The Diversity Action Council brings life to UAA programs

Junior Mary Sherbick from Twin Hills, Alaska models an Athabascan bitzahulan that was sewn by UAA faculty member Phyllis Fast. The bitzahulan was created from a fabric shower curtain. Her hat and gloves are made from seal skin and sewn by Mary Huntington from Shishmaref, Alaska. (Photos by Nita Mauigoa)

Shannon Hawkins, UAA student and Alaska Native dancer, proudly dressed in Inupiaq attire to celebrate the kickoff of Alaska Native and Native American Heritage Month. Her face lit up at the mention of the Diversity Action Council, or DAC, an annual sponsor for the event.

“There are so many Alaska Native students here and they (the DAC) are wanting to support us and bring on events like today. Having the dance groups, having people talking to us in their own language — I mean, it’s really great to hear that,” Hawkins said.

The DAC is a resource committee to the UAA chancellor, committed to nurturing an environment where the diverse cultures and beliefs of all people are acknowledged, where diversity is respected and where all people are valued. The committee is comprised of an executive, students, staff and faculty representatives from various campus departments and organizations, such as Disability Support Services, USUAA, the Chancellor’s Cabinet and the Multicultural Center.

Students linked to campus programs supported by the DAC understand how vital the organization is. However, the DAC is an organization that supports the entire campus, and all students can benefit from it.

“We are fortunate to be a university that is so rich with diverse perspectives, background, heritage, ethnicities, religion. It is an institution like no other, and we work very, very hard at celebrating the differences and understanding individuals’ backgrounds and how that contributes to this diverse learning environment that we have here,” Bruce Schultz, Vice Chancellor for student affairs and co-chair of the DAC, said.

The rich diversity at UAA creates opportunities for dialogue, but it also creates challenges. The committee wants to celebrate and take advantage of those opportunities, and develop strategies to overcome challenges.

One of the DAC’s priorities is the active development of a diversity action plan for UAA. Another priority is the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff. The DAC developed a resource guide for the hiring authorities and managers of UAA designed to help recruit individuals from diverse backgrounds.

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“We sit in the institutional structure as the entity that is promoting, managing and celebrating diversity,” Marva Watson, director of the office of campus diversity and compliance and co-chair to the DAC, said. “At the same time, you can’t do it alone, and so you do need the thinking of more people. And so here exists this wonderful council. … We have so many opportunities and initiatives in progress that celebrate the diversity we have on campus.”

Stephanie and Shannon Hawkins model their matching purple atikluks sewn by Inupiaq artist Ruth Konik. Stephanie is also wearing seal skin mittens trimmed with arctic fox fur and mukluks. Shannon wears slippers made of seal skin, wool and beads. The fashion show took place at the ‘Yagheli Jan – Good Day!’ celebration.

Both Shultz and Watson expressed a priority to ensure the community understands what the DAC does so the committee will have more students, faculty and staff take advantage of the support and resources available.

Among other programs, the DAC most recently funded events for Filipino American History month and Hispanic Heritage Month. Latino Student Union treasurer, Alejandro Cuautil was part of the planning process for the presentation given to the DAC to bring the Mexican consulate to campus.

“It’s a good support group for any other group that needs funds to make an event,” Cuautil said.

For more information about the DAC and their services, visit or call 907-786-4680. The link to the online funding request form is: Proposals will be reviewed at monthly meetings. Meetings are held from 9-10:30 a.m the second Friday of each month in the Student Union’s Lyla Richards Conference Room.