UAA Spring 2022 Issue cover

UAA Alumni Spirit

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Spring 2022 Issue 17
Collage of images from the University of Alaska Anchorage


UAA Alumni Spirit Spring 2022 ISSUE 17


UAA Alumni Spirit Spring 2022 ISSUE 17


  1. COVID-19 illuminated the critical role nurses play in our communities and the importance of having a local, accessible nursing education program in the state. Since early 2020, UAA’s School of Nursing has graduated more than 500 nurses into Alaska’s health care system.
  2. In October 2021, engineering alumna Michele Yatchmeneff accepted the role of executive director of Alaska Native education and outreach at UAA, tasked with ensuring Alaska Native students, faculty and staff have equal opportunity to succeed on campus.
  3. Last year, UAA hockey was in a precarious place. But now, the team has a brand new head coach — one who may be familiar to followers of Anchorage hockey: history alumnus Matt Shasby, who played as a Seawolf from 1999 to 2003 before going pro with the Alaska Aces.
  4. Understanding the health of salmon populations is critical to conserving other species. Over the past few summers, natural sciences alumnus Samuel Franklin and the Applied Environmental Research Center have devised new ways to monitor salmon on military bases near Anchorage.
  5. Engineering alumnus Jan van den Top has generously endowed the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Lab that now bears his name. His latest investment in UAA is an example of a philosophy that has been one of his guiding principles.
  6. UAA debuted its reimagined and refocused honors program in spring 2022, and the new program already has a bright future. Sixty-five students have been admitted into the first year with greater numbers anticipated in the years to come.
  7. Meet this year’s Alumni of Distinction recipients: Alumni of Achievement Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Alumni Humanitarian Amanda Metivier and Alumni Emerging Leader Kira Apaachuaq Eckenweiler.


A sunny view looking up at UAA’s Health Sciences Building.

From the Editor

It’s a new day at your Hometown U! Well, technically every day is a new day at UAA. Literalism joke aside, this issue of Spirit shines a light on new developments happening at the university.

Meet engineering alumna Michele Yatchmeneff, UAA’s new executive director of Alaska Native education and outreach, whose previous roles as engineering associate professor and ANSEP assistant director make her the perfect person to facilitate success for students, faculty and staff on campus. And meet history alumnus Matt Shasby, UAA’s latest hockey head coach, whose own time as a student-athlete, pro hockey player and teacher combine to give him a unique approach to coaching.


(Photo courtesy of Jonathon Taylor)

From An Alumnus

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the impact of our hometown university on my life and how alumni shaped my experience at UAA. Their monetary donations made it possible for me to join and travel with the Seawolf Debate Team. Their gifts of time and mentorship expanded my horizons and vision of future possibilities. And their networks and connections helped me land my first job after graduation. So much of what I’ve been able to do has been thanks to UAA alumni, and I want today’s students to have those same opportunities.

As UAA enters a new chapter, I’m reminded that alumni are a critical part of charting that course. While our time at the university may have passed, our diverse experiences have shaped who we are today. We have the opportunity to invest in our university, its students and shape both for the better.

A New Day at UAA

As the light returns to Southcentral and we turn the corner anticipating warmer days ahead, I am optimistic for what’s on the horizon at UAA. The last two years significantly changed our lives. The pandemic brought unseen challenges to the forefront but we collaborated as a university community across many departments to provide a support network, and together with our resilient students, cleared paths to their degrees and certificates. Now, our commitment to student success continues.

Whether students are pursuing a certificate, associate, baccalaureate, a master’s degree or beyond at UAA, one of our university’s core values is to offer affordable and accessible higher education.

We learned that scholarships make UAA and our community campuses accessible and affordable. From large grants and scholarships at the state level, like the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund, valued at more than $400 million, which pays for the Alaska Performance Scholarship, needs-based Alaska Education Grants, and the medical program, WWAMI, to smaller UAA scholarships aimed at encouraging students to stick with their programs or return to school.

Nursing alumni take on Alaska’s health care needs

Since the pandemic began in early 2020, UAA’s School of Nursing (SON) has graduated more than 500 new nurses into Alaska’s health care system. While Alaska was experiencing nursing shortages before COVID-19 hit, the pandemic illuminated the critical role nursing professionals play in our communities and the importance of having a local, accessible nursing education program in the state.

“Health care is never going away; we’re always going to need it,” said Jyll Green, M.S.N. ’04, Ph.D. ’16, medical and occupational health manager at Oil Search Alaska Limited and SON Community Advisory Board member. Green has lived and worked in Alaska for more than two decades, operating her all-nurse practitioner practice, MyHealth Clinic, before selling it in 2019. She emphasized the value of having a local university nursing program. “It is essential that we are producing our own health care staff from radiology to medical assistance — we need all of these professions to help move population health forward in Alaska.”

No Place Like Home

Listen to a more in-depth interview with Michele Yatchmeneff on the Seawolf Voices podcast to hear her talk in greater detail about growing up between Anchorage and the Aleutian Islands, her educational trajectory, the Alaska Native Success Initiative and more. Available on Spotify, Audible and YouTube.

Most people would consider themselves fortunate to find one place where they feel truly at home. Michele Yatchmeneff, B.S. Civil Engineering ’05, M.S. Engineering Management ’09, has several of these places: her birthplace of Anchorage, her familial homes of King Cove and False Pass in the Aleutian Islands and the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) Building at UAA.

In October 2021, Yatchmeneff accepted the role of executive director of Alaska Native education and outreach at her alma mater. Her position sits on the Chancellor’s Cabinet and is focused on providing Alaska Native students, staff and faculty with opportunities to succeed on campus. The goal is outlined in the statewide University of Alaska System’s Alaska Native Success Initiative.

Player to coach, teammate to teacher

(Photo courtesy of UAA Athletics)
Listen to a more in-depth interview with Matt Shasby on the Seawolf Voices podcast to hear him talk about his career in hockey, his passion for teaching, his vision for the Seawolf team and more. Available on Spotify, Audible and YouTube.

One year ago, hockey at UAA was in a much more precarious place. One of three athletic programs slated for discontinuation due to drastic cuts to the University of Alaska System’s state-funded budget, Seawolf hockey elicited support from Alaska to Washington, meeting its fundraising goal of $3 million to be reinstated in time for the 2022-23 season.

Back on track, the UAA hockey team has a brand new head coach, one who may be familiar to followers of the Green and Gold: former Seawolf hockey player Matt Shasby, B.A. History ’08.

Counting Salmon to Save Whales

Salmon power the food chain in Alaska and understanding the health of their populations is critical to conserving other species. Over the past few summers, researchers at UAA’s Applied Environmental Research Center (AERC) have devised new and better ways to monitor salmon on military bases near Anchorage. The data they gather may prove crucial to saving another iconic local animal.

Just Warming Up

At a small, masked ceremony on the third floor of the Engineering and Industry Building in December 2021, UAA’s chancellor, the College of Engineering’s (CoEng) dean and others gathered to rename the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Lab in honor of Jan van den Top, a 1973 Master of Science in engineering alumnus, whose generous endowment will enable UAA’s mechanical engineering program to remain on the cutting edge of teaching and research. In fact, this endowment is the latest in a long line of investments he has made in UAA, and is an example of a philosophy that has been one of van den Top’s guiding principles.

Originally from the Netherlands, van den Top joined the Netherlands Volunteer Organization after finishing his undergraduate degree. The organization brought him to Kenya, where he worked with local coffee farming cooperatives to upgrade infrastructure, improve processes and increase output. This opportunity allowed van den Top to see more of the world and to do work that he found meaningful — work that would maybe do some good. However, he is now unsure whether this work achieved its intended outcomes.

Honors program rebuilt for flexibility and immersion

Honors College graduate Nyabony Gat, B.S. Health Sciences ’19, during UAA’s 2019 Spring Commencement at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Beginning in the spring 2022 semester, UAA debuted its reimagined and refocused honors program, offering students more flexibility, customization and engagement as they pursue areas they are passionate about.

“We wanted to design a new honors program that was modern, accessible and helps our graduates stand out from peers when hitting the job market or graduate school applications,” said Honors College Dean and Vice Chancellor for Student Success Claudia Lampman, Ph.D. “Because experiential learning is embedded into their education, students are impacting their communities while preparing themselves for lives filled with service and intellectual curiosity.”

Alumni of Distinction Return to Campus

Alumni of Distinction Return to Campus

The UAA Office of Alumni Relations and UAA Alumni Association were pleased to welcome spring by announcing the latest Alumni of Distinction awards recipients. The three distinguished alumni were honored for their contributions in their fields and communities at the UAA Alumni of Distinction celebration banquet on April 23.

Returning to the traditional in-person event was possible through a partnership with UAA’s Culinary Arts program, providing students with real-world experience by allowing them to develop the event menu, prepare the meals and serve their delicious creations.


seawolves making
a difference
JC Schoonmaker and Hailey Swirbul Team USA Winter Games 2022
Current UAA student JC Schoonmaker and former UAA student Hailey Swirbul represented the U.S. on the Nordic Ski Team during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of UAA Athletics)

Four Seawolves compete at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing

In February 2022, four Seawolves traveled to Beijing to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Making their Olympic debuts were current student JC Schoonmaker and former student Hailey Swirbul on the U.S. Nordic Ski Team. Physical education alumna and former Seawolf skier Casey Wright, B.S. ’19, represented Australia, and natural sciences alumnus and former Seawolf hockey player Mat Robinson, B.S. ’09, played for Canada. This was the second Olympics for Wright and Robinson. Also in Beijing was natural sciences alumna Zuzana Rogers, B.S. ’99, a sports physical therapist who served on the U.S. Nordic Ski Team medical staff.
Alaska COVID ENX banner

UAA rolls out COVID tracking tool for all Alaskans

In January 2022, UAA helped usher a tool into Alaska that aids in the fight against COVID-19. Alaska COVID Exposure Notification Express, or ENX, is a free, anonymous service on your smartphone. It works by using secure phone-to-phone Bluetooth codes to keep a log of when your phone is near other ENX-enabled phones, and alerting users who were near those who enter a positive COVID-19 status into their phone. Developed by Apple and Google, public health professors Jennifer Meyer and David Parker, and Kenrick Mock, computer science professor and College of Engineering dean, were part of the team that helped enable ENX in Alaska. Enable ENX on iPhone by turning on “Exposure Notifications” in your settings and following the prompts. Android users can find the app in Google Play or in phone settings.

Class Notes

Kenneth McCoy headshot
Kenneth McCoy
Nichelle Smith headshot
Nichelle Smith
Jessica Miranda headshot
Jessica Miranda
Stephen Qacung Blanchett headshot
Stephen Qacung Blanchett


In January 2022, justice alumnus Kenneth McCoy, B.A. ’96, was named Providence Alaska’s first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Starting his new position on Feb. 14, McCoy joins Providence Alaska after a 27-year career with the Anchorage Police Department, most recently serving as chief of police.


Civil engineering alumna Nichelle Smith, B.S. ’00, was nominated for 2021 Engineer of the Year during National Engineers Week Anchorage by the National Association of Women in Construction. One of two UAA alumni nominated for the award, she currently works as a senior engineer with R&M Consultants. (Photo courtesy of DiscoverE)


Psychology alumna and CEO/co-owner of Advanced Supply Chain International LLC Christine Hopkins, B.A. ’00, was quoted in a front page article for the Wall Street Journal about inflation and supply constraints faced by small businesses in February 2022.
flowers bloom around the UAA sign on Lake Otis

Lens on Campus

Flowers bloom around the UAA sign on Lake Otis Parkway, welcoming all to a new day at UAA.

Lens on Campus

Flowers bloom around the UAA sign on Lake Otis Parkway, welcoming all to a new day at UAA.

Even more on the horizon

Stay tuned for even more exciting new developments at your Hometown U, including resident tuition for all, campus reopening and the return of in-person events!

magazine staff

Matt Jardin, B.B.A. ’10

Matt Jardin, B.B.A. ’10
Catalina Myers
Joe Selmont, B.A. ’14, M.P.A. ’21

Brett Rawalt

James Evans, B.A. ’16


Katie Bender, M.P.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
Daniel Hart, B.S. 10
Jessica Horwatt, B.B.A. ’97
Jessica Jacobsen, B.S. ’13
Leila Kimbrell, B.A. ’02, C.T.2. ’02
Lessie Kincaid, B.S. ’13
Tana Skye Nevada, B.B.A. ’16
Pearl-Grace Pantaleone, B.A. ’14
Lonnie Ridgeway, B.A. ’18.
Stephanie Schuman, A.A. ’14, B.B.A. ’15
Tanya Pont, Ex-Officio,
Director of Alumni Engagement

UAA recognizes and values the diversity of our unique location in Southcentral Alaska, the ancestral lands of the Dena’ina, Ahtna Dene, Alutiiq/Sugpiaq, Chugachmiut and Eyak peoples.

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