Published authors in our midst

There is an adage in academia, “publish or perish.”

Few students realize that while we sweat over essays and midterms, our professor counterparts slave over papers and research of their own. The difference is that theirs is a “labor of love.”

It was a phrase that came up repeatedly at the University of Alaska Anchorage bookstore’s third annual Faculty Author’s Celebration on Oct. 29. Each speaker was allotted half an hour open forum to discuss any topic they wish.

“I think the teachers are in a battle to present their ideas and what they care about,” Rachel Epstein, the bookstore’s special events coordinator, said. “What they’re doing is important.”

More than 70 percent of UAA faculty members are also published authors, according to statistics released last semester by the Chancellor’s Office.

Because it was a three-hour event in the middle of the day, the audience size fluctuated according to both time and speaker. Here’s a list of the authors featured:

Jeane Breinig
An associate professor with the English department, Breinig spoke about her participation in the publication of “Alaska Native Ways,” a collection of photographs and essays about the 10 values common to all of Alaska’s tribes. Local photographer Roy Corell provided the impressive images, while public figures from each of the Alaska tribes were selected by the publishers to write essays. Breinig’s essay is about her mother’s efforts to preserve the Haida language and culture and exemplifies the value of sharing.

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Erica Koch Wight

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, this assistant professor of radiological sciences used her time to address the importance of mammographers. Wight has authored several textbooks in her field including one on maintaining quality in mammograms.

“It’s not fool proof,” Wight said. “But it is the best thing available.”

Toby Widdicombe
Author of several books on a variety of topics, associate professor of English Widdicombe discussed the investment of money and time essential to becoming a published author. Some of his works took as long as 12 years to complete.

“I’m still in the hole on this,” Widdicombe said of his book “Simply Shakespeare,” while discussing the misconception some students have that textbook writers make a profit.

Bonnie Nygard
Nygard is the associate dean of the Community Technological College and the coordinator of physical education. She has also worked on textbooks in the past but her latest endeavor “When Cody Became a Mouse Potato,” which she co-authored, is aimed at a younger audience. The book is intended to teach elementary and middle school children the value of physical activity. The book was produced in response to alarming statistics on the rising rates of child obesity.

“We integrated the idea of being more active with nature (facts) to make it more interesting to kids,” Nygard said.

June Namias
Namias, associate professor of history, has published many books but her lecture focused on a manuscript by Sarah Wakefield entitled “Six Weeks in a Sioux Teepee”. Namias provided the introduction and notes for the newly reprinted mid-19th-century document. The story is an account written by a white woman in defense of the Sioux Indians who sheltered her and her children during a conflict with the U.S. military.

Jeanne Oyawin Eder
Eder, a Native American and director of Alaska Native Studies Program has contributed two books, one on the Dakota Sioux and one on the Makah, in a 16-book series about American Indian tribes geared toward elementary and middle school students. The books include information on history, culture and spiritual beliefs. She is currently working on a history of Indian education.

“Indian students need to have more role models and books that reflect a more positive image of Indians,” Eder wrote in her online faculty biography.


All books mentioned in this article are available at the bookstore as are the works of other UAA faculty.