Category: Features

May 4, 2017 Brenda Craig
Kally Greene-Gudmundson, left, strikes a pose at her bodybuilding competition in October 2016. Greene-Gudmundson placed first in her class of 11 and second overall in three classes. Photo credit: Kally Greene-Gudmundson

After four years, Kally Greene-Gudmundson, double major in marketing and business management, will be graduating from UAA this spring. Throughout high school, Greene-Gudmundson was active in sports and once she started college, she had to find a new outlet for fitness. Greene-Gudmundson started going to the gym regularly, grew interested in bodybuilding and eventually began training for competitions.

“At first, it was just something to keep me in shape and occupied until I started meeting people who competed,” Greene-Gudmundson said. “After watching them compete, it really enticed me and made me feel like it was something I could do.”

Greene has been bodybuilding for a year and a half now and has participated in two competitions, one in April of 2016 and the second last October. In her first competition, Greene-Gudmundson placed seventh out of eleven and didn’t do as well as she thought, this pushed her to work even harder for the next competition.

“I was not nearly as prepared as I could have been, I approached it with the ‘It’s not that hard’ mindset and I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Greene-Gudmundson said. “I began training for the October show in June, pushing myself significantly harder than before and practicing my posing everyday.”

Greene-Gudmundson’s training paid off for her competition in October. She placed first in her class of 11 and second over all three classes. She plans on competing again this year.

“I’ll compete again within the next year at the state level and based on my performance there. I’ll consider a national show; I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like feeling like I’m not the best I can be, so I’m very anxious to work my way up as far as my abilities will allow. It’s honestly so amazing what the human body can do and just in the short time I’ve been training, the changes that have taken place keep me motivated to see how far I can push myself,” Greene-Gudmundson said.

Watching her body transition through training is what keeps Greene-Gudmundson motivated to push even harder. Sometimes she is surprised by what her body can do compared to where she was a year and a half ago with training.

“My favorite thing about bodybuilding has got to be the high you get when you hit a new PR, it’s honestly the most gratifying feeling,” Greene-Gudmundson said. “When I first started training, I was excited to even be pushing half of my body weight, now after 18 months, I’m pushing almost double, sometimes triple my body weight and just the concept of knowing you’re physically capable of doing that blows my mind.”

Most people dread going to the gym, but this is not the case for Greene-Gudmudson. Not only was it a stress reliever through busy times, but it was a way for her to escape.

“The gym has become my favorite part of the day, whether it’s been a good or bad day once you get there and put your headphones in, you’re in your own world and knowing you can move that kind of weight makes you almost feel invincible, it’s my outlet for everything,” Greene-Gudmundson said.

Like many students starting college, Greene-Gudmundson was unsure of the direction she wanted to go in school. She was drawn to marketing because she knew business would give her a decent foundation for future careers. During her junior year, she was advised by a friend to double major in marketing and management, which only has a difference of seven classes. Taking on school full time, she is able to graduate in four years.

“I went into it with the mindset that I’d be set back a semester, but after weighing in a full course load during the summer time and 21 credits per term I was able to graduate on time,” Greene-Gudmundson said. “I wasn’t at all expecting to enjoy my classes as much as I have and a big part of that goes to some of the amazing professors the college of business has, overall I know this was a perfect choice for a career field for me.”

To celebrate her achievement, Greene-Gudmundson has a trip planned after graduation and will come home to a full-time job.

“I leave the day after graduation for Costa Rica, I’ve never been outside of the country aside from Canada so I’m really looking forward to it,” Greene-Gudmundson said. “When I get back, I’ll start full time at NANA Development Corporation where I’ve been for the last two school years.”

Through the dieting, training and taking on 21 credits per semester, Greene is proud of her achievements and is looking forward to being a part of commencement. At this spring graduation, Greene will be doing a different kind of walk down the stage, striking a pose in her cap and gown.

May 4, 2017 Chance Townsend
Vincent Gregory, English major, has taken eight years to reach graduation after the culture shock of moving to Anchorage from Kalskag. Gregory hopes to pursue graduate school in the future. Photo credit: Young Kim

Most people believe that it takes four years to graduate college, but the reality is that many students don’t graduate in that four-year time frame. For many UAA students, the path to graduation can be much longer.

Vincent Gregory is a graduating senior majoring in English. Vincent has been at UAA since the spring semester of 2009. When Gregory started college, he felt he wasn’t prepared.

“No one showed me the ropes… I didn’t know what advisers were, GER’s, DegreeWorks,” Gregory said. “[I] was completely in the dark about everything.”

Gregory is a product of the poor college readiness in the villages of Alaska, and the poor outreach given to remote locations. Gregory is an Alaska Native student hailing from Kalskag, a small village near Bethel, where outreach isn’t the best.

“It took me about a year to find my footing,” Gregory said.

Gregory talked in length about the culture shock of moving to the city, and the help he received to get back on track. The main problem is that the university struggles to recruit native students, but when they do enroll, UAA struggles on how to keep students on the right track to graduate.

Gregory wants to enroll into a master’s program or get another degree involving his native heritage, and one day carve over 10,000 rings.

“If I took everything I knew now and put it back in my freshman year… I would’ve graduated now,” Gregory said. “You shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured in school… I say start school when you’re ready and at a pace you feel comfortable with, otherwise you might as well be chased by wolves.”

Chris Richardson has been at UAA since January of 2010. Richardson fell off track due to personal issues, but believes that straying off the beaten path is a part of life.

“I was originally a computer science major, and then after I found out I had to take calculus… the week after that, I was an English major,” Richardson said.

Richardson also aspires to be a famous author. His poem book, “Taking Back the Romantic” is finished, and Richardson has been talking with publishers to get it printed.

“I want to become a well-known author…like James Patterson, like that well-known…that would be amazing,” Richardson said. “It doesn’t matter if it takes four years or seven years. As long as you get there..that’s the whole point.”

While Gregory and Richardson get ready for commencement, Stone Sibbett is getting ready for another semester attending UAA.

Sibbett has been at UAA for about four years now, and he doesn’t really know when he’ll be finished. He is currently majoring in social work but is trying to change to a custom major in therapeutic recreation with a minor in outdoor leadership.

Like Richardson, Sibbett’s long tenure at UAA can be contributed to him changing majors.

“I originally got an associates degree in human services, then switched to the bachelor’s degree and then switched to social work,” Sibbett said. “And then I decided I rather do something outside in the recreation therapy side of things. it would be something I would enjoy.”

Sibbett has also run into a roadblock in terms of when he is going to graduate.

“If I wanted to pursue something in the outdoor field, I need more time outside. So I have to get outdoor experience, and that doesn’t mater if I have the degree or not… So I’m not super gung-ho on finishing,” Sibbett said. “I can’t really make money in that field either unless I go out and work for somebody at a low-wage job for quite a long time.”

For now, Sibbett and his roommates have started trying to make laundry soap and cargo bike frames to sell to people in parts of the world without bikes.

“I guess my degree has become more of a hobby. ‘Cause with manufacturing it’s something I can make money with now, where I can’t make money with [my degree], instead I want to pursue my degree and do something with it eventually to benefit,” Sibbett said. “I would encourage anyone that is considering taking longer time to get their degree [to] really consider what they want out [of] their degree… one thing that helped me in my education is I started taking classes in things I would enjoy and enrich my life,” Sibbett said.

There are a multitude of reasons why someone won’t graduate on time, be it personal reasons, lack of college readiness or even just trying to find the right career path. Everybody in life takes shortcuts, not everyone can stay on the same road. For these UAA students, they just took the long way around.

May 4, 2017 Chance Townsend
Burris and Bat-Erdene
Geser Bat-Erdene Alec Burris pose for a picture for their USUAA campaign. Photo credit: Alec Burris and Geser Bat-Erdene

The USUAA elections are over, and Alec Burris and Geser Bat-Erdene have won the positions of president and vice president for the 2017-18 academic year. This election also turned out to be highly successful, as it had higher voter turnout than the last three USUAA elections.

Burris is a freshman majoring in biology and has always had a deep interest in student government.

“I would travel the 45 to 1 hour drive from Wasilla to Anchorage so I could go to their bi-weekly meetings to see what their student government is like,” Burris said. “Once I learned that the current president wasn’t going to run, I felt that somebody needed to step up and run the organization, and that I knew it well enough to run.”

His running mate, Bat-Erdene is a foreign exchange student from Mongolia majoring in finance, and has been a USUAA senator for over a year.

“The opportunity to work with people who truly care about the university and work hard to achieve mutual goals is why I ran for vice president,” Bat-Erdene said. “Becoming a [vice president] is a great honor for me. I was truly happy that the students of UAA are very open-minded, and the fact that an international student was elected for a USUAA leadership tells how diversity is welcomed on the campus.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene are both deeply involved with student government around campus and are excited to start their new positions.

“I’m very excited to start delivering on the promises we made during our campaign,” Burris said. “We are going to try to start working on the issues with security cameras, working with the administration about Title IX, and looking at assessing fees.”

Sam Erickson, USUAA president for the 2016-17 academic year, believes that the two successors will learn by seeing him and vice president, Johanna Richter, in action.

“There is a relatively well-established process for transitioning leadership in USUAA, but in this case it’s made even easier since Alec has significant experience in the organization already… I’ll begin having him shadow me in USUAA meetings, introducing him at events, meeting administrative, faculty and staff leaders, and bringing him up to date on the projects I’m currently working on,” Erickson said. “Johanna will be doing the same for Geser, and the goal is to be able to completely turn over the organization. Obviously, I will still be around and able to give advice for the next year, but I am confident that Alec will be able to pick right up where Johanna and I left off.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene both look forward to serving the students of UAA.

“You can definitely [be] looking for student government to be active on campus,” Burris said. “Oftentimes we are in the background doing a lot of work that the students don’t see. I think looking forward you’re going to see us in the forefront, because we really care about students seeing that their student fees are being used to best of their ability. That’s what we are going to do for the student government.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene’s term as USUAA president and vice president began on April 28 and will continue through the 2017-18 academic year.

May 4, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
While spending time in Nepal, economics professor Jim Murphy met another student who showed him he could evaluate environmental policy issues using economics. Photo credit: Young Kim

Before economics professor Jim Murphy knew about economics, he was working in the San Francisco bay area. A recession hit the company he was working at, and he decided to go trekking in Nepal.

“The company laid me off and they gave me a six-month severance package, so I took the money and went trekking in Nepal,” Murphy said. “I wouldn’t say I went on a soul-searching expedition — it was really just that I was 25 — and I had six months of money in my pocket, so I went to Nepal. I met a guy who was an environmental economics student… Before that time I wasn’t aware that economics could be used to understand environmental policy issues.”

The environmental economics student Murphy met introduced him to an economic approach to solving environmental problems. At Villanova University, Murphy switched majors frequently, starting off as a business major, before realizing that he wanted a broader education and switched to German. As a German major he didn’t realize he needed to learn two languages to meet major requirements, and he didn’t have enough time for that, so he switched to the Honors Program. Very few of the honors classes interested him, so he decided not to focus on that either.

“I graduated as general arts [major] which is kind of code for undeclared humanities major,” Murphy said. “But I collected a lot of minors; I wound up with a business minor, a German minor, and an honors. Indirectly I wound up with a pretty well-rounded education but no real focus.”

It wasn’t until that mountaintop in Nepal that Murphy realized his academic calling was in economics, so he went to the University of California Davis to pursue a master’s, and later a Ph.D., in agricultural and resource economics.

While a graduate student, Murphy became acquainted with Vernon Smith, a 2002 Nobel laureate in Economics. Smith also served as UAA’s first visiting UAA Rasmuson Chair of Economics. After Smith’s term in the position ended, he recommended Murphy for the job. In 2006, Murphy moved from a faculty position at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to Anchorage to become the next chair.

“I knew I wanted to get into academics because I like teaching and I like research. I wanted to find a job that let me do both well,” Murphy said. “I love my research, but I don’t want a job where all I do is research and not teach because I also enjoy working with students.”

At UAA, Murphy continued to conduct research, and many of his research projects led him too far corners of the world. He is currently working on the last year of a four-year project about fisheries in Chile that is funded by FONDECYT, which is the Chilean National Science Foundation. His past research projects also focus on natural resources, like fieldwork he conducted in Colombia studying rural management of natural resources, and field experiments in Western Alaska and Far East Russia. When he is not researching, he is teaching at UAA or at a partner university in China as the Chairman of Nankai University Vernon L. Smith Experimental Economics Lab.

“Every summer I go there for a few weeks and work with them, I teach a class to their graduate students,” Murphy said, “I advise their faculty on the projects they’re working on, I try and help them think about, if they get a program started, what would it look like. Here’s what we did, here’s what you can do.”

Nankai University in China is a good example of how UAA’s experimental economics program has gained international recognition, Murphy said. The experimental economics program is now ranked in the top 10 percent of programs internationally, and the department has even broken UAA faculty application records.

“Before Elmer Rasmuson donated the funds to endow the Chair when a faculty position in the economics department opened up, the average amount of applicants was 20 to 30 people.The most recent faculty position we just hired for the job…we had almost 300 applications,” Murphy said. “It’s a university record for the most applications for any full-time job on campus, and we got our top candidate. We had a huge pool of people, and we got who we thought was the best person, which was awesome.”

In the future, Murphy hopes to continue growing the experimental economics program while minimizing the harm budget cuts might have on it. He plans to continue researching, as well as spend time outdoors doing activities he loves like hiking, biking, skiing and fishing.

May 4, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
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Stephen Kranich, a North Hall resident and staff, giving a speech during the North Hall Graduation. The graduation serves to recognize and celebrate the completion of North Hall resident's first year in college.

The first year experience hall, North Hall, held its annual graduation ceremony for freshman students who have completed their first year of college on April 29.

Jennifer Edens is the residence coordinator at North Hall and said events such as the North Hall freshman graduation recognize the work it takes to successfully finish the first year of college.

“The purpose [of the graduation] to celebrate the completion of the first year of college for our residents here,” Edens said. “The first year is often the most challenging in many ways; you feel homesick, people have a hard time transitioning and adjusting [and] often acclimating. They need to learn how to manage their time, how to manage their finances, how to study for college, because studying for college is different than studying for high school, and they get a taste of adulting.”

Makayla Newman is a North Hall resident adviser who helped Edens plan the event. Newman said her first-year graduation was a great experience, and that events like North Hall graduation build a supportive community.

“It is a lot easier to stay in the university once you’ve been here longer than a year. Looking back at my freshman year, it wasn’t quite as difficult as this year, but I felt more inclined to go home because I was homesick, and less stable here,” Newman said. “Just celebrating that they’ve made it through not the most challenging year, but the most challenging as far as being homesick and lonely and not having a lot of friends, because after the first year they’re more stable and they can handle things that make them want to go home.”

Edens said that students are more likely to stay in college if they finish their first year, and as the first year coordinator, she said her goal is to get higher retention of first year students from semester to semester.

“The longer students stay, the more likely they are to graduate,” Edens said. “[Retention is] on par — it’s been normal. We would like to see it fewer. It would be ideal to see 100 percent of students who come in the fall remain throughout the whole year, but that’s not where we are right now.”

Newman said that there are a lot of factors that influence a student leaving the university in their first year, but that it is important to celebrate those who do complete the year.

“Unfortunately there’s a lot of factors that play into whether or not we retain students like some students get like a semester or two in and realize they can’t afford it or they’re not completely dedicated to their studies, or something terrible happens and they have to go home,” Newman said. “There’s just a lot of different things that can happen, but it’s just hard to retain them. We’re trying to do programs and stuff so they won’t be homesick and go home because that’s something that is a little more fixable than financial and academic or family issues.”

One of the speakers at the North Hall graduation ceremony was Residence Hall Association president, Nathan Burns.

“It’s a good thing to recognize that getting past the biggest hump is an important accomplishment and it only gets easier from here, and it’s a nice little get together to thank everybody here,” Burns said. “It does feel, especially for those living on campus, they get more of college experience than if they lived at home or commuted in.”

At the graduation, first-year students were handed certificates with their name congratulating them on completing their first year of college.

May 4, 2017 Chance Townsend


The National Student Exchange is a study-away experience that fits into university initiatives for globalization, diversity and engagement. NSE provides study-away opportunities to students enrolled at its 170 member colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Established in 1968, NSE has provided exchange opportunities to more than 110,000 students. For many students, the chance to explore new environments are experiences that wouldn’t be possible without NSE.

Kaliegh Hayes, from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, describes coming to Alaska as “something different.”

Hayes had a rather slim chance of traveling through the program.

“I walked into the NSE coordinator’s office, and was like, ‘Hey I want to go to Alaska,’” Hayes said. “She told me that wasn’t going to happen, she said I had a 10 percent chance, because I did the application in September and it was supposed to be in by March.”

Now that she is here, Hayes has a fondness for the state.

“It’s very different up here,” Hayes said. “I like the mountains… I like the scenery, the environment, I like that it’s different than anything else in the world, but I miss Dunkin Donuts.”

One of Hayes’ friends from NSE is Nathalie Trow-McDonald, who is from the University of the Virgin Islands. The university is only a five-minute walk to the beach.

“I’m not used to having to wear pants every day, and not wear flip flops… For a long time I missed the feeling of the sun on my skin,” Trow-McDonald said. “I think there are certain things on campus that I miss, ’cause I was really involved in certain things and they keep happening when you’re gone… I miss my radio station.”

What Trow-McDonald likes the most about UAA and Alaska is its proximity to the mountains and trails.

“I like that you’re in a city, but you can drive 20 minutes and be hiking up a mountain,” Trow-McDonald said. “The views are really nice, and I enjoy the ice-skating.”

Rachel Barclay is another participant in the NSE from the University of South Dakota. Barclay has been to 49 of the 50 states and that was a big reason on why she decided to come to UAA.

“It’s not as flat… and I like seeing the random moose,” Barclay said. “It’s a lot prettier here, and I like the mountains.”

The three women have since become friends since they met, and have done everything from going UAA basketball games and participating in nature excursions.

“I went whale-watching in Seward with Kaliegh, that was fun,” Barclay said. “I can’t remember everything we’ve done, we’ve done a lot… so much fun, so little time.”

Adventures aside, NSE does serve as a large time commitment.

“I miss my family a lot,” Hayes said. “I think that any prospective student that wants to take the NSE program has to consider how long they’re going be away from home. But it’s a great experience all students should consider. I highly recommend NSE if you want to expand your horizons and try something new… and you can open doors to new places.”

UAA also provides the opportunity for students to participate in NSE and travel to one of over 200 colleges in the U.S. Applications are due in February.

May 4, 2017 Brenda Craig

College To Career.png

On May 17, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation will be providing a job training titled From College to Career: How to get a great first job. This event will be located at Bear Tooth Theater-pub from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. with a $3 entry fee. This will be one of AEDC’s “Job Skills Boot Camps” that will be put on throughout Anchorage to help prepare recent graduates apply and interview for their first jobs. At this event, individuals will learn how to build a noticeable resume, find jobs that aren’t advertised and how to network.

“The College to Career event is geared specifically to recent college graduates to help them find a job right out of college that helps fulfill their career goals,” Moira Sullivan, Live. Work. Play. director at AEDC, said. “We’ve been putting together a curriculum specific to college graduates and lining up presenters from the business community, many of whom are hiring managers or HR directors and can speak directly to what they look for in candidates.”

Many graduates have the technical skills that they have learned throughout college. However, the College to Career training will focus on soft skills and professionalism. They will not only help individuals to pursue a job but be successful in that job.

“There will be five different modules, presented by business leaders in Anchorage, covering everything from effective networking, how to use your LinkedIn profile to get you interviews and jobs, best practices for resume writing that will get you past an automated screen, interview etiquette, and tips to impress your boss and colleagues in your first weeks on the job, putting you in place to be successful and get promotions and raises,” Sullivan said.

When Sullivan graduated college, she faced many problems when looking for a job. She was given the same excuse most jobs give, that they were looking for three to five years of experience. This inspired her to start these trainings for graduates.

“As LWP Director, I wanted AEDC to put on this College to Career event this year so that other Anchorage grads would have advantages in entering the job market that allows them to get jobs they might otherwise be turned down for, and learn about opportunities that they might not know about. I don’t want our recent grads to have the same experience I did in job hunting here in Anchorage,” Sullivan said.

The College to Career training hopes to help these graduates find a job in town to prevent discouraged individuals from leaving the state.

“When college grads like me feel defeated looking for jobs in Anchorage, they’re likely to leave the state and find a job elsewhere — and as a city, we simply can’t continue to ship out our brightest young people to the Lower 48 where they create economic opportunities for other communities and not ours. Helping graduates find the jobs they want after college is critical to reducing brain drain,” Sullivan said.

Students are eager to attend this event and excited to take away what they will learn from the training and apply it in the future. Many students do not have the experience in searching for a career and are often intimidated about what comes after college.

“My whole life I’ve been a student, so I feel like when I graduate I am not going to know what to do next,” Madi Burgess, health science major, said. “I think this is an awesome event because hopefully it will show students that there are things future employers are looking for and that it doesn’t have to be as scary as we think it’s going to be.”

Many of the skills that will be taught at this event are ones that employers look for in applicants. With fresh minds out of college, they believe this training will go hand in hand with their hunger to succeed.

“This training would benefit students by helping to equip them with some of the soft skills that employers say that potential employees often lack,” Sean Carpenter, communications director at AEDC, said. “Because there is no one stop resource for this type of training and searching online can provide mixed results, we thought that offering this training would help compliment the knowledge that students come away with when they graduate.”

This event highlights the fact that there are various job opportunities, it’s just a matter of how they are approached.

“I think the most important thing students and graduates will take away from this event is that there are great jobs in Anchorage for recent graduates, and that while the system for finding those job leads, getting interviews and offers at great companies can be complicated and sometimes unfair, there are ways to play the game to give yourself maximum advantage,” Sullivan said.

From College to Career is part of AEDC’s push to offer free and inexpensive job skills seminars for Anchorage community members. College graduates are encouraged to attend, but the training is open to the public.

May 4, 2017 Victoria Petersen
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Photo credit: Victoria Petersen

Summer is upon us, and fresh salmon will be running soon. Make room in your freezer and use up last year’s salmon haul with this tasty recipe from a 2017 graduate. For a simple and delicious preparation, my friend, and geology graduate, Sasha Peterson bakes the salmon with just two other ingredients. The savory sun-dried tomato and citrus flavors of the lemon pepper make for a decadent meal, and a tasty way to get your Omega-3 fatty acids. Add a side of sauteed kale and some rice or quinoa.

This recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes. Sasha used the refrigerated kind that is in a jar. This allows the tomatoes to be saturated in oil, adding to the flavor of the salmon. Sprinkle with capers for added decadence.


1 salmon fillet

1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes

1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon pepper


1. Place salmon fillet on a sheet of foil.

2. Sprinkle the lemon pepper evenly over the salmon fillet.

3. With a spoon, drizzle the sun-dried tomatoes and oil over the fillet until the fillet is covered.

4. Fold the foil inwards creating a cocoon for the salmon to cook in.

5. Allow the salmon to cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the salmon flakes against a fork brushing the center of the fillet.

6. Optionally garnish with lemon and capers.

May 4, 2017 Sarah Tangog
Nina Lee follows in the shoes of 2016 fall commencement speaker, Sophie Leshan, another graduate of the early childhood education program. Photo credit: Sarah Tangog

This year’s commencement speech will be given by Nina Lee, early childhood major. Though she started going to college in San Diego, she eventually dropped out and decided to come to UAA instead.

“I started classes at UAA in 2010. I did not do well then either, I didn’t finish any of the classes that I started,” Lee said. “I began my undergrad in spring 2015 with 13 credits from San Diego, and finished my undergrad in two years.”

Because of her story, Lee was compelled to apply as the commencement speaker the moment she started her undergraduate education.

“I feel my story and how I got here is very relatable, and that UAA’s community is very unique in that it houses both traditional students, but also non-traditional students. That’s me,” Lee said.

The commencement speaker is ultimately chosen by Vice Chancellor Bruce Schultz.

“In selecting the student commencement speaker, I consider the totality of the process and rely heavily on the evaluations of the students who served on the committee that reviews, evaluates and recommends finalists to me,” Schultz said. “Drawing on the recommendation of the evaluation committee, I make the final selection for student commencement speaker.”

The committee itself is usually composed of at least one faculty member, the Faculty Senate President, and several graduating students. Paula Fish from Student Life and Leadership provides assistance for the committee.

“My role with the commencement speaker is just coordinating and helping the selection committee or the review committee, in selecting or providing advisement to the Vice Chancellor on who to select,” Fish said. “The Vice Chancellor looks at a student from the pool of students who really exemplifies UAA.”

The student chosen is picked not only for their academic and community involvement, but also for the uniqueness of their story.

“We want students to feel like it’s not something that can’t be attained,” Fish said.

Though the role of the commencement speaker is chosen from a pool of applicants, the applicants can be any student with any background story.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to communicate my journey,” Lee said. “The most important role of a commencement speaker, I feel, is to communicate the challenges that we all face as students, and just relating to each other in a unifying way so that we can all accomplish a common goal of graduating. You’re capable of anything. If you set your mind to it, you can achieve it. Coming from someone who didn’t think I would ever graduate college, how I got to this point was with the support of my friends and my family.”

Lee believes that a great contributor to her success is the help she’s had along the way. She encourages students to seek friendships with peers and build relationships with professors and mentors, as it can help along the way.

April 23, 2017 Lauren Cuddihy
Paul Stoklos joins in a group huddle with his gymnastics team. After 33 years of coaching, Stoklos hopes to continue to build healthy, winning teams. Photo credit: Sam Wasson/UAA Athletics

With an average of 15 athletes on the UAA gymnastics team and now 33 years of coaching, head coach Paul Stoklos has overseen the collegiate career of over 100 different gymnasts at UAA alone.

Stoklos is the only gymnastics coach that UAA has ever had, an impressive comparison that no other sport at UAA can boast.

Gymnastics has always been a part of Stoklos’ life. From out of high school until now, he has been coaching.

Stoklos originally started off as an assistant coach at the University of Arizona. First he began as a volunteer assistant coach, until moving his way up to paid assistant coach. The seven years he spent there prepared him for the opportunity to start the collegiate program in Alaska and build it from scratch.

“When I came to UAA for the job interview in 1984, I knew that this was where I wanted to stay… why still at UAA? I like to say I married UAA when I came here. This campus and athletes have been my family for 33 years,” Stoklos said.

In the time Stoklos has spent at UAA, he has made many tremendous accomplishments with the athletes he has coached.

Originally the program started out as Division II, but nearly 15 years ago it transitioned into a Division I program that made the largest difference in the progress of the gymnasts.

Since then, Stoklos’ athletes have been able to reach 31 program records. He’s been able to qualify 15 gymnasts for the NCAA West Regional all-around competition, as well as securing 10 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation event titles.

With many accomplishments, Stoklos has admitted that it isn’t as easy as it may seem.

“The most challenging part — two [actually], is keeping the student athletes from being distracted by all that is going on around them. The other is to get student athletes to want to come to Alaska when there used to be so much disinformation about this place we call home, he said.

Despite the difficulties Stoklos may run into, his gymnasts have preformed exceptionally well in academics. After becoming a part of the MPSF in 2003, the team has managed to average nearly six all-academic honors per season.

The fact that the gymnasts can excel in both athletics and academics is what makes coaching worth it for Stoklos.

“The most rewarding part of coaching is the see young athletes mature into adults as they purse a greater education while training and competing in a sport that we all love,” Stoklos said.

With the commencement of the 2017 season, Stoklos oversaw six of his athletes make it onto the all-academic list, meeting the yearly average.

After the 2016 and 2017 seasons ended, Stoklos saw the departure of many of his most talented athletes. With that, he hopes to see some positive changes in store for the 2018 season.

“Next season, I see an increased squad size. We needed more numbers to survive some of the loses of team members. I think the increased depth and strength will allow us to have a more successful season,” Stoklos said.

Regardless of size, Stoklos ultimately wants to have healthy athletes.

“We had two injuries that ended the season for two of our athletes. Like all coaches, I would like to see a season with no injures,” he said.

Stoklos only wants the best for his athletes, whether it’s seeing them excel at the sport he’s coaching, their academics or their health.

April 23, 2017 Brenda Craig
Salina Harwood sits at a stoplight during a ride through Anchorage. Harwood is eager to get back on the road with her motorcycle this summer. Photo credit: Cyrus Powers

The combination of sunny skies and clear roads is the perfect recipe for motorcyclists to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. Salina Harwood, journalism and public communication major with a concentration on strategic communications, is eager to get out and ride her bike after being cooped up all winter. This June will be Harwood’s fifth year riding motorcycles and she plans on many more years to come.

“I don’t know what there’s not to love about biking honestly, initially it was the adrenaline that I craved, but it turned into a lot more than that. Now it kind of evolved into a stress release,” Harwood said. “Just something about not being inside a car and being outside in the sun on two wheels that makes a really mundane drive seem like an adventure.”

Harwood enjoys the feeling of being exposed to her surroundings when she is on her bike. It has opened her perception on the environment, down to every detail.

“You notice so much more when you’re exposed to everything on the road, every dip and bump, people talking, music playing, smell from a restaurant or bakery and people next to you laughing in their cars,” Harwood said. “You’re closed off from all those things when you’re alone in your car and in your own world. It’s awesome taking it all in. It’s like seeing a town you know every inch of with new eyes or something.”

Riding motorcycles reminds Harwood to appreciate being alive and how precious life is.

“When I’m riding I’m constantly aware that this life is fleeting and that every decision you make could impact the outcome of your life,” Harwood said.

Although the ratio of men to women that ride motorcycles is higher, Harwood enjoys seeing other women challenging the standards.

“I do wish more women were out there riding, it’s always awesome to see ladies that are doing it for themselves, being independent and adventurous. Besides, why let the guys have all the fun?” Harwood said.

Along with the adrenaline rush and scenic routes, motorcycles require regular maintenance. After Harwood learned how to perform her own tune-ups, it became another part of her love for motorcycles.

“Every little tremor, knock, clicking sound or quirk should be something you can identify whether it’s a problem or not. Familiarizing yourself with your bike in that way I think is crucial,” Harwood said. “Plus, it feels amazing not needing a guy to fix my things for me, to know I’m just as capable at handling my bike as they are. Besides, I would just feel like a fraud if I bought a bike and had someone else put in all the work into it.”

Once spring hits, Harwood takes any chance she can to take her bike out for a ride. Because riding motorcycles has essentially became a part of who she is, Harwood doesn’t plan on quitting, but may lessen the amount of time riding.

“I think riding bikes can shape and change who you are as a person. When it becomes a formative part of your life I think that’s when it changes from a hobby to a lifestyle,” Harwood said. “I don’t have any intentions on stopping, I think maybe some day I might ride less but I don’t think I could ever quit completely.”

Harwood chose to specialize in strategic communications to further her abilities in her current job and to apply it to her future career, whatever it may be.

“My line of work involves a lot of promotions and advertising and I’m utilizing everything I’m learning about communications and media to support what I’m doing now with my job, I find it pretty useful,” Harwood said. “I don’t have a particular job in mind, but I know when I find it my degree will be applicable.”

With all the fun Harwood has with motorcycling, she wants to emphasize the importance of safety for both drivers and motorcycle riders.

“It seems like every year there are a few deaths and accidents in the spring before people wake up and realize its bike season, that goes for riders as well,” Harwood said. “We can get caught up in how much fun we’re having. We stop paying attention to things like how close we’re riding to the car in front of us. [I] just really would love to see less accidents on the road this summer. No accidents would be ideal.”

If you see a biker on the road with long blonde hair, it will most likely be Harwood. As summer approaches, watch for motorcycles and take precautions on the road.

April 23, 2017 Sarah Tangog
Earlier this month, the Student Union Art Gallery was renamed the Hugh McPeck Art Gallery. McPeck was the head of the sculpting department as an associate professor and served on the advisory board for the gallery for many years at UAA. Photo credit: Young Kim

UAA’s Student Union Art Gallery has been renamed to honor the late Hugh McPeck, an associate professor of sculpting from 1996 to 2014. The widely viewed gallery now displays pieces of a legacy as well as art.

“Hugh was a longstanding faculty in the art department, and he served on our advisory board for the gallery for many years,” Annie Route, UAA’s Student Life and Leadership Director, said. “It was very sad when he passed away.”

Last spring, Route brought up the idea of renaming the gallery to the Gallery Advisory Board, which consists of mostly faculty from the art department as well as several student managers of the gallery.

Though the proposal was given many positive reviews, it still took a while to get everything ready.

“Everyone was thrilled! You know, it’s hard when someone passes away, you go through the grief and the sadness, and I think we’re still feeling that. However, I think this is a way to celebrate,” Route said. “It took longer, because of summer, and the faculty was gone. Then it was the fall semester, and we had shows… we probably could’ve accomplished it in a much shorter time, but it’s been about a year.”

Route contacted many people, including the art department, UAA facilities and planning and even McPeck’s family.

“Nothing really happened until last spring,” Ann McPeck Gabler, McPeck’s wife, said. “I think Hugh would have been very humbled and very honored with the renaming of the gallery.”

The name of the gallery was officially changed during the Juried Student Art Show earlier this month.

“It’s always good to have a name that means something besides just a location,” Route said.

As an assistant professor of art, McPeck was the head of the sculpture department.

“In the window, the front window, there’s this raven made of iron. Hugh did that, and it’s one of his pieces,” Route said. Instead of displaying McPeck’s portrait in the gallery, Route decided the raven statue would be a better memorial plaque.

“He worked maybe 15 years with the students… and he loved it,” Gabler said. “He really expected excellence from his students, of himself and of his students, and it shows in the work of the gallery.”

The Hugh McPeck Gallery is open for any and all students. It now stands as a symbol of honor to a well-known professor who gave his time for his students, his family and friends and his art.

April 23, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
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James Muller pursued political science after first being exposed to the subject in college. Muller has been to all 50 state capitol buildings and 150 national parks. Photo credit: Young Kim

In many ways, James Muller is similar to Richard Gilmore from the popular TV show Gilmore Girls. He has an Ivy League education from Harvard, his daughter is finishing her MFA at Yale and he has traveled all over the world. But, unlike Richard Gilmore, Muller has an established career in academia as a professor of political science at UAA. It wasn’t until college that Muller had his first exposure to a politics class, but he was the kind of student who had enough interest in the subject, that he was able to write a 70-page paper on the expansion of the powers of the presidency. In high school, he took so many AP courses that he started as a sophomore at Harvard and had to choose his major right away. Politics runs in his blood; his grandfather was a mayor, and Muller has made a career out of political science.

Despite his political experience, Muller found his home in Anchorage as a professor. As a child, he moved from coast to coast; he lived in California, then the suburbs of Washington D.C; he was in Tennessee for a short stint, then in Germany, Maryland, California again, New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts for 11 years in college and graduate school. His daughter Helen was also educated in a coast-to-coast fashion when she was in sixth grade after her mother, Judith, completed cancer treatment.

“When [Judith] was sitting there doing chemotherapy, I think she was thinking about what she wanted to do after she didn’t have to go through her cancer treatment anymore…and she said she didn’t want to wait till she was retired to get a motor home and go around the country,” Muller said. “When you are sick with cancer you wonder how long you’ll have.”

Instead of waiting for retirement, all three Mullers, with their Welsh corgi, packed up, bought a motor home and decided to tour the country. In seven months’ time, they visited presidential houses, 150 national park sites and around 30 Civil War battlefields.

“What [Judith] wanted to do was sell our house, quit her job, she got me to take a sabbatical, and we bought a motor home. I’d never even been in one… and we went to all 50 states that year in 2004,” Muller said. “We went to all 50 state capitol buildings.”

Instead of being a professor of political science that year, Muller motor home-schooled Helen by taking her to Junior Ranger programs all over the nation. She became nationally renowned for visiting so many of the parks in one year, that Laura Bush the first lady, wrote her a letter congratulating her on her achievement.

“After the 100th Junior Ranger award she had won that year, the parks started making a fuss over her,” Muller said. “They would radio ahead to the next park and say this amazing kid is coming. She’s done a hundred Junior Ranger programs in one year! The rangers would say aren’t you the girl who’s on the national park website this morning? She learned that if you do something that’s really amazing, and a lot of work, and different from what most people do, people will notice.”

Before he toured the nation for the second time, he toured the world as a White House Fellow. During one two-week period, the fellows toured the Middle East; they went to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Israel and Egypt and did exotic activities like drive tanks and rappel out of helicopters.

“Saudi Arabia was a revelation too because it is such a strange country,” Muller said. “Very few people except those who have jobs there visit…We went to a camel race, and other kinds of things, we met all of these princes. I had to be a presiding fellow at a dinner where one of the dishes was the famous dish of the Nejd, which is the province where the capital Riyadh is. It didn’t taste very good, and I asked someone what it was and they said it was fermented camel’s yogurt with some kind of grain in it.”

After his tenure serving as a White House Fellow, he came back to Anchorage to teach political science. At the time, he said he was excited to come back to Anchorage and explore Alaska.

“After a whole year of writing speeches for the Secretary [of Education] and the Undersecretary, and not having my books, I felt as if I had used up what I knew, even though I learned a lot that year from seeing things up close, I’m sure,” Muller said. “I was really ready to come back and start reading again and be a professor, having students, being able to have discussions about political philosophy, and I was getting really interested in [Winston] Churchill.”

Muller has been teaching in Anchorage for 34 years and he is hoping to finish a book on Churchill’s writings next year. He’s also working on a book on P.G. Wodehouse.

April 23, 2017 Victoria Petersen
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Photo credit: Victoria Petersen

This Spanish dish is vibrant, filling and perfect for big groups. My friends and I cooked this dish to kick off backyard-barbecue season. Inherently, this dish is expensive with the use of saffron and fresh seafood, but if each friend provides a couple ingredients, together you can make an amazing meal. We set up a fire in the fire pit, placed a large cast-iron skillet over the fire and cooked the paella from there. This is a traditional recipe, feel free to change the proteins. We added chopped pancetta to our recipe, which gave it a boost of flavor.



1 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Paella and Protein

1 cup water

1 teaspoon saffron threads

3 (16-ounce) cans chicken broth

8 unpeeled jumbo shrimp (about 1/2 pound)

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 skinned, boned chicken thighs, cut in half

2 links Spanish chorizo sausage (about 6 1/2 ounces)

2 cups finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

3 large garlic cloves, minced

3 cups uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice

1 cup frozen green peas

8 mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Lemon wedges (optional)


Prepare herb blend by combining all the herb ingredients. Set mixture aside.

Combine water, oil, saffron and broth in a large cast-iron skillet and bring to simmer, keep warm over medium heat.

Add chicken, sausage and shrimp. Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, paprika and three garlic cloves. Let cook for about three minutes.

Add rice; cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in herb blend. Bring to a low boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mussels to pan, nestling them into rice mixture.

Cook for minutes or until mussel shells open. Arrange shrimp, heads down, in rice mixture and cook five minutes or until shrimp are done. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup lemon juice. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

April 18, 2017 Sarah Tangog
In addition to a full course load at UAA, business administration and accounting major Niurguiana Lukovtceva was also enrolled online at Technical University of Moscow for a total of 14 classes last semester. Photo credit: Young Kim

For Niurguiana Lukovtceva, a double major in business administration and accounting, her difficulties were increased twofold last semester as she was enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage and online at Technical University of Moscow.

“In May, last year, I got a letter from UAA saying like, ‘Congratulations, you’re attending UAA!’ I was so happy for this,” Lukovtceva said. Growing up in Siberian Russia, she had been fascinated with life in America.

“If I have an opportunity like that, if my parents helped me with financial aid… It was a huge decision for me,” Lukovtceva said. “My uncle told me about the program, UAA, in Alaska – in America! It’s kind of a different part of the world, and I was interested.”

Her excitement about coming to UAA wasn’t deterred by the tasks she needed to do to come here, no matter how challenging they were.

“Half a year I was preparing for this, because of exams for English and a visa. It was kind of hard, and really tough,” Lukovteceva said.

Because she wasn’t just attending college for the first time, but also a college in a different country, her father suggested a backup plan just in case her plans at UAA didn’t work out.

“He told me, ‘You can go to the Russian University.’ There’s distance education, no attendance, just on a computer online. You can speak to a professor through Skype, it was really good,” Lukovteceva said. “It’s really cheap, this distance education. It’s really cheap in Russia.”

For her first semester in college, Lukovtceva faced many obstacles, especially juggling between the Russian education system and the American education system.

“It was really hard for the first semester when I came because the education system in America is so different, starting with grades and then finals week,” Lukovtceva said.

The overall semester in Russia is longer, as it usually lasts about five to six months rather than 15 weeks. Furthermore, finals week is expanded into a month of exams and tests. Last semester, Lukovtceva was taking a total of 14 classes: nine online through Russia and five at UAA.

“This was necessary. We can’t pick the classes, like ‘I want this, this and this.’ There’s classes you have to take,” Lukovtceva said.

Technical University of Moscow allows an online education similar to the UAA system by also using Blackboard. However, the choices of a major are limited, and certain classes are required to pass to advance to a sophomore status.

“The first two months was kind of easy for me,” Lukovtceva said. “Weekends were free, and that’s how I got organization, like time management skills. The first part of the week, I was in UAA and the second I was in Russia.”

However, the routine became exhausting. On top of her studies, she was experiencing social difficulties as well.

“First of all, language. When I came here, I was scared about this because my English skills were so bad,” Lukovtceva said. “I can write grammar, easy, but talking with each other was tough for me. And with teachers, it was awful the first time.”

Lukovtceva decided to take a break from the classes in Russia for the spring semester of 2017. She realized she wasn’t enjoying her experience in Alaska enough because of her workload, and that taking classes at UAA would allow her to breathe.

Lukovtceva still doesn’t know what’s to come, but she has high hopes about the future.

“I love everything in UAA,” Lukovtceva said.

She hopes to join clubs and be more involved in her Alaskan experience by the next semester.

April 18, 2017 Brenda Craig
Nguyen fights for a grip with silver medal winning Olympian Travis Stevens during a joint judo and jiu jitsu clinic hosted by the UAA club on Feb. 18 and 19. Photo credit: Kathryn DuFresne

Not all hobbies begin at a young age. For Tommy Nguyen, psychology major and nursing pre-major, his began when he started his first year at UAA and attended Campus Kickoff. This is an event before the semester begins to welcome new and returning students with numerous booths showcasing student clubs and organizations, fun activities and entertainment. Nguyen stumbled upon the UAA Judo and Jiu Jitsu booth and became intrigued. He decided to join the club, and, now, Nguyen is a green belt who has competed in five tournaments.

“I passed by the judo table and then the sensei, Jacob Dempsey, described judo to me and from what I heard it’s similar to wrestling. When I actually got on the mat, I had a lot of fun and I decided to stick with it,” Nguyen said.

Three years later, Nguyen became the president of the UAA Judo and Jiu Jitsu club. The unlimited amount of progression and determination to acquire a black belt keeps Nguyen active in this martial art.

“I’m still interested because it I really like grappling-style martial arts,” Nguyen said. “I also want to continue to learn new moves, get better at moves that I’ve already learned before and increase my ranking and eventually reaching black belt.”

Judo and jiu jitsu teaches individuals the ability to defend themselves, while also being able to test themselves in competitions against others

“It can be used for practical self-defense and you can also compete in it as a sport. It relies mainly on throws, submissions and pins,” Nguyen said.

Although judo and jiu jitsu can work out the mind, Nguyen favors the physical aspect of the martial art.

“My favorite part of judo and jiu jitsu is practicing moves, sparring and competing in tournaments,” Nguyen said. “Some difficulties would be learning complex moves and sometimes after many tries, you think you won’t perform the move successfully. You just have to keep practicing.”

Nguyen is attending school and working full-time. Even though he balances his busy schedule, Nguyen makes sure to dedicate time to attend practice and clear his mind.

“I work full-time as an RA and I’m a full-time student, but I set some time to go to judo and jiu jitsu practice because it is a great stress reliever,” Nguyen said.

Working through a busy schedule between school, work and judo and jiu jitsu practice, Nguyen has big plans for the future pertaining to his career.

“I hope to go through the nursing program and eventually graduate with a bachelor’s in nursing and psychology,” Nguyen said. “I also hope to get my master’s in nursing afterward and eventually become a nurse practitioner.”

Grappling, sparing and being challenging mentally and physically keeps Nguyen interested in judo and jiu jitsu. Starting with no experience in the martial art, the club walked him through and he eventually became the president of the club. Nguyen plans to continue and achieve his black belt and guide others who are participating in martial arts.

April 18, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
With original aspirations to be an astronaut, Erin Shea found a new calling in geology with the help of a previous lab instructor at MIT. Through various projects, she has been able to study different rock samples from the moon. Photo credit: Young Kim

Walking into Erin Shea’s office, the object that catches your eye first is a model NASA space shuttle, followed by a signed picture of NASA Flight Manager, Gene Kranz. Shea has had many dreams, one of which was to become an astronaut. In many ways, the pursuit of that dream has shaped her future. She went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study physics because that was a school astronauts went to and physics was the subject they studied. During her time as a physics student, she discovered a lack of passion which, in turn, impacted her grades.

“I was a really bad physicist,” Shea said. “I think I struggled a lot with the math, so that was hard for me, and the concepts. I struggled with all of it — except the lab portion — and I had a really good lab instructor who said, ‘You’re okay at the lab part and everything else you seem to struggle with, you should maybe consider geology.’ And I did.”

Shea now has her Ph.D. in geology from MIT and has been an assistant professor of geology at UAA since 2015. The astronaut dream didn’t work out as planned, Shea said she never even applied, but as a geologist, she was able to get her hands on the moon, at least a piece of it.

“At MIT, when you’re a graduate student, you have to take — it’s like a test. You stand up and give a presentation, and there is a committee of faculty members who decide whether you can continue to be a graduate student,” Shea said. “They make you do two projects… I said, ‘Well, I want to study moon rocks and there is a guy at MIT who studies moon rocks and asteroids and meteorites.’ I talked to him and he said, ‘Yeah I have this project.’”

Through that project, she was able to explore the moon, but now she focuses more of her time on Earth. She has two kids, a three-year-old daughter and a son who is eight-months-old, and she has found success in various teaching positions. Shea said she’s had many dreams, being an astronaut, working with horses, but she said that it’s always good to try your dreams, even if you realize they won’t work out.

“I highly recommend pursuing your dream at some point and finding out what it’s really like,” Shea said.

As a professor, Shea said her new dream is to make a contribution to her field and her students. In many ways, she’s already meeting her goal. In 2012, she was awarded the MIT Award for Excellence in Teaching. At UAA, she’s showing her dedication to geology and her students, by taking a group of 14 students to Tonopah, Nevada in May with LeeAnn Munk to learn how to use tools and conduct measurements in a real world environment.

In the present and the future, Shea will continue to pursue her new dream. She will also keep, “dating rocks,” as a geology professor, and even though she will never be an astronaut, she has found a way to incorporate space and geology in her life by naming her cat after a geologist whose work centered on lunar rocks.

April 18, 2017 Brenda Craig
With a new storefront on Third Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Frozen Founders hopes to work with, nurture and showcase artists from across different disciplines. Photo credit: Young Kim

It started as a dream in high school, and then in 2014, Dwayne Carter and Dylan Afusia created Frozen Founders and were making their dream come true. Frozen Founders is a business created to allow artists from all over Alaska to come together at their location to showcase, create and work with other artists. They are newly located at 529 West 3rd Avenue, next to Brown Bag Sandwich Company, and are ready to showcase local artists and provide a spot for creativity to take place.

There are spaces at Frozen Founders for artist to place their artwork, clothing, and albums for sale. While Frozen Founders assist the artists by selling their pieces, they also provide spaces for these artists to work, such as their recording studio that can be rented out to musicians with assistance setting up if needed.

“Our facility not only provides the space for an individual or group of individuals to come in, collaborate and create an idea, but the tools to build that idea or product to the point one is ready to showcase or sell it,” Carter, owner and CEO of Frozen Founders, said. “We have several outlets like our storefront, gallery, boutique or website.”

Before they owned an apartment, their priority was set on opening up a location for their business. Although their first studio location on Minnesota didn’t work out, they were able to grow as a business by networking with various artists. Eight months ago, Frozen Founders bought and moved into their recent downtown After remodeling, they officially opened two months ago with a storefront.

“It’s kind of crazy, I feel like most people that were our age were just starting to get their own spot and we were just starting to get to that point, we both had our own jobs, we could have easily went and got our own place to live but it’s what we wanted to do,” Carter said.

Community is emphasized at Frozen Founders. They support the idea of artists coming together and achieving their goals by doing what they love and sharing their work.

“I feel like there is a huge disconnect between local artist and the public. People don’t know what kind of talent is here, so our mission is to bring everyone together to not only support each other, but to display what Alaska has locally,” Afusia, owner and president of Frozen Founders, said. “The community needs more positive influences and outlets, not only for kids, but also for adults in the community who have a dreams.”

Andrea Luper, an artist featured at Frozen Founders, supports the idea of helping the art scene grow in Anchorage.

“I would describe the Frozen founders as ambitious, passionate, and dedicated to their cause. When talking to them you can feel their excitement about what they envision, even if they’re exhausted from all the work,” Luper said. “Providing resources and an outlet for people to be able to create is invaluable, and the more we can bring to a small city like Anchorage, the better off the city will be.”

The sense of support that Frozen Founders provides may encourage artists to stay in Alaska to pursue their work. Artists, like Luper, are able to go to Frozen Founders to continue their work, and may even pick up a new technique.

“My favorite part of what they’re doing is the fact that they’re doing it, the fact that they believe in Anchorage and want to make it a better place for people to stay, and not feel like they have to leave to another, more established city,” Luper said. “I’m looking forward to having somewhere I can go to work that’s outside of my house, and as a place to connect to other artists. I have only dabbled in screen-printing, but I would love to delve deeper into that medium.”

Frozen Founders was based off a dream and now they want to help others pursue theirs by providing this space, assistance and support.

“Everybody has dreams and people feel like because of society that they have to put their dreams off to the side and get a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. job, I mean, we all have to at some point, but I don’t feel like you have to put your dreams on the shelf, you could still pursue it,” Carter said.

Working together is what Frozen Founders believes will make this community stronger. They want artist to know that they are being supported by other artist and eliminate the thought of competition.

“There is strength in numbers, I feel like the society we live in forces us to think as an individual, but if we work together we can build a future that can benefit all of us here and all to come,” Carter said.

As of now, the recording studio can be booked by appointment and the storefront is open from 6 – 11 p.m on weekdays and 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. on weekends. As summer approaches, hours are subject to change and Frozen Founders is planning to be open all day.

April 18, 2017 Victoria Petersen
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Homemade garahm crackers, chocolate and salmonberry marshmallows to make Alaskan s'mores during a bonfire last summer. Photo credit: Victoria Petersen

School may still be in session, but there’s no doubt that spring fever is in full force. With sunnier days and sunnier nights, bonfires and camp outs will soon be taking place. S’mores is a favorite campfire treat to many. Bring your campfire to the next level with these homemade marshmallows. Vanilla was added, but other extracts and flavors can be added to give your marshmallows a unique flavor, like elderberry or rosewater.


3 tablespoons of gelatin

1/3 cup of cold water

3 cups of sugar

1 1/2 cup of water

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/3 cup powdered sugar


1. In 1/3 cup cold water, soak the gelatin in a small bowl. Set aside to swell for 10 minutes.

2. Dissolve the sugar in the water gelatin mix in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.

3. Bring to a boil steadily for 15 minutes without stirring.

4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

5. In a bowl or mixer, add the vanilla and beat until very thick and white.

6. Spread across a greased cookie sheet and let set for an hour. Cut into squares and dust with a cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture.

April 9, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
After attending university in Budapest, Medeia Csoba DeHass moved to Alaska to conduct research on Eastern Christianity. As part of her PhD research, she has studied how Eastern Christianity and Alaska Native culture existed together in the community of Nanwalek. Photo credit: Young Kim

Born in Hungary during the communist regime, UAA professor Medeia Csoba DeHass, grew up cognizant about her religion. Before 1989, when the Communist system collapsed, religion was repressed. For Csoba DeHass, religion was a huge part of her life growing up — her grandfather was a priest of Eastern Christianity —and after 1989 a new Democratic system of government allowed her to be more open about her religion. After attending university in Budapest, she moved to Alaska to do research on Eastern Christianity.

“I was interested [in] looking at Eastern Christianity in Alaska, especially that was so displayed in Alaska Native communities,” Csoba DeHass said. “People are so proud of it, and yet I grew up in an era when you couldn’t talk about it, you had to hide it. If someone asked you, you couldn’t tell the truth about it. That was interesting to me, and I wanted to know more about it — when people are still Russian Orthodox in Alaska, today, even though the Treaty of Cession happened a long time ago.”

Csoba DeHass is currently an assistant professor of Anthropology and Alaska Native Studies. For her Ph.D. research, she lived in Nanwalek, a single denomination Russian Orthodox community, to understand the way Eastern Christianity and Alaska Native culture grew together. Not only did she live in Nanwalek, but Csoba DeHass was also a Postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth, where she was able to work with one of the most prominent scholars in ethnohistory. Csoba DeHass has been able to immerse herself in Alaska Native culture, and she believes that coming at the subject from a different perspective has helped her continue to learn.

“I do have this very immersive experience in this one area of Alaska, and I started such projects with other areas, but I think the key is you’re learning just as much in class,” Csoba DeHass said. “It doesn’t matter what class, but you are learning as much as your students are learning… I think it is more along the lines of sharing experiences.”

For Csoba DeHass, her experiences with Alaska have centered around her religion, and studying that religion in different contexts.

“If you look at the world, Hungary is here and Alaska is almost totally opposite,” Csoba DeHass said. “If you are looking at Russia, Eastern Christianity is totally prevalent there, the other half is more Western Christianity, so we are the two ends: Hungary and Alaska. We’re frontiers in that way when it comes to religion…It just interested me, people having very similar things in Alaska.”

Her passion for ethnohistory has kept in her Alaska for 15 years on and off, and she is currently working on a collaborative pilot project that looks at 3-D modeling of Alaska Native artifacts for heritage preservation. She hopes the project will restore knowledge to Alaska Native communities about artifacts that can only be found in museums today.

“Now this piece that was sitting in a museum, nobody knew what it was, nobody knew about it in the community where it came from, [but] all of a sudden we can add knowledge back into the origin community because we know we can share 3-D models,” Csoba DeHass said. “That’s going to change how people think about themselves… maybe there are some artists who say, ‘Hey in a museum I saw this and this, and I think I’m going to try that.’”

In the future, Csoba DeHass hopes to continue working on 3-D modeling, and one day she would like to find a new research area, one that deals with the Finno-Ugric language group and heritage.

April 9, 2017 Sarah Tangog
Austin Rodgers, secretary of the UAA justice club, mans the booth in order to raise awareness and attract new members for the club. The club meets every other Friday at 5:30 p.m. in room 119 of the Social Science Building. Their next meeting will be on April 14. Photo credit: Young Kim

The Justice Club has come a long way to opening their doors for the community. The club’s focus has shifted to provide more service for UAA students and the UAA area in general.

“Most of our events have all been free and open to anybody on campus, even in the community.” Joseph Mitzel, club council representative and legal studies major, said. “We like to keep it open to everybody and make sure everybody knows that they’re welcome. We appreciate any kind of support that anybody wants to give for the club. We’re very much about the community.”

The Justice Club is certainly improving and growing. However, unavoidable obstacles prevent the club from forming a consistent transition from year to year.

“It comes down to the difficulty of student engagement and student involvement in extracurricular activities on campus,” Troy Payne, faculty advisor for the Justice Club, said. “We have not had enough interest from students.”

Because of this, some changes may have to occur to not only the Justice Club, but the Pre-Law Society as well.

“We’re working on a merger. Pre-Law Society is actually going to be dissolving into the Justice Club, and the new club is going to be called the Society of Law and Justice. That’ll start next year,” Brad Foster, club president and criminal justice major, said.

As president of the club, Foster is working hard to get this merger done before he graduates. Despite this, the Justice Club is actively branching out to showcase a variety of events and bring in different speakers of differing professions.

“If you want to really learn about what happens behind the scenes — to a certain extent — in regards to Anchorage and what really happens to the justice side of it, the club is in a perfect spot right now to where you can learn about that,” Foster said.

The importance of college clubs can’t be stressed enough, and the Justice Club is no exception.

“I think my favorite part is very much about the sense of community. A lot of the other members are very close, you know. We’re all friends; a lot of us take the same classes,” Mitzel said. “The clubs are very much there to help and support you throughout the school year.”

Payne agrees with Mitzel regarding the club values.

“The more students are involved in these kinds of organizations at this kind of ground level, where the rubber meets the road, they get exposed to these bigger ideas, and then they have an increasing voice on campus,” Payne said.

The Justice Club voices its importance by giving back to the community. Throughout April, the club will be manning a booth every Tuesday through Thursday called “Breaking the Silence,” which provides support and awareness for domestic abuse and sexual assault victims.

The club meets every other Friday at 5:30 p.m. in room 119 of the Social Science Building. Their next meeting will be on April 14.

April 9, 2017 Brenda Craig
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Taschappat posing with her one true love: her skis. At the age of four, Taschappat’s parents enrolled her in ski lessons at Hilltop Ski Area, and she has been skiing, and coaching ever since.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Madeline Tschappat-Larson, found the same passion for skiing as a child. At the age of four, Tschappat’s parents enrolled her in ski lessons at Hilltop Ski Area, but, after noticing how fast she was progressing, they decided to take her out of the class and let her hit the big slopes with her father. After that, all Tschappat wanted to do was ski with her dad and go inside for the occasional hot chocolate and soft pretzel.

At the age of six, Tschappat joined the Nordic cross country skiing program and soon found a greater love for alpine skiing. The ability to reach high speeds is what attracted her to downhill skiing.

“My favorite thing about skiing is the snow and being able to go really fast,” Tschappat said. “I downloaded an app on my phone that tracks miles per hour just by being in my pocket and bolted down Silvertip, a run at [Alyeska Resort], to the bottom of chair four, maxing out at a speed of 78 mph. It was thrilling.”

Tschappat is going to UAA as a full-time student to pursue her justice major, working as a medical assistant at Hillside Family Medicine and coaching a five and six-year-old alpine race team for the Hilltop Alpine Race Team (HART).

“It is one of the most rewarding things that I do with my life, there is nothing better than being able to share my love for the sport with kids who have their entire life to develop the same kind of passion that I have for skiing and continue to be little ski bunnies,” Tschappat said.

Tschappat first started instructing at Hilltop around 2013 as a private instructor then recruited to race coach for the next season. This will be her the third season coaching the HART and plans on continuing.

“Nothing is better than returning to the pre-season barbecue and having 15 little ones running at me screaming ‘Coach Maddie, Coach Maddie!’ it absolutely warms my heart,” Tschappat said. “Not just the kids, but the parents who keep coming back, year to year, and being a huge part in their skier’s success in the sport.”

Many live for the summer, but Tschappat’s love for skiing is just as strong as her love for winter, her favorite season.

“I love the cold and the snow, the skiing is just the cherry on top. Skiing clears my mind, I can spend the entire day on the mountain and not worry for a minute about my bills that I have to pay, how well I am going to do on an upcoming exam, or any other issue that causes me grief,” Tschappat said. “Skiing is most definitely my happiness and is so healthy for me. You will never find me without a smile on my face while I am on a pair of skis.”

Tschappat is passionate about skiing for a variety reasons, but the lack of repetitiveness, nature and friends is what makes each time more enjoyable.

“The beautiful thing about skiing is that every run is different. Different trails, different turns and lines, different riders, that is the beautiful thing about the sport,” Tschappat said. “Skiing to me means happiness, being able to be a part of nature, doing something that brings me such joy, is my definition of perfection. The only thing that makes it even better is shredding with my buddies who have just as deep of a passion for skiing as I do.”

Tschappat plans to graduate with a major in justice and minor in legal studies while continuing to ski every winter and coach her race team. With winter coming to an end, she plans hiking and spending time with her dogs outdoors.

April 9, 2017 Madison Mcenaney
Sophomore Chidiebere Iwouha displays how his wireless earbuds fit in the ear in a profile view. His target audience for this product are those in the fitness community. Photo credit: Young Kim

Chidiebere Iwouha, a sophomore in the business program at UAA, has recently released a new product called Peak Audio. These are wireless headphones that he is currently selling through Amazon for profit. At 20 years old, Iwouha has found himself becoming an entrepreneur through Peak Audio, already selling out on his first order.

“Fitness has always been a big part of my life, and when I thought about what I wanted to start selling, it just made sense to find a product that could be used for that. Then I had the idea about headphones, wireless specifically, and found the manufacturer that I thought was the best fit,” Iwouha said.

Iwouha’s target audience for these headphones are primarily people who are in the fitness community, but anyone can use Peak Audio’s headphones. They come in a compact case that allows the headphones to be portable and easily accessible and can be charged with any access to an outlet.

While Iwouha’s business is still fairly new, he has already found himself selling out of his product online within the first few weeks of its initial release. It took him several months of testing products and figuring out the exact brand of headphones he wanted to sell, and it proved to be challenging to find a quality product that would sell to his preferred audience.

Chidiebere Iwouha, student in the business program, has already sold out of his first order of his wireless earbud product, Peak Audio. Iwouha plans to release more products in the near future. Photo credit: Young Kim

“There were a few different companies that I tried out before I found the ones I am currently selling, but none of them had as good of a connection as the ones Peak Audio currently has. I know I wouldn’t want headphones that worked poorly, so I wanted to make sure I was selling a good product,” Iwouha said.

As a business owner now, Iwouha has to take things like advertising and branding, competition and customer service into account. If he does not perform well in these areas, his product will not sell.

“I think my timing with the release of these wireless headphones worked out well, because now that Air Pods are a thing, people want wireless headphones more and more. Peak Audio offers an alternative option that are less expensive which has really been a good marketing strategy for me,” Iwouha said.

Currently, Iwouha’s only product through Peak Audio are the wireless headphones, but he plans to release more products through the brand in the future.

April 9, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews

Fun Fall Classes.png

What do cheese and wine pairing, weird things and bullshit all have in common? They are all topics being covered in 2017 fall semester classes.

Tim Doebler is the director of the Culinary Arts, Hotel Restaurant Management program, and he developed the course called World Cheese Exploration and Wine Pairing. He says this course, along with a whole series of Culinary Arts 490 classes, are one credit classes that teach students with any level of culinary experience some of the history behind cheese and wine, with the opportunity to sample pairings as well.

“We think students learn best when they can actually see, hear, taste, touch and feel if you will,” Doebler said. “In this class, they actually do sample cheese samples. They sample wine samples and they’re all paired so they can see how it all goes together.”

This class is new as of the fall semester, and Doebler intended it to be less about becoming a wine connoisseur and more about earning the history, process and traditions.

“What we really wanted to do was enlighten people about the history, first and foremost about cheeses and then the process,’ Doebler said. “Then we also wanted to do likewise with wines. We want to explore history and the process of making wines and really look at world wines. The class is a sampling of all of that. We give students the historical background, the traditions, we look in different regions and we talk about cheeses and wines.”

Outside of world cheese exploration and wine pairing, the culinary arts program also offers similar one credit style course about foods of Italy, foods of the Mediterranean, taste of Asia and artisan breads. For students who know absolutely nothing about cooking, Doebler says there are classes they can take, like Culinary 490: Culinary Survival Skills, or another class on how to use knives.

While the cheese and wine pairing class is only open for students who are 21 and older at the time of the course, assistant professor Mychal Machado’s Honors 292 class, Why People Believe Weird Things, is open to any University Honors College student who needs to fulfill their 292 credit. Machado said this class is about studying the world in an objective way and analyzing beliefs or superstitions, like, ‘why do people wish upon a star?’

“Just in general, I think folks will want to take this course because where else are you going to get to talk about mermaids, Bigfoot, Chupacabras and Jesus all under the same roof,” Machado said. “What I have students do in this class, is pick a belief that they have, or a claim they believe in, there’s no judgement statements here. If you want to believe in Jesus and you want to believe in a lama, OK fine, go out and look for the evidence that suggests those two things. Analyze your own beliefs.”

In this class, students analyze their own beliefs, at the same time as they analyze other beliefs out there. Machado said the class isn’t about proving Bigfoot exist, but it’s about finding the evidence.

“The question shouldn’t be whether Bigfoot is or is not real but rather what evidence do we need to see or obtain or collect in order to objectively make that claim of reality or fantasy under those conditions,” Machado said.

Another fun class offered this fall is Unpacking Truth, Lies and Bullshit: Data Analysis in an Age of Fake, taught by professor of education policy, Diane Hirshberg. Hirshberg got the idea for the course from a class at the University of Washington titled Calling Bullshit. She thought that type of course was needed at UAA to tackle fake news, fake academia and other fake claims. Hirshberg has two main reasons she is teaching the class.

“One, we need to have the conversation about what’s going on and two, this may be the first time students are excited about the research part and not just about the content. Usually it’s students being excited to learn about [the topic]…. This time it’s actually the research methods that look at someone and say that’s not right — or that is right.”

Hirshberg said the last election cycle made her believe a class like this was necessary, and that her own experience with fake information has given her examples to use in class.

“My mother-in-law would forward me these emails,” Hirshberg said. “I would go to Snopes and the write her back with this isn’t real and here’s the evidence. You can’t do that anymore, it’s such a huge firehouse of fake information.”

Hirshberg’s class is also an Honors 292 class, and she encourages interested students to enroll. Registration is now open for all admitted UAA students and seating is limited for all three courses.

April 9, 2017 Victoria Petersen
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Photo credit: Victoria Petersen

I’ve done key lime pie before, but this pie is special. For Christmas, I got “A Mouthful of Stars” by Kim Sunee. Sunee is a local writer. Her food memoir “Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home,” and her recipe book “A Mouthful of Stars” takes readers on a journey through her life and travels.

Since receiving the book for Christmas, I’ve bookmarked multiple recipes to try, her key lime pie especially. Initially, I was intrigued by the homemade graham cracker and macadamia nut crust the recipe calls for. The recipe says to use a food processor, but I don’t have one. I put all the nuts and graham crackers into a gallon size zip-loc bag, sealed it and then used a rolling pin to crush the nuts and graham crackers. It worked pretty well.

The recipe also calls for creme fraiche. Sunee gives the option of using sour cream, but I decided to opt for the high-brow ingredient since I’ve never used it before. It did not disappoint. It has a sour, kind of cream-cheesy flavor but makes the whipped cream so much creamier.

Sunee urges the reader to avoid bottled key lime juice, noting that fresh juice is much more flavorful. I believe her, but I did use bottled key lime juice because I had it on hand and wanted to use the rest of it up. Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice is a little higher end bottled key lime juice that I found at New Sagayas City Market. Next time, I’ll squeeze fresh juice to compare.

The recipe yields one 10-inch pie.


1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

    1/3 cup macadamia nuts (or walnuts)

      3 tablespoons sugar

        6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

          2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

            2 large eggs

              1 1/4 cups key lime juice

                1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

                  2 teaspoons powdered sugar

                    1/2 cup thick creme fraiche (or sour cream)

                      1 tablespoon grated lime zest

                        Lime wedges, for garnish


                        1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pulse your graham crackers and nuts in a food processor until ground finely. If you do not have a food processor, put your nuts and graham crackers in a large zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin until crackers and nuts are ground finely.

                        2. Add the sugar to the crumb and nut mixture. Pour mixture into a 10-inch pie pan. Using your fingers, spread the mixture evenly across the pan and up the sides of pan, about 1/4 inch high. Pour the melted butter evenly over the crumb mixture and press down on the crust with your fingers to set the crust in place.

                        3. Bake the pie crust for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.

                        4. In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, eggs and lime juice together and mix until fully blended. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust and bake for 18 minutes or until it’s set but still jiggles in the center. Chill the pie in the refrigerator at least four hours and up to overnight.

                        5. Create the whipped topping that will go on top of the pie once it has chilled and set. In a stand mixer, whip heavy cream and powdered sugar until medium peaks form. Add the creme fraiche and lime zest and fold into the whipped cream until well blended. Add across the top of the pie evenly once it has chilled. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the top of the pie for extra citrus and garnish with lime wedges for a nice presentation.

                        April 9, 2017 Brenda Craig


                        The Alaska Press Club will be having its annual conference this April 20, 21 and 22 at UAA and Alaska Public Media. Every year, the Alaska Press Club hosts a conference for individuals all over the state who work in the media or are looking to pursue a career in media, to come together and learn, educate and celebrate the field of journalism and media production.

                        “We invite people from all over the state who work in media productions, radio, TV, print and online journalism. We bring them here to Anchorage to do some networking and continuing education to have discussions about things relevant in our field and to hear from some national speakers,” Rosey Robards, director at the Alaska Teen Media Institute, said.

                        The Alaska Press Club Conference is not limited to journalists but welcomes any individual interested in learning more about the field.

                        “We have it once a year in April and it’s really available to anybody who is interested in the field of journalism, media production, photography, blogging, anything like that,” Robards said. “Journalists are the main people who attend the Press Club conference, but other people who might be semi-connected to the field or have interested in hearing from some of the speakers can also be invited as friends to the Press Club.”

                        Thursday, April 20 is the radio day of the conference and will continue on the following Friday till noon. This is a chance for all the radio reporters of Alaska to come together and share what they’ve learned with others.

                        Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska regional news director, helped organized the radio aspect of the Alaska Press Conference.

                        “We’ll have sessions on radio storytelling, audience engagement, collaboration, audio editing techniques, handling breaking news and social media ethics,” Schoenfeld said. “I love watching reporters get excited about their craft and inspired to try new techniques and directions. It’s also fun to meet the people behind the voices, talk shop and share stories.”

                        For this year’s conference, there will be 10 guest speakers from publications from all over the U.S. to share their knowledge and expertise with the Alaska-based press core. Every year, the Alaska Press Club provides an impressive keynote to speak at the conference, this year’s keynote is highly anticipated.

                        “This year, we have Jenna Johnson from the Washington Post that is going to be the keynote. She followed along the Trump campaign trail,” Robards said. “She went to 35 different states and she went to over 170 rallies and she completely covered the Trump campaign, so she has a lot of insight there.”

                        Journalism and Public Communication students are encouraged to attend the conference to learn from the speakers and workshops.

                        “I’m basically requiring my students to go. Some of the speakers will also be in JPC classes on Tuesday. There are national leaders in the field of offering workshops all day for two days for $15,” Julia O’Malley, vice president of the Alaska Press Club, said.

                        As technology changes, media changes along with it. With journalism evolving, these conferences allow individuals to discuss the direction the field is headed.

                        “The goal of having this kind of conference is to make sure that we are looking ahead and also celebrating the past and really making sure that we’re upholding those values and ethics that we have in journalism and that we remember and talk about those things, but then we’re also looking forward to the future,” Robards said.

                        Not only does this conference give journalist the ability learn from others and share their knowledge, but gaining the feeling of unity with fellow colleagues.

                        “The conference breaks the isolation for small community journalists. It gives people new ideas and techniques,” Schoenfeld said. “It also generates a sense of solidarity, that we are all in this together. That’s important at a time when so many journalists are under attack from people and groups that don’t want the truth to be told.”

                        This conference provides a variety of ways for each and every member to be able to leave learning something new.

                        “I love all of it, we really calibrate it to the needs of our members and try to make it as useful as possible across the widest field,” O’Malley said.

                        Learn, educate and celebrate with members in the field of journalism and media production at this year’s Alaska Press Club Conference on April 20, 21 and 22. There will be 10 guest speakers along with keynote speaker Jenna Johnson, workshops, awards, food and the chance to meet with colleagues. A detailed schedule of events will be released closer to the date of the conference.

                        April 3, 2017 Brenda Craig
                        Morgan Ross poses during promotional photos for the gymnastics team. Ross has one year of eligibility in gymnastics remaining. Photo credit: Morgan Ross

                        Even before Morgan Ross, environmental studies and Spanish major, could remember, gymnastics has been her life. It started with her mother, who was a gymnastics coach, which allowed Ross to start at a young age. However, it was her decision to continue on with the sport. After starting gymnastics at UAA as a walk-on, two years later Ross’s hard work paid off after gaining a scholarship at UAA for gymnastics.

                        “My mom is a gymnastics coach so I started before I can even remember, I have been a ‘gym rat’ my whole life. The running joke is that I started gymnastics before I was born because my mom was doing flips and coaching in the gym while she was pregnant with me,” Ross said. “Starting gymnastics wasn’t really a choice, but when I got older my parents always gave me the option to continue. In middle and high school, the girls my age all started to quit, and I just had a goal to stay in and make it to college.”

                        This past season, Ross was an all-around competitor for gymnastics at UAA including vault, floor, beam and bars. This year she focused on expanding her difficulty on the floor, beam, bars and perfecting her vault.

                        “Even though I compete in all the events, my favorite event is floor. I grew up studying ballet and doing competitive dance along with gymnastics, so the performance aspect combined with powerful tumbling passes plays well to my strengths,” Ross said. “My favorite skill is called a full-in pike, it is a new addition to my floor routine this year. It is a full twisting double back flip, in which the full twist happens in the first flip and the second flip is in pike position.”

                        Although physical ability is a main aspect in gymnastics, mental preparation is key in reaching any goal.

                        “Gymnastics is a sport that requires just as much mental strength as it does physical strength, learning new skills can be really scary and sometimes even when your body is physically ready you still have to push through the fear aspect,” Ross said.

                        Starting at a young age, Ross had an advantage in achieving her goals in gymnastics. Through the countless hours of dedication put into practicing, the thought of quitting never crossed her mind.

                        “Gymnastics is not a sport where you can start in high school or even middle school and still be very successful, most gymnasts start around age three and start competing between ages five and seven. It takes so much time out of your life and for such a long period of time, so you really have to be dedicated,” Ross said. “Most competitive gymnasts practice between 25 and 30 hours a week all year long. There isn’t really an ‘off season’ because gymnastics takes constant maintenance and progress.”

                        After spending her whole life committed to the sport of gymnastics, it quickly became not only a sport but who she is as a person.

                        “I love gymnastics, honestly gymnastics isn’t just a sport for me, it is an identity. I have committed so much of my life to doing it that I don’t know who I am without it,” Ross said. “Even after nearly 18 years of practice, I still come in to the gym every day and have something new to learn. The more you learn, the more exciting and fun it gets. Nothing compares to the thrill of making improvements and showing them off in competition.”

                        Even though gymnastics is an individual sport, having a team’s support is one of Ross’ favorite aspects about participating in college gymnastics.

                        “The best feeling is when you hit your routine in competition and the team comes running up to you and everyone gives you high fives and hugs and is super proud and vice versa,” Ross said. “I love being there to support my team, my teammates are my best friends, it’s pretty hard not to become friends with them when you spend upwards of 20 hours a week together.”

                        Ross recently ruptured her Achilles tendon and had surgery for her injury. She is working towards recovery by working out almost every day to prepare for the next year of gymnastics, which will also be her last at UAA.

                        “For next season I plan on coming back stronger than ever. I want to compete all-around and up my difficulty on every event,” Ross said. “Right now I am just focusing on maintaining my strength while I recover, so I am going into the weight room to workout about six days a week, and going in to watch practice and cheer on the other girls as much as possible.”

                        Once college is over, Ross will be done with gymnastics. Even though the change from doing gymnastics all her life will be drastic, she is open to other physical activities to attain. Besides finding another hobby, Ross wants to work towards her Ph.D. and become a vegetation ecologist.

                        “I still want to stay active and fit after gymnastics, but I’m not sure what I will do yet since I will have to let go of something that has been constant throughout my entire life,” Ross said. “I want to go to grad school after I graduate next year, so I will try to get a graduate assistant spot on a gymnastics team somewhere in the Lower 48. Eventually, I want to become a vegetation ecologist, but not until after I get a Ph.D., so that’s a long way away. Right after I graduate I want to ease myself out of gymnastics and start the search for a new athletic passion, rock climbing is looking promising.”

                        Ross is grateful for her decision to stick with gymnastics and make it to college doing what she loves. The self-determination and friendships made through the sport was worth the difficulties and long hours of practice and dedication.

                        “Gymnastics is an amazing sport that teaches dedication, physical and mental strength, coordination and drive. I am so glad I stuck with it through all these years and I am extremely grateful to be able to pursue the sport I love at the Division I collegiate level,” Ross said. “My teammates are the hardest working, most supportive people that I know and I am lucky to have them in my life. For all the times I’ve had to say ‘Sorry, I can’t. I have practice,’ I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

                        Injury or not, Ross is fully dedicated to pursing a 4.0 GPA and competing at up her difficulty for every gymnastics event. Her plans after this semester are to spend her last summer in Anchorage and use the time for hiking, backpacking, kayaking and camping before leaving state. Ross plans to keep pushing through her last year of college and ending the next season of gymnastics with a bang.

                        April 3, 2017 Brenda Craig
                        Photo credit: Jian Bautista

                        In the upcoming local election taking place on April 4, Anchorage Parks and Trails are on the ballot for Anchorage Parks and Recreation service area capital improvement bonds.

                        Proposition 3 is the parks bond that will fund park and trail improvement projects across Anchorage by investing $1.84 per $100,000 home value and leveraging bond funds with private donations and grants.

                        “Our parks and trails make Anchorage a great place to live, work and play,” Laura Vachula, communications manager at Anchorage Park Foundation, said. “Investing in parks and trails is an investment in our economy because they attract a talented workforce and tourism to our city. The bond will fund safety and improvement projects that the community asked for.”

                        With the many parks and trails comes a great amount of maintenance.

                        “This year, there are things on the parks bond all over town that should make a difference in neighborhoods and also make a difference to our whole gorgeous system of parks and trails,” Beth Nordlund, executive director at Anchorage Park Foundation, said. “There are 226 parks and 250 miles of trails in anchorage, so we have a lot to take care of and this is the way that we do it.”

                        There are many repairs, renovations and new construction the parks bond will cover throughout Anchorage. Some of these include safety improvements with repairing and resurfacing Campbell Creek trail, adding LED lighting and emergency locators along Chester Creek Trail near Valley of the Moon Park, safer routes to Sand Lake Elementary and building phase two of Muldoon Town Square, which will include a playground, ice skating loop and community garden.

                        Besides these safety improvements and community building, increasing accessibility at playgrounds is one feature that the Anchorage Park Foundation is working towards for the future of all parks.

                        “Inclusive playgrounds are so that play grounds can be accessible to kids that are in wheel chairs or have other mobility issues. We use the term inclusive play to mean that there will be play features everyone can be involved in playing at a playground,” Nordlund said. “We have 10 inclusive playgrounds to date and three more under construction this summer, but our theory is that every time we go in and take out a playground that’s old, unsafe and no longer a fun feature for a neighborhood, we need to replace it with a playground that suits the neighborhoods needs best and these days we’re really focusing on inclusive playgrounds.”

                        Not only will this bond help build inclusive playgrounds outdoors, but the Anchorage Parks Foundation is looking to build the first indoor inclusive playground.

                        “There is one [inclusive playground] that has never been done before. At the Fairview Recreation Center, there is an under-utilized indoor space there that they want to build an indoor playground for, and that one will be inclusive as well,” Nordlund said. “It will be accessible to kids in wheelchairs or that have mobility issues, but will also have a lot of ground level play and should be really fun. We’re looking forward to that.”

                        There are many parks and trails that surround homes around Anchorage and it is encouraged to invest back into the city.

                        “Voters of Anchorage should not pass up this bargain,” Vachula said. “For an investment of just $1.84 per $100,000 of home value, they will receive safer trails, inclusive parks and inspire stewardship that makes our park system and city great.”

                        Besides Proposition 3, there are other bonds that help parks like Proposition 4, which is the Roads Bond that will help make important trail connections by including multi-use lanes in road upgrades. There is also Proposition 7 that will expand the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Service Area to include municipal areas north of McHugh Creek.

                        Voting locally can help residents have a voice for their idea of how they believe Anchorage should be.

                        “I do feel it’s very important to vote local, all big positive change in this country has started at the local level, I believe it’s where our vote has the biggest impact,” David Donaldson, Anchorage resident, said. “I will be voting for prop 3 because I simply believe that the benefit will out weigh the cost.”

                        Community is an important factor when it comes to determining the decision for the parks bond. Some believe that the safer the parks and trails, the lower the crime rate will become. Having active Anchorage residents is also something community members would like to see around Anchorage.

                        “Our bike trails and parks are some of the things that really help form a community. With all of the crime around Anchorage I also think it’s a safety issue to make sure that we as a community keep these trails and parks safe for all users, but especially kids and families,” Donaldson said. “If the kids and families stop using the public areas and they become less traveled, that won’t help keep the crime down. The more people that are out and about using our trails, the safer it will be for all users, not to mention the overall health benefit to the community of our citizens being active.”

                        Voting takes place on April 4, and there are other propositions that support parks. If there are issues or projects that you believe should be taken into consideration, take a look at the ballot and other propositions that may back certain causes.

                        April 3, 2017 Cheyenne Mathews
                        Natasa Masanovic-Courtney, chair of the languages department, knew from the age of nine that she wanted to learn multiple languages. She now speaks her two mother languages Turkish and Greek, as well as English, German and Ancient Greek. Photo credit: Young Kim

                        Chair of the Department of Languages, professor Natasa Masanovic-Courtney didn’t speak her first word until she was four years old. In the time before she said her first words, Masanovic-Courtney was helping her brothers bring cardboard boxes with old sweaters, food and water to stray cats in her home country of Turkey. Growing up, Masanovic-Courtney had two things on her mind, animals and language. It took her a while, but by the time she decided to utter her first words, she had the ability to speak both her mother tongues of Greek and Turkish.

                        “I think because I was learning two languages at the time, maybe my brain could not coordinate both, and I was a very late talker,” Masanovic-Courtney said. “It was the end of my fourth year in life when I started talking, and I told my mom an entire fairy tale in Greek. Then after I did that, I had complete sentences in Turkish.”

                        Masanovic-Courtney teaches German on campus, and she says it is the first foreign language she learned by attending a private Austrian school for eight years. Despite her late start, Masanovic-Courtney now speaks English and German, and studied ancient Greek with a priest in Istanbul, on top of her two mother tongues.

                        “At about nine years old, I knew exactly that I wanted to learn a third language and a fourth and a fifth,” Masanovic-Courtney said.

                        The neighborhood Masanovic-Courtney lived in was filled with languages. All around her she could hear Italian, French, Hebrew, German, Armenian, Serbian, Turkish and Kurdish. She knew at a young age that comparing languages was important to her, and her parents realized that Masanovic-Courtney had a passion to nourish. They sent her to an Austrian immersion school where, in four months, Masanovic-Courtney had learned the basics of German. In the summer, her German and Greek-speaking cousin of the same age would visit her family in Turkey, and German became a secret code language that only the two understood.

                        Language is Masanovic-Courtney’s passion and career, but her hobby has always been helping cats. Helping stray cats is one of earliest memories, and today Masanovic-Courtney has a large collection of cat figurines at home. The reason she came to Anchorage in the first place had to do with a cat she was rescuing. After finishing her Ph.D. at Purdue University, Masanovic-Courtney became a visiting assistant professor of German at DePauw University.

                        While she was there, she stumbled upon a starving stray Siamese cat. Masanovic-Courtney, who had grown up volunteering at the animal shelter, adopted the cat and took him to a veterinarian to address the cat’s breathing problems. She was told the cat needed a colder climate to breathe, and so after deciding she wanted to work elsewhere, Masanovic-Courtney applied for a job in Anchorage and moved here for her cat.

                        “I was trying to decide for places that would be cooler for him,” Masanovic-Courtney said. “I thought Alaska would be good for my cat. When I said yes to this job, it was only as term professor for one year.”

                        Her cat, Agamemnon, like many of Masanovic-Courtney’s cats, was named after a Greek king in Homer’s The Iliad. Moving for her cat’s health ended up working out for Masanovic-Courtney because after her first year she was directly hired as an assistant professor. Since coming to UAA, Masanovic-Courtney has helped 20 students apply and receive prestigious scholarships to Germany.

                        “What drives me is my belief in my students,” Masanovic-Courtney said. “I don’t think I have met any individual, in my career, who didn’t have the potential to do it. But what needs to be there is this willingness and readiness to do it.”

                        Outside of her passion, what attracts Masanovic-Courtney to her profession is her love of teaching. As a little girl, she would use a blackboard she had received as a Christmas present to teach her two brothers when they let her.

                        “I had this passion for sharing knowledge with people, but, in particular, comparing languages was important to me,” Masanovic-Courtney said.

                        Masanovic-Courtney has won numerous awards celebrating her profession, like the 2012 UAA Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Diversity, the 2014 YWCA Women of Achievement Award and the 2011 AATG Duden Award for Excellence in German Instruction, but at the end of the day, Masanovic-Courtney says her career has always been about showing others the beauty of language and helping those who are passionate to study it.

                        April 3, 2017 Madison Mcenaney
                        Jonathan Bower moved to Anchorage 15 years ago to work on writing a memoir. Since then, he has returned to school and began teaching as a professor in the English department. Photo credit: Young Kim

                        Jonathan Bower moved to Anchorage nearly 15 years ago to pursue writing a novel and today finds himself teaching creative writing at UAA and working on his latest record as a musician. How did he end up here?

                        “My original thoughts for moving to Alaska centered around me wanting to write a memoir about my time growing up in Philly. I thought that in order to write about that place, I needed to get far away from it, get a different perspective. That’s what brought my family and I up here, but I’ve stayed here for a few other reasons,” Bower said.

                        After landing in Anchorage, Bower decided to go back to school, except not as a student. He began working at UAA in the English as a second language program, to make money for his family that being a writer couldn’t at the time. Bower has stayed a professor at UAA since, but now he has moved to teaching in the creative writing department.

                        “It has been great to teach at the university, especially in subjects that I still enjoy learning about as well. I learn as much from the students that walk in learn from me,” Bower said.

                        In more recent years, Bower has picked up on something he left behind in Philadelphia: his music career. Since he moved to Alaska to originally pursue writing a novel, Bower felt that he needed to put making music on the back burner. He was in several different bands before he made his move to Alaska, where he played guitar, wrote lyrics and sang.

                        “I’ve always had this need to write, more specifically in poetry. All the words in your head kind of gnaw at you if you don’t get them out in some way. Writing music is the best outlet for that, so it was really good for me to be apart of something with other musicians. Even when I was up here not making music, I would still write it,” Bower said.

                        After taking upwards of ten years off of music, Bower decided to find his way back to one of his passions several years ago. With inspirations like John Prine and Leonard Cohen, Bower’s music sounds like a mix of folk and contemporary styles, using an acoustic guitar and his voice as the primary instruments. His most recent release in Anchorage is called “Hope, Alaska,” which was released in 2014.

                        “Because I teach writing classes, and kind of just have a book in my face at all times, I find that literature, things outside of just other songs and musicians, serve as large influences on my music. Even photography and some of our local photographers here now really inspire me just as much as music itself does,” Bower said.

                        Bower is currently in the beginning process of working on a new record, with all of his lyrics written and awaiting recording time. For Bower, music may have not been the purpose of his journey to Alaska, but it has become one of his reasons for staying.