Category: Community

February 27, 2017 Alexis Abbott
alaska cities.png
Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Alaska’s crime rates have grown through recent years, but results from the most recent FBI crime report show a decline in criminal activity in Alaska’s five safest cities.

SafeWise, a source for home security and safety news, used statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program to rank cities in Alaska according to safety.

The ranking included 24 cities in the state but closely focused on the top five safest.

To identify the five safest cities, SafeWise analysts reviewed FBI crime report statistics from 2015 and state population data. All cities with fewer than 2,000 residents or those that failed to submit an annual crime report were not included in the evaluation.

Sarah Brown, community outreach manager at SafeWise says that the analysts that conduct the city-ranking research do so in a team effort to ensure the data is analyzed accurately.

“The way SafeWise analyzes our data is useful because it gives you a normalized number that is based simply on crime rate. People often dispute the number because some areas don’t rank high simply because of property crime, however, an increase in property crime leads to an increase in violent crime,” Brown said.

The ranking began with an analyzation of reported violent crimes, including assault, murder, rape and robbery — and property crimes, which include burglary, arson and theft in each city. SafeWise calculated the likelihood of these crimes occurring out of 1,000 citizens in each city.

Cordova was ranked the safest city in the state of Alaska. Next followed Unalaska, Haines, Wrangell and Sitka.

Based on FBI statistics, the crime rate in the top five cities is nearly half the national average — with 15 crimes reported per 1,000 residents.

According to SafeWise’s research, the city of Cordova had two violent crimes and seven property crimes reported per 1,000 people. Unalaska had two violent crimes and 11 property crimes.

Haines reportedly had three violent and nine property crimes, while Wrangell had 43 violent and 13 property crimes. The fifth safest city, Sitka, had just one violent crime and 16 property crimes reported per 1,000 citizens.

Mary Weaver, a senior at UAA who is originally from Sitka, shared how small and comfortable her hometown is, and that she is not surprised that it was ranked one of the safest cities in the state.

“Coming to Anchorage from Sitka for me, was a little bit of a culture shock. I always had to remind myself to lock my car, because Sitka is such a small town. When I moved up here, my mom would always yell at me for leaving my purse in the front seat… She would say that somebody will break your windows,” Weaver said. “For the most part, we’re a community that is pretty strong and safe.”

Although the data focused mainly on the top five safest, SafeWise ranked another 21 cities in the state.

Following the top five came the North Slope Borough, Palmer, Nome, Valdez, Seward, Petersburg, Homer, Ketchikan, Bethel, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Kodiak, Soldotna, Juneau, Kenai, Anchorage, North Pole, Wasilla and Kotzebue.

Ellen Carlson, a sophomore at UAA who commutes from Wasilla, was surprised to see her hometown ranked 23rd most dangerous out of 24 cities.

“I actually feel really safe in Wasilla, usually. I mean, the farther out in the boonies you get, the more concerned I am. But in Wasilla, I’m usually fine… People leave you alone and are decently friendly most of the time,” Carlson said. “I feel a lot less safe in Anchorage.”

Gov. Bill Walker signed a criminal justice reform bill in July of last year, to modify the state’s criminal justice system. Alaskan law’s are aiming to enhance public safety, curb corrections spending and reduce the state’s prison population.

February 27, 2017 Alexis Abbott
Photo credit: Map courtesy of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources

The restart of the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has been confirmed to move to Fairbanks. The Board of Directors on the Iditarod Trail Committee voted to move the restart location from Willow due to poor trail conditions in critical sections in the Alaska Range.

This will be the third time in the 45-year history of the Iditarod that the race has been moved to Fairbanks due to low snow and poor trail conditions. The first move was in 2003, and the second in 2015.

Before making the final decision, the Trail Committee staff and crews monitored trail conditions closely, finding that the Southcentral area saw just enough snowfall, while areas like Rainy Pass and the Dalzell Gorge did not. The final determination for the race restart was made on Feb. 10.

“While some snow did fall east of the Alaska Range over the past couple of weeks, other critical areas along the trail received little snowfall, if any at all, including the trail into Rainy Pass. Additionally, trail conditions leading up to both Ptarmigan Pass and Dalzell Gorge are still considered unsafe at this time for the teams participating in this year’s race,” Mark Nordman, Iditarod Trail Committee Race Director said in a recent press release.

There are 73 teams registered to race in this year’s Iditarod, while more than ten have withdrawn from the race. Last year’s top-ten finishers will also be competing.

Joanne Potts, assistant to the race director, says that moving the race was not an easy decision to be made, while the crew was heavily criticized for moving twice before. The Trail Committee wants to ensure the best possible race every year, even if that involves moving the restart.

“Now that it’s beginning in Fairbanks, the whole race has changed. There are different checkpoints, new routes and mushers have to changes their plans a little bit,” Potts said.

Despite changes in the race, the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage is still scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 4, and begin at 10 a.m. The restart will begin in Fairbanks on Monday, March 6 at 10 a.m.

November 13, 2016 Cheyenne Mathews

On Thursday Nov. 10 over 70 people gathered for anti-Trump rally at the Mall at Sears parking lot. Protesters waved signs and shouted chants of ‘This is what democracy looks like,’ ‘My body, my choice. Their body, their choice,’ and ‘Love Trumps hate.’ The ‘peaceful demonstration against Trump,’ as it was called on its Facebook…

October 17, 2016 Lee Piltz

This October, local growers of marijuana will be harvesting this year’s first legal crops. This marks a historic moment for those involved in the marijuana legalization movement. However, due to the stigma associated with cannabis, little is actually known about this plant. Like all plants, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to grow it. All…

March 20, 2016 Kathryn Casello

Key emergency organizations in Alaska will come together on April 1 to test their systems, protocols and their ability to work together in the event of a crisis. This year’s exercise will mimic an active shooter threat involving Alaska Homeland Security, Alaska FBI and Alaska Fire Department, as well as Providence Hospital and the American Red Cross. UAA will participate by holding the scenario on West Campus, where students will be in place to act as hostages and terrorists.

USUAA Vice President Matthieu Ostrander explained how the Alaska Shield drill is a tool for emergency planning.

“‘We don’t know’ isn’t the response you want when you ask ‘what if?’ Preparing our response could save lives. It also helps up recognize what we can do now. We might realize that we need stronger doors or a better way to navigate buildings in emergencies,” said Ostrander of the Alaska Shield exercise.

Along with larger organizations around the state, UPD will be active in the exercise as first responders to the crisis. Lieutenant Michael Beckner of UPD explained the role UPD plays in the exercise.

“Just like sports practices or studying and homework for academics, like anything else we have to practice to make sure we’re good and prepared for what might happen. Agencies that tend not to work together have an opportunity to come together to make sure there aren’t any gaps in security and work out any kinks,” Beckner said. “On that day, we’ll have officers that would normally be on a regular shift to respond to the call reporting the incident. We’ll take the lead and APD will arrive and join them.”

According to Alaska Homeland Security, the bicentennial exercises are designed to evaluate 13 core capabilities of participants. Community resilience, cybersecurity, environment response/health & safety, fatality management services, intelligence & information sharing, mass care services, mass search and rescue operations, on-scene security and protection, operational communications, operational coordination, planning, public health and medical services, and public information and warning.

The University’s Incident Management Team (IMT) works closely with UPD to make sure that all students, faculty and staff are informed about what’s happening on campus and coordinating plans for safety on campus. Kristin DeSmith, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for University Relations, is part of the IMT and will be involved in the emergency notifications process.

“The drill gives us an opportunity to work together as a team in situations that require being cohesive and getting information out to people on campus, and the best way to do that is practice,” DeSmith said. “It helps us to find out where we might need to practice more to keep the campus as safe as possible.”

DeSmith explained that the Alaska Shield exercise is an active drill as opposed to a “table top scenario” which allows more realistic and interactive practice.

“It’s really cool to see so many organizations involved in the drill, from health care to law enforcement,” DeSmith said.

Ostrander and Beckner recommended that students who will be on campus during the time of the drill to stay away from West Campus to help participants be as effective as possible.

“Students should follow up on the exercise and see what we learn, but that doesn’t mean they should show up. This is not a spectacle, it’s a drill for an emergency,” Ostrander said.

Even though the Alaska Shield drill is primarily aimed towards preparing emergency personnel, there are ways that students can learn from the drill and be aware of what their role is in campus emergencies.

“In times of emergencies and crisis, students need to listen and follow instructions,” said Beckner. “The police will send out messages through email, text and phones, and the best thing to do is pay attention because we’re doing it for your safety.”

Beckner clarified that the drill is for training purposes and is not reactive to any specific or credible information regarding a terrorist threat.

“It’s simply so that if the unthinkable does happen we are prepared. We know that this can be upsetting or difficult for some students, so if anyone has any issues or any trauma regarding this, they can get with the Care Team or the Student Health Center, or can call us as well if they need someone to talk to.”

The Alaska Shield exercise is set to start around 8 a.m. and will last until noon on April 1 with alerts and messaging operating through the UA Online systems and information. The drill is a exemplary demonstration of the hard work of security organizations to keep Alaskans safe and prepared for the worst.

June 12, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

Senior nursing students from UAA’s School of Nursing are culminating a seven-week intensive capstone project this Saturday from noon-6 p.m. at Town Square Park in downtown Anchorage. Twenty-eight soon-to-be graduates are set to host “Swear to Care,” a community fair aimed to shed light of on four forms of interpersonal violence in the Anchorage community:…

April 29, 2015 Kelly Ireland

Seniors looking to graduate after years of paying for college find themselves with a new dilemma: How to pay to leave. Many may don’t know it until the time comes, but graduation is a costly event.

The cost of graduation first starts when outgoing seniors apply to graduate. At UAA, seniors must pay a $50 fee when applying to graduate. But what is the fee actually for?

“The application for graduation fee supports DegreeWorks in a number of ways,” said Lindsey Chadwell, assistant registrar for Degree Services and Transfer Credit Evaluation & Records, in an email. “It helps us (Office of the Registrar) pay for the software itself, as well as the programming of all university and degree requirements each year and significant ongoing maintenance and support. The application for graduation fee also supports the cost of diploma paper.”

In addition to the cost of just applying to graduate students who want to walk in Commencement will have to pay even more. For Commencement, students must have a cap, gown and tassel, which all total to $40 or more depending on if the student is getting a bachelor’s gown or master’s gown and hood.

The Commencement ceremony has historically cost UAA around $50,000, which helps pay for the venue, graduate hooding ceremonies, decor, music, the sound system, event staff and videographers. University Advancement is primarily responsible for the Commencement ceremony and therefore the money comes out of their budget. Administrative Services and Degree Services also help pay for the ceremony.

While the budget for the ceremony might seem like a lot, the cost of Commencement has decreased. Bridgett Dyson, University Advancement’s special events manager who coordinates the Commencement ceremony, said this lowered cost is because the event is at the Alaska Airlines Center instead of the Sullivan Arena.

“With the budget situation we’re trying to be really fiscally responsible, so we’ve trimmed several areas like decor. The Alaska Airlines Center is actually given us a lot of opportunities to trim expenses.” Dyson said.

Before the Commencement ceremonies were held at the Alaska Airlines Center Dyson said the venue, the Sullivan Arena, cost the university around $11,000. The Alaska Airlines Center only costs $7,500. The Alaska Airlines Center also allows University Advancement to save on decor because the Alaska Airlines Center is a newer building and less has to be done to spruce it up.

Advancement is also saving on the audio since the Alaska Airlines Center has an in-house sound system and the building was designed to have good acoustics. Advancement now only has to pay for technicians. Dyson said the budget for audio support has been cut by two-thirds at the Alaska Airlines Center.

One of the biggest costs of Commencement is the program. $7,000 was spent on the Spring 2015 Commencement program.

“It’s usually one of our biggest (costs). It’s cost a lot more in the past, but we have been able to work with our paper vendors and things like that to get that price down significantly,” Dyson said.

While the cost for the program is high, many feel that it’s well worth it.

“That’s something we hear from students that they really feel is an important keepsake from the day. We’re trying to find that fine line between being conscientious of the university’s fiscal budget situation, but also still maintaining a celebratory atmosphere for our students because they worked so hard. This is their big day and it just wouldn’t be a celebration without some of these things,” said Sarah Henning, UAA’s Public Relations and Marketing Manager.

Some other costs of graduation include the labor costs for set up. Dyson said the cost of labor varies depending on when the venue allows setup to happen. For Fall Commencement the ceremony’s setup began at 5 a.m. that same day, whereas Spring Commencement the setup can be done during normal business hours, which will allow Advancement to save some money.

A shuttle to and from the venue to overflow parking at the UAA Arts Building is also provided for graduates and their families. The service costs $600. When the ceremony was held at the Sullivan Arena the shuttle ran from the Commons to the Sullivan and cost nearly double what the shuttle service now costs.

While the total cost of graduating can seem overwhelming at times, the university has cut expenses wherever possible by moving the ceremony closer to home, allowing UAA to see its students from classrooms to Commencement.


2015 Commencement Infographic by Jay Baldwin
Graphic by Jay Baldwin



April 29, 2015 Nita Mauigoa

In ancient Hawai‘i, “ali’i,” or royalty, wore feather lei as a sign of “mana,” or spirit and grandeur. In contemporary society, there are endless varieties of lei and meanings. The sentiment of mana, however, still echoes during times like graduation — even in ice-ridden Alaska. The word “lei,” or garland, is specific to the Hawaiian…

April 29, 2015 Victoria Petersen

For students graduating, one of the personal ways to represent one’s self beyond a cap and gown is through the cords adorning the neck. Representing achievements in a multitude of ways, the cords stem from a tradition in the beginnings of the Roman Catholic Church to distinguish status among clergy. This became part of the…

April 14, 2015 Victoria Petersen

In light of the recent violence on the trail systems near UAA, students who walk, bike or run these trails are becoming more cautious. UAA international studies major Madeline Neel uses the trail daily to get to and from class. “I love the trail system behind UAA … l walk there still, but not as…

April 14, 2015 Kjersti Andreassen

The UAA Chancellor’s Cabinet has reiterated the decision to evict Tanaina Child Development Center. However, hope is not lost for Tanaina, which has announced a new partnership with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. The church is located a few blocks from UAA, on the corner of Tudor and Lake Otis Parkway. “When we were invited by…

April 14, 2015 Samantha Davenport

Should people be able to eat what they value? UAA’s Sustainability Club hosted a panel discussion in the Student Union April 7 to talk about the quality of food at UAA and the state of Alaska. Amy Petit, panel discussion member and former Division of Agriculture member, manages the Alaska Grown marketing program and is…

April 7, 2015 John Sallee

As part of Sustainability Week, UAA will run a professional clothing drive. The purpose of this drive is to properly aid college students in obtaining jobs and careers. Interviewing is critical to obtaining a job, but imagine someone not even owning a single blazer or tie. The UAA Career Services Center is able to help…

April 1, 2015 John Sallee

“Each group has 10 minutes left to finish your wind turbines,” exclaims the instructor. ANSEP, the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, or ANSEP, hosted an interactive energy activity on March 19 that involved 48 students from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District. The students were required to test insulation and light bulbs for efficiency and…

April 1, 2015 Nolin Ainsworth

Near the end of Jeff Chang’s lecture, “Who We Be: The Colorization of America,” he opened the auditorium up to questions. Several seconds went by with no response. “Well lets go sign books,” said Chang, trying to relieve everyone of the awkward silence.  It spurred something different though, as one audience member after another asked…

March 24, 2015 Victoria Petersen

On March 18, volunteers scatted across campus to educate students and faculty. Volunteers gave out free brochures, swag and ice cream sundaes to capture the attention of students and staff.  They introduced resources available for students and staff who want to quit smoking, and they educated passersby about Kick Butts Day and UAA’s smoke-free policy…

March 24, 2015 Samantha Davenport

Last Thursday night’s UAA’s Got Talent event was a gathering for talented faces in the Student Union Cafeteria. The two-hour show was full of beautiful voices, dancers and a unique balancing act. UAA students had the opportunity to showcase a talent to an audience, whether it be singing, dancing or playing an instrument. Argel Isaguirre,…

March 19, 2015 Victoria Petersen

University of Alaska officials are working to align the Anchorage, Fairbanks and Southeast campus calendars. In April 2014, the Board of Regents passed a policy to align all UA campus calendars.

Student Regent Courtney Enright says the Common Calendar Advisory Task Force has been working on this project since last year and has identified several areas for alignment.

“These eight areas for alignment include term start dates, add/drop dates for class, fee payment due date, withdrawal date, term end date, finals week, spring break and course blocks,” she said.

The Common Calendar Advisory Task Force has outlined the challenges of each component for the new committee that will take over in the next year.

“The calendar will begin alignment of withdrawal dates in spring 2016 — otherwise all other aspects of calendar alignment will occur in fall 2016, aka, calendar year 2017,” Enright said.

However, there is controversy concerning the time of calendar implementation. The task force has been guided by a memo from UA President Pat Gamble, which called for a fall 2016 implementation. Despite this, some regents and university leadership believe that fall 2015 is when the common calendar should start.

Michelle Saport, a communications assistant for UAA Advancement, is confident the process is progressing in a timely fashion.

“This is still happening, and it looks like it is on track,” Saport said.

UAA currently has spring break one week before UAS and UAF. Task force members say there was no initial support to align this break, but now they are working hard to make it happen. The move would require engagement by the entire university community.

Barbara A. Hegel, registrar and director of admissions at UAS, feels positive about the proposed alignment.

“I’ve been working here since 2002. One of my goals as an employee is to see things more aligned,” Hegel said. “I think this will be really good and help students maneuver the system better. I feel very positive about it.”

The alignments for a new universal calendar will take place within the next two years.

March 4, 2015 Kelly Ireland

Bearded and mustached individuals and beard lovers, or pogonophiles, gathered together for an event like none other, the UAA Beard and ‘Stache Competition. The hairiest event known to UAA kicked off its fifth annual event on Wednesday Feb. 25. UAA’s Beard and ‘Stache Competition slated fuzzy faced individuals against equally hairy if not more hairy…

March 4, 2015 Samantha Davenport

Larp-A-Palooza is an event held by the UAA Game Club scheduled for March 5. At this event, students will have the opportunity to meet new friends and participate in an imaginative part of the UAA community. Social work major Jackie Odena, who is the current president of the UAA Game Club and a member since 2012, talked to TNL about the feature event. 

TNL: Tell us about Larp-A-Palooza!

Odena: “Larp-A-Palooza cosists of two days of live action role-playing (LARP) events. Participants will be able to make their own foam saber, then engage in epic battles the following week.”

How long has Larp-A-Palooza been around at UAA?

This is the first time we have held an event like this. We’ve been interested in hosting a LARPing event for a long time now, but due to time, cost and a shortage on manpower, we’ve never been able to — until now! We’ve raised the money though participating at events like Haunted Halloween Fun Night over the years and through Club Council. This is also the largest event that we’ve planned, so it’s definitely been a learning process and we hope to do this again next year.”

What do you hope this event will bring to UAA?

One of the purposes of our club is to encourage members to get out of their comfort zones and try new things! Not many of us have ever tried LARPing before and thought it would be fun to share that experience with other students. We also wanted to give UAA students an opportunity to try something different. It’s also an event for those who do participate in LARPing activities to bring their skills and enthusiasm on campus. We’d like to encourage teamwork, cooperation and a sense of community through fun and friendly competition!”

Is there any additional information that you would like to add?

Although our ‘Make Yer Own Saber’ event has passed, we still have our Larp-A-Palooza event this upcoming Thursday, March 5, starting at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Cafeteria for students and members of the public to come and LARP it up! We will have some foam sabers on hand to loan to students. We will be releasing rules for the LARPing event as within the next week. We encourage students to attend!”

This event is free for UAA students and $2 for members of the public. There will also be board games, card games and video games set up in the North Cafeteria.

For additional information about Game Club, follow or email

February 26, 2015 George Hyde

Alaska has a vast gaming community, but for a long time, organizing it was rather difficult. However, the folks behind Senshi-Con, the massively popular annual anime and geek convention in Anchorage, have made the task a bit easier with the 2015 incarnation of the Alaska Gaming Convention to be held in UAA’s Student Union. And…

February 18, 2015 Victoria Petersen

Tucked within students’ UAA billing statements lies the “Green Fee,” a $3 fee that goes into a larger pool of money set aside specifically for projects that promote sustainability on campus. The Green Fee grant was founded by the students for the students to implement sustainability how they please. “It all comes down to us…

February 18, 2015 Samantha Davenport

Environment and society senior McKenna Hanson is attempting to help save the Aleutian tern, a species of bird dying off at a rapid pace. She is working on a bachelor of science degree with an emphasis in natural science. She is currently doing research on where Aleutian terns are in the food chain — what…

December 5, 2014 James Evans

[youtube url=”″ autoplay=”yes”] After two years in the Professional Studies Building with a temporary lab downtown, UAA’s Anthropology Department is returning to the newly-renovated Beatrice G. McDonald Hall. By James R. Evans Photo Editor The Northern Light UAA Anthropology: The Northern Light | The student newspaper for UAA: @TNL_updates Inquiries:…

November 7, 2014 Stephen Cress

UAA’s Care Team is raising awareness of its mental and behavioral health services to students on campus. The Care Team is primarily an outreach group for UAA students that are experiencing mental health or behavioral issues, but also functions as a way to report possible future incidents on campus before they occur. UAA’s Care Team…

July 22, 2014 The Associated Press

Anchorage bus routes and schedules are now available to smartphone users through the Google Maps app.

Anchorage officials announced last Wednesday that the city’s People Mover bus system partnered with Google Inc. to incorporate public transit data into the technology company’s mapping system, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Search results come with travel time, transfer opportunities, fare estimates and walking directions to bus stops.

February 23, 2014 Suhaila Brunelle

The cost of renting an apartment in Anchorage can be high, and working to pay for rent, utilities and groceries can be difficult while attending college. The residence halls also offer many programs to help students succeed in education. One of the programs offered is the First Year Experience program in North Hall. This program…

February 23, 2014 Audriana Pleas

The USUAA student government Advocacy Team returned from the state capital after a slew of productive meetings with state legislators between Feb. 1 and 4. Along with their other University of Alaska associates, the advocacy team met with senators and representatives in an effort to garner a bigger budget for UA projects.
The UA Coalition of Students advocated for larger budgets for the UAA and UAF engineering buildings, the UAF power plant and high-demand academic programs. The platform encompasses the needs of all schools in the UA system. An agreement was reached on Feb. 2 before meeting with legislators the following Monday and Tuesday.
Chancellor Tom Case asked USUAA to advocate for funds for the Alaska Airlines Center because it can only operate for 6 months on present funds.
UAA representatives thought it was more appropriate to focus on the UA system as a whole and directed their attentions elsewhere. USUAA is planning to head back to the capital to advocate for UAA-specific needs sometime next month.
USUAA President Drew Lemish, who is part of the Advocacy Team, says his decision to refrain from advocating for UAA-specific topics in this past advocacy meeting was welcomed by the UAA participants.
UA President Pat Gamble gave a budget presentation last Tuesday about the UA systems and the projects that need extra financial attention. UA students were granted the chance to provide testimonials and further explanation on topics that included advising.
Younger Oliver, a member of the Advocacy Team, says this is the first time a platform has not been organized beforehand. This was Oliver’s third and final trip as a UAA advocate. Her experience allowed her to lend advice to her team members.
“Everyone from around the state was on the same page,” Oliver said. “We all had the same goal, and when we actually went in to meet with legislators on Monday and Tuesday, we were all on point and we knew what we were talking about and we had done our research.”
Lemish agreed with Oliver.
“At the end of Tuesday evening, I would say that we accomplished everything we went down to accomplish. And I couldn’t have asked for a better team to go down with. And I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Lemish said.
However, Lemish recognizes the need to return by to Juneau to ensure what UAA needs is conveyed in meetings.
“I think there is an opportunity, and I hope this opportunity is taken advantage of when we go down to advocate for UAA-specific needs, such as the sports complex operating budget,” he said.