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Current UAS News Releases

Dr. Tom Thornton Named as New UAS Dean of Arts and Sciences

The University of Alaska Southeast is pleased to announce that Dr. Thomas Thornton has been selected as the new Dean of Arts & Sciences. He will also serve as UAS Vice-Provost for Research and Sponsored Programs. He replaces Dr. Paula Martin, who has served as the interim dean of the school since summer 2017.

As dean, Dr. Thornton will provide leadership for the school and its four departments: Business and Public Administration, Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. The position promotes UAS’ mission focusing on student learning and success, and providing robust high impact learning opportunities for students. He will assume his new role in Juneau on July 1.

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield noted that “It is a pleasure to welcome Dr. Thornton back to Alaska and to have the benefit of his academic leadership and expertise at our university. His career combines an exceptionally strong academic foundation with an ability to work collaboratively with faculty and with community partners.”

Dr. Thornton earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology from Swarthmore College and both a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Washington. He previously lived in Juneau and taught at UAS. He currently is an associate professor and senior research fellow at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom where he has worked in the Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment. He is also a fellow of the Global Diversity Foundation’s Global Environmental Summer Academy in Bern, Switzerland.

A renowned researcher, Dr. Thornton has been involved in numerous projects involving anthropology and human ecology, including many in Alaska. His book, Haa Léelk’w Hás Aaní Saax’u: Our Grandparents’ Names on the Land, won a 2012 Alaska Historical Association award. In previous Alaska research he has collaborated with a number of Southeast Alaska tribes and organizations, including Sealaska Heritage Institute, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and the Southeast Native Subsistence Commission. He has published over 70 works in his fields of study, and has been a guest speaker in a variety of international forums and institutions.

UAS Provost Karen Carey noted, “Dr. Thornton will be a great addition to the UAS campus. His knowledge of Southeast Alaska, his understanding of the Native cultures and lands, and his interests in expanding research at UAS will lead to increased recognition of our campus.”

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

University of Alaska Southeast Commencement 2018

On the first weekend in May, the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) will celebrate student achievement and success at commencement activities on its three campuses in Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau. UAS expects to award 410 associate, bachelor, and master’s degrees, 128 certificates and professional licensures, and 174 occupational endorsements. Commencement in Sitka takes place Friday, May 4, Ketchikan on Saturday, May 5, and Juneau’s event is Sunday, May 6.

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield, Provost Karen Carey, and UA regents Dale Anderson and Lisa Parker will travel to each campus to celebrate the success of graduates in the three communities. UA President Jim Johnsen will attend the Juneau commencement ceremony. UAS is pleased to announce that U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski will deliver the Juneau Commencement Address.

At the Juneau event, UAS will present honorary doctorate degrees to Bruce Botelho and Kaayistaan Marie Olson. Meritorious Service Awards will be presented to Nancy DeCherney at the Juneau ceremony, and Len Laurance in Ketchikan.

The UAS Sitka commencement ceremony takes place Friday, May 4 at 7 p.m. in the campus lecture hall. The UAS Ketchikan Campus ceremony is set for Saturday, May 5 at 2 p.m. at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

On Sunday, May 6, the UAS Juneau campus celebrates its 47th annual commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. at the Charles Gamble Jr.-Donald Sperl Joint Use Facility, 12300 Mendenhall Loop Road (REC Center). The UAS Native & Rural Student Center hosts its annual Alaska Native Graduation Celebration at 11 a.m. in the Egan Library on the Auke Lake campus. In addition, a celebration of UAS School of Education graduates living elsewhere in Alaska will be held in Anchorage on Saturday, May 12.

Chancellor Rick Caulfield expressed pride in the accomplishments of all UAS graduates: “Commencement is a time to celebrate the hard work and dedication of our graduates, whether they are completing a workforce certificate, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, or a graduate degree. We’re proud of each and every one of them for seeking an education that will prepare them for productive careers and help enrich their lives and those of their families. Our faculty and staff are honored to be part of that journey.”

At the Juneau Commencement, two students—one undergraduate and one graduate—will address their fellow graduates. Blake Fletcher is an undergraduate earning a dual degree: a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Arts in English. One of those nominating him for student speaker wrote: “Blake has fulfilled both degree programs and has taken more classes in such a broad range of subjects here at UAS than anyone else I know. His plans after graduation involve studying for a Masters of Arts in Secondary Education with the end goal of teaching secondary school. Blake wants to teach students—the most selfless of professions–to inspire them to further their education.”

The second speaker is graduate student Erin Ohlson, who will receive a Master’s degree in Public Administration. The person nominating her stated: “Erin is a third generation, lifelong Alaskan raised in rural Gustavus where her husband's parents homesteaded. She exemplifies the self-motivated, multi-tasking, hard-working parents who persevere and accomplish their goals of advanced degrees through distance education opportunities. She did this while simultaneously raising her young family, working, and progressing in her profession, and engaging productively in her community.”

Bruce Botelho will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, awarded by the UA Board of Regents. Botelho had a distinguished career with the State of Alaska Department of Law, which included serving for nine years as the state’s Attorney General; the only one since statehood to serve under two governors from differing political parties. In addition, he served the longest term as Mayor of Juneau in the history of the city; from 1988-1991 and then again from 2003-2012. Distinguished UAA professor emeritus Stephen Haycox stated in his support letter, “In his dedication and his achievements, Bruce Botelho manifests and represents the essence of public service and civic engagement.”

Tlingit elder Kaayistaan Marie Olson will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. A respected member of the Áak’w Kwáan, Olson has been a staunch supporter of the University of Alaska and has made significant and enduring educational and cultural contributions to UAS, UAF, and the State of Alaska over the course of more than four decades. As an Alaska Native woman, she has experienced both the challenges and benefits of pursuing a university education, ultimately earning two certificates and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from UAS. She has made significant contributions to indigenous knowledge in Alaska in her service as a distinguished culture bearer.

A University of Alaska Meritorious Service Award will be presented to Ms. Nancy DeCherney. Her inspirational leadership with the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council reflects service to the entire community of Juneau and to Southeast Alaska—creating a rich presence of arts and culture and inspiring others. Mr. Len Laurance will receive a Meritorious Service Award at the Ketchikan ceremony. He is a founding member of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, and has been a strong advocate for tourism education and the tourism industry.

The Juneau commencement ceremony is immediately followed by a catered reception in the Lakeside Grill in the Mourant building on the UAS Auke Lake Campus. Shuttle service will be available from the main campus parking area to the REC center. The event is be live streamed on the web at, as well as Facebook Live @uasalaska.

Links: UAS Facebook page

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

UAS to Host 2018 Alaska Native Studies Conference in Juneau

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) will host the 2018 Alaska Native Studies Conference in Juneau from April 13-15 on the Juneau Auke Lake Campus. The annual conference brings together University of Alaska faculty, staff, and students from across all of Alaska as well as Elders and community members. Overall coordination of the conference is under the leadership of the UA Alaska Native Studies Council.

The conference is open to the public and registration is free for Elders and students. Sessions extend throughout the day on Saturday and continue on Sunday from 10:30am to 5:00pm. There is a $100 registration fee for regular conference participants. Registration can be done online or at the conference. For more details and to register, see the Alaska Native Stuides Conference website.

Featured speakers at the conference will include Dr. Thomas Swenson, who is originally from Kodiak and is currently assistant professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Utah and is a 2017-18 Katrin H. Lamno Fellow at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The second plenary speaker is Liz Medicine Crow, JD, President and CEO of First Alaskans Institute in Anchorage. She is originally from Kake and earned her Juris Doctorate from Arizona State University.

The conference opens on Saturday morning, April 14, at 9am in the Egan Library with special ceremonies involving Aak’w Kwaan clan representatives, UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield, Barbara Waahlaal Gidaak Blake, Senior Advisor to Governor Bill Walker, and the Woosh Ji.Een Dance Group.

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield expressed appreciation to Professors Ernestine Hayes and Alberta Jones for their leadership in co-chairing the conference, and to hardworking faculty and staff at UAS who’ve been preparing for the conference. Caulfield stated: “UAS is proud to host this event which involves faculty and staff from UAS, UAA, and UAF, as well as Elders and a wide array of community members. Scholarship by indigenous faculty and researchers in the University has expanded greatly in recent years, and this is an opportunity to share insights and results from that scholarship. I’m especially pleased that so many students are involved.”

Topics to be discussed at the conference include: cultural resilience, indigenous science, math and technologies, indigenous education, Northwest Coast Native arts, Alaska Native leadership, jurisdiction, and sovereignty, indigenous languages and oral literatures, and decolonizing the academy.

Conference organizers expressed appreciation to event sponsors: Sealaska Corporation, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation, Sealaska Heritage Institute, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Kathy Shteiwteen Kolkhorst Ruddy, UAS Chancellor and Provost offices, UAS School of Arts and Sciences, and UAS School of Education.

Links: Alaska Native Studies Council Website

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

UAS and JWAC Host world Affairs Forum — "Europe: Allies and Alliances in a Turbulent World"

This month, the Juneau World Affairs Council (JWAC) is presenting its annual World Affairs Forum at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). This year’s theme is “Europe: Allies and Alliances in a Turbulent World.” All lectures take place in the Egan Lecture hall at the UAS Auke Lake Campus. All speaker events are free and open to the public.

The forum brings together experts on international relations to discuss the U.S. rise to undisputed world leader following World War II, and the institutions developed to protect western democracies; the challenges facing Europe today, their perception of America’s shift in foreign policy; and international institutions' reaction to these changes – particularly in the areas of defense, trade and social policy.

The forum opens Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 pm with its first speaker:

  • Dr. Kurt Huebner – “Changes in the World Order – From 'Embedded Liberalism’ to 'Hyper Globalization' to 'Economic Nationalism’.” Huebner is Chair for European Integration and Global Political Economy at the Institute for European Studies, part of the University of British Columbia.

Beginning at 1:00 on Friday afternoon, March 23, speakers include:

  • Dr. Wade Jacoby – “Contemporary U.S.-German Relationships.” Jacoby is a Senior Fellow of the Transatlantic Academy and Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University.
  • Dr. James Nafziger – “Making America Normal Again – With a Little Help From Europe.” Nafziger is a Thomas B. Stoel Professor of Law, and Director of International Law Programs at Willamette University.
  • Dr. Mai’a Cross – “Europe. Russia, and the Transatlantic Divide: Security Relations in Turbulent Times.” Cross is an Edward W. Brooke Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University. She is currently a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • Dr. Terrence Hopmann – “What Happened to Cooperative Security? The Rise and Fall of the Post-Cold War Security Regime.” Hopmann is from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

The final day of the forum is Saturday, March 24, starting at 9:00 am, featuring:

  • Dr. Merje Kuus – “Where is Europe's Power? Transnational Standards and Diplomatic Expertise in Brussels.” Kuus is from the University of British Columbia, Department of Geography, and is a political geographer who studies diplomatic practice in multinational settings.
  • Dr. Svetoslav Derderyan – “A Democratic Paralysis? How the US Withdrawal and the EU's Malfunctioning Bureaucracy Helped Russia Undermine Pro-Democracy Civil Society in Eastern Europe.” Derderyan is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • Dr. Jürgen Salay – “Climate Policy in the European Union.” Salay is from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, and is an expert on European climate policy.
  • A panel discussion featuring many of the earlier speakers.

The JWAC forum is sponsored by UAS, AEL&P, Coeur Alaska Kensington Mine, Haight & Associates, Sealaska, The Prospector Hotel, and Wostmann & Associates. The next forum will take place during UAS’ annual fall lecture series in October. JWAC and UAS take no stand on any public issue, nor recommend any policy, party, viewpoint, or candidate.

A full schedule and more information about each speaker are available on the Juneau World Affairs Council website.

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

Dr. Steve Atwater Selected as Executive Dean to Lead New Alaska College of Education

Following a national search, Dr. Steve Atwater has been selected as Executive Dean of new Alaska College of Education (AKCOE) at the University of Alaska Southeast. Atwater begins his new position on July 1, 2018. He will have direct administrative responsibility for Education programs at UAS along with statewide responsibility for enhancing coordination and alignment of all UA Education programs and expanding partnerships with K-12 districts and education leaders across the state.

The selection of executive dean represents a major milestone in UA’s plan to greatly increase its preparation of quality Alaskan teachers, principals, and superintendents. Currently Alaska imports nearly two-thirds of all new teachers hired each year. The UA Board of Regents last year asked UAS to lead in meeting this goal.

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield expressed confidence that Atwater is the right person to lead the effort: “Dr. Atwater brings experience and insights that are particularly valuable for the university in this time of change. His dedication to teacher excellence is unquestioned and he has a wealth of teaching and leadership experience in both rural and urban schools in Alaska. It’s rare to find someone who has this distinctive array of skills, talents, and experience.”

UA President Jim Johnsen also expressed his pleasure at having such a capable leader who can contribute to expanding a culture of education in Alaska. “We’re very fortunate to have a person of Steve’s caliber to lead our effort to strengthen our teacher education efforts,” he said.

Atwater will be based in Juneau but will travel extensively to work with university leaders, faculty, and staff across the entire state. In addition to the new Alaska College of Education at UAS, UAA and UAF will continue to provide high quality teacher preparation and other education programs at their respective campuses. They will be led by directors who, together with faculty from all three universities, will make up the new UA Teacher Education Council. The council’s charge includes making recommendations about greater coordination, alignment, and innovation in preparing new teachers, principals, and superintendents.

Atwater earned his master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Alaska. He began his Alaska career as a teacher in predominantly Alaska Native communities in western Alaska, and went on to become superintendent at both Lake and Peninsula School District and at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. He was recognized as Alaska’s Superintendent of the Year in 2013. Most recently he has served as Interim Dean of the UAF School of Education.

Links: Alaska College of Education

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

Peak Trust Company Donates $10,500 to University of Alaska Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program

Peak Trust Company has donated $10,500 to the Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program to provide scholarships for University of Alaska students. Overall private donors raised more than $90,500 to fill a gap left by a $57,000 budget cut in 2016.

The Peak Trust Company donation will open a new fund specifically in support of scholarships for students enrolled as full-time, unpaid legislative interns. Many students travel from outside Juneau and must absorb the cost of tuition, travel and housing during that time. The scholarship combined with student stipends helps expand the opportunity to students who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

For Peak Trust founders, some of the first pioneers of trust laws in Alaska, supporting the program was the right thing to do.

“We spend a fair amount of time working with legislators, trying to improve Alaska’s trust laws.” Says Peak Trust Co-Founder Doug Blattmachr. “We know the workload the staff takes on and felt it was something worthwhile that we would like to support.”

The non-partisan program allows students enrolled at the University of Alaska Southeast the opportunity to work in state legislative offices in Juneau during the legislative session while studying public policy that is Alaska-focused. More than 300 students have participated in the program and 40 percent of past participants have been hired as professional staff for the Alaska Legislature.

During the session students draft legislation, testify in committees and earn academic credits by participating in a weekly policy seminar. While students gain first-hand experience working with the public, drafting legislation and testifying in committee meetings.

Peak Trust Company joined Chugach Alaska Corporation to match a $10,500 gift challenge by the Ted Stevens Foundation this year. The Ted Stevens Foundation has pledged to donate $35,000 a year and renew the $10,500 matching gift challenge for the next 4 years with plans to help the university ensure and expand the program opportunities.

To support the Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program or find out more about how students benefit from private giving, contact the UAS Development Office at (907)796-6320 or go to

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

Second UAS faculty member earns Fulbright Scholar award

Second UAS faculty member earns Fulbright Scholar award

University of Alaska Southeast Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Sanjay Pyare, Ph.D., has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar award by the American-Indonesian Exchange Foundation to expand his research on seabird migration patterns.

Pyare joins colleague Dr. Heidi Pearson, who was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholar award for her work finding inventive strategies for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

The Fulbright Program—which is overseen by the United States Department of State’s

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs—serves to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries through educational and cultural exchange.

“Fulbright scholarships are transformative experiences, both for the faculty member who has the honor of representing the United States abroad, and for the colleagues and students the faculty member works with while in-country. It is an honor to be selected and the UAS School of Arts and Sciences is very proud of our two, 2018 Fulbright Scholars,” said Interim Dean of Arts and Sciences, Paula Martin, Ph.D.

Like Pearson, Pyare’s research focuses on conservation.

“I proposed a Fulbright research experience through host institution Udayana University in Indonesia that builds on a decade of prior research in Alaska, along with a U.S. State Department-sponsored visit to Indonesia last year, to investigate the distribution of a conservation flagship – the Aleutian tern – and its remarkable migration between Indonesia and Alaska.” 

According to Pyare, the Aleutian tern, mirroring the plight of many seabird species globally, now numbers just a few thousand birds in the U.S.

“My colleagues and I have conducted Aleutian tern research in the U.S. since 2007, revealing that several breeding colonies with up to thousands of Aleutian terns just a few decades ago have essentially disappeared, and colony numbers across Alaska have experienced the steepest decline of any Alaskan seabird species known.” 

“We also used lightweight tracking devices to discover that Aleutian terns from Yakutat, Alaska migrated consistently every year up to 10,000 miles through East Asia, setting down in coastal Indonesia and Papua New Guinea for at least 8 months of ‘winter’. Thirteen birds studied in Alaska just last summer are presumably staging to migrate back from Southeast Asia to Alaska right now,” he said.

But, he says “in the end, my Fulbright is fundamentally not really about scientific research or even the plight of the ocean environment and seabirds: the Aleutian tern is simply a global messenger about what two far flung cultures and two wild places of the earth have in common. This is about building a bridge for the next generation, starting with my UAS students here in Alaska and those at Udayana University, to think big and think forward.”


For more about the University of Alaska Southeast visit

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

UAS Sitka campus selects professor Leslie Gordon as director

UAS Professor Leslie Gordon has been selected as Campus Director of the University of Alaska Southeast, Sitka Campus. She currently serves as professor and program director for Health Information Management, and as assistant director of academic affairs. She has taught more than ten years at the campus and has built the Health Information Management (HIM) program into a vibrant, rigorous, externally-accredited program. She begins her new position effective May 13, 2018.

As Sitka Campus Director, Gordon will serve as the campus’ chief executive officer, responsible for strategic planning and budget management, instructional activities, facilities management, and day-to-day operations. The Director is also part of UAS regional leadership, working in concert with university leaders at the Juneau and Ketchikan campuses. She will work closely with the Sitka Campus Advisory Council to ensure UAS is meeting the needs of the community and region. She will also join other campus directors across Alaska as part of the UA Community Campus Directors Council that advises UA President Jim Johnsen.

Keith Perkins, chair of the UAS Sitka Campus Advisory Council said, "Leslie brings to the campus a very successful professional background in managing the Health Information Management program for the University and leading it to prominence across all of Alaska. Her success in this area allowed her to be involved at the national level in how Health Information Management has evolved in its education delivery. As a long-time Sitkan and faculty member with administrative experience, we are truly excited to welcome her into the position of Campus Director."

As Campus Director, Gordon will report to UAS Provost Karen Carey. According to Carey, “Leslie is a valuable member of the Sitka Campus and UAS leadership as a whole. She demonstrates innovative, thoughtful leadership and viewed as an outstanding leader for our Sitka campus. Interim Director Jill Hanson has done an excellent job and will continue to provide leadership working closely with Director Gordon.”

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield also expressed support for Gordon’s new role: “The Sitka Campus has opportunities to expand offerings with community partners like Mt Edgecumbe High School, the Sitka School District, and the Sitka Tribe. I’m confident that Leslie will provide the leadership we need to grow these partnerships.”

Gordon earned both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Health Information Management from the College of Saint Scholastica in Minnesota. She is a recognized leader in the HIM field and has served on numerous professional and regulatory organizations. She was awarded the 2017 UAS Faculty Excellence Award.

For more information about the UAS Sitka Campus, see

Contact: Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
Phone: (907) 796-6509

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