cecil Brown (right), B.A. ’15, directing a fashion photoshoot in Osaka, Japan.
Social work alumna Celeste Hodge Growden, A.A. ’92, B.S.W. ’96, speaking at the March on Alaska, organized by the Alaska Black Caucus where she serves as president and CEO. Photo by documentarian Joshua Albeza Branstetter.
Biological sciences alumnus Tyler Fox, B.S. ‘19, working as a research technician in UAA’s new AIMS Core Facility. Since opening in March, the lab has played an important role in Alaska’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Languages alumna Natasha Price, B.A. ’06, teaching a workshop as part of her floral business, Paper Peony Alaska. Photo by Donna Marie Photography.
Music alumna Kat Moore, B.A. ’15, aka The Forest That Never Sleeps, filming a performance of original song “Old Growth.” Photo by journalism alumni Alex Troutman, B.A. ’13, of Blackfish Media and Ryan Syvertson, B.A. ’18.
Justice alumna Katya Bowen, B.A. ‘89, preparing to assess the swallowing from a COVID-19 patient at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Journalism and public communications alumnus Cecil Brown (right), B.A. ’15, directing a fashion photoshoot in Osaka, Japan.
Alumni
News
Briefs
seawolves making
a difference
Four members join UAAAA board of directors
On Sept. 22, more than 50 attendees logged in via Zoom for the annual Alumni Assembly. Outgoing Alumni Association board members Drew Cason, B.A. ’13, B.S. ’13; and Charles Gunther, B.A. ’91; were bid farewell at the end of their terms. Four new board members were voted in to take their place and fill existing vacancies: Virginia Groeschel, B.S. ’06, M.S. ’20; Pearl-Grace Pantaleone, B.A. ’14; Stephanie Schuman, A.A. ’14, B.B.A. ’15; and Lonnie Ridgeway, B.A. ’18. Additionally, updates were provided from enrollment services, scholarship funds, Seawolf Athletics, Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and her Cabinet.
Princess Daazhraii Johnson (Neets’aii Gwich’in), M.Ed. ’17
PBS show Molly of Denali wins Peabody Award
PBS television show Molly of Denali, on which teaching alumna Princess Daazhraii Johnson (Neets’aii Gwich’in), M.Ed. ’17, serves as creative producer, was selected for a George Foster Peabody Award in the children’s and youth category in June 2020. The animated adventure-comedy follows the exploits of resourceful 10-year-old Molly Mabray in the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska. Premiering in July 2019 on PBS KIDS, the show is the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature an Alaska Native lead character. Additionally, Indigenous and Alaska Native people fill much of the show’s cast and talent behind the scenes.
New Faces
Denise Runge, Provost
It’s an unusual time to be stepping into the role of provost, according to Denise Runge, who officially began her leadership position in July. The former dean of UAA’s Community and Technical College will be providing leadership for the broad academic mission of the university in her new role.

On the academic side, Runge will work closely with UAA’s deans, academic leaders and faculty, while on the financial side, she will work on budget and resource issues. While Runge said her new role involves her in many different facets of UAA, this fall she is focusing her efforts on two main goals.

The first, providing students, new and returning, with the best academic experience possible given the current circumstances. The second, working in consultation with Chancellor Sandeen to create transparency surrounding how the university’s budget for academic programs is communicated to faculty, staff and students.

“What we’re all focused on right now is making fall semester the very best it can be for students,” said Runge. “I really want to highlight the importance of faculty development, and all of the faculty and staff work around instruction, learning design and providing students with what they need, given that most classes are going to be in an alternative format.”

Aaron Dotson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
As associate vice chancellor for research, Aaron Dotson’s role is to support research and creativity at all levels — from conception to completion and commercialization.
Denise Runge taking a photo
Denise Runge
Aaron Dotson smiling
aaron dotson
Portrait of Jacelyn Keys
Jacelyn Keys
Mary Jo Finney taking a photo outside
Mary Jo Finney
Class Notes
Jeffrey Wing headshot
Jeffrey Wing
Caroline Venuti headshot
Caroline Venuti
Jennifer Schrage headshot
Jennifer Schrage
Wesley Lundburg headshot
Wesley Lundburg
1986
Dewberry, a privately-held professional services firm, announced that civil engineering alumnus Jeffrey Wing, B.S. ’86, has joined the firm as the water/wastewater market segment leader for the Raleigh, North Carolina, office.
1991
Learning Resource Center coordinator at the Kachemak Bay Campus and public school administration alumna Caroline Venuti, M.Ed. ’91, was honored with the annual Staff Make Students Count award from the University of Alaska Board of Regents.
1992
Congratulations to English alumnus Dr. P. Wesley Lundburg, B.A. ’92, M.A. ’94, who was named new president of San Diego Miramar College.
1993
Co-founder and president of Signature Land Services Jennifer Schrage, B.A. ’93, received the UAA Journalism and Public Communications Alumni Award.
lens on campus
I think we can all identify with this arctic hare, pictured here in his almost-winter coat while relaxing on the UAA campus. It’s saying, “Look! I’ve changed!” having adapted to the world changing around it. And so have we all. UAA has had to adapt as well, and we hope you enjoy this new delivery method of your Alumni Spirit magazine.
seawolf nation comes home!
Even though on-campus and in-person events are still largely unavailable, your UAA Alumni Association is happy to meet you where you are and offer access to a wide range of online learning tools to help you continue writing your amazing story. From webinars by faculty, staff, renowned authors and career experts, to live online events that help you reconnect with classmates, we are here for you. View events at alumlc.org/uaa.
magazine staff
EDITOR
Matt Jardin, B.B.A. ’10

WRITERS
Matt Jardin, B.B.A. ’10
Catalina Myers

GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Brett Rawalt

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
James Evans, B.A. ’16

UAA ALUMNI ASSOCIATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Katie Bender, M.P.A. ’10
Lea Bouton, M.A.T. ’10
Cassidy Davis, B.A. ’10
Crystal Enkvist, B.A. ’93, M.P.A. ’13
Tim Gravel, B.B.A. ’89
Virginia Groeschel, B.S. ’06, M.S. ’20
Jessica Horwatt, B.B.A. ’97
Jessica Jacobsen, B.S. ’13
Stacey Lucason, B.A. ’18
Megan Moore, B.A. ’08
Pearl-Grace Pantaleone, B.A. ’14
Lonnie Ridgeway, B.A. ’18.
Stephanie Schuman, A.A. ’14, B.B.A. ’15
Jonathon Taylor, B.A. ’16
Tanya Pont, Ex-Officio,
Director of Alumni Engagement
2020–2022 ALUMNI EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
Kate Consenstein, B.A. ’11
Josh Edge, B.A. ’10
Jason Herr, B.A. ’20
Karen Lewis, A.A. ’01,
B.A. ’04, A.A.S. ’13

UAA OFFICE OF ALUMNI RELATIONS
907-786-1942
seawolf.forever@alaska.edu
uaa.alaska.edu/alumni
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UAAalumni
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UA is an AA/EO employer and educational institution and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual: www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination.
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Thanks for reading our Fall 2020 issue!