Profiles of Our Graduates

'Wáahlaal Gidáak -Barbara Blake, B.A. RD 2010, M.A. RD 2013

Barbara Blake currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Lt. Governor of the State of Alaska. 'Wáahlaal Gidáak (Barbara) is of Haida, Tlingit and Ahtna Athabascan descent and belongs to the Káat nay-st/Yahkw ’Láanaas (Shark House/Middle Town People). She is the mother of an inspiring young man, Nathaniel Blake. She received her Master’s degree from UAF in Rural Development focusing her thesis on Fisheries Development in Rural Alaska. She received her undergraduate degree(s) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a BA in Rural Economic Development and an AA in Tribal Management. She holds a certificate in Tribal Governmental Business Law from Seattle University. She formerly served as Government Affairs Liaison for The Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and also Assistant Professor for the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In addition Barbara has worked as the Technical Assistant Specialist for Intertribal Agriculture Council and Program Assistant in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Office of Tribal Relations. She has held internships/fellowships as an Obama Organizing Fellow; First Alaskans Institute Public Policy Legislative Fellow; Washington Internship for Native Students Intern; Sealaska Corporation; Alyeska Pipeline; and Ahtna Incorporated. She also served as Board Youth Advisor for Sealaska Corporation. She is a member of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Native Emerging Leaders Forum, Polynesian Voyage Society and the Heinyaa Kwaan Dancers.


Carmaleeda Estrada, B.A. RD 2007, M.A. RD 2012

Carmaleeda Estrada received her B.A. in Rural Development with an emphasis in Tribal and Local Government in 2007. After finishing an internship in the Alaska State Legislature, she began working for Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) in Juneau in 2008. She continues her work there as a Development Associate and Scholarship Coordinator where she facilitates the fundraising efforts of the organization along with helping students apply and qualify for college funding. She entered the M.A. in Rural Development program in 2010 while continuing her work at SHI and graduated in 2012. She attributes her continuing career at SHI to the Rural Development program, instructors, and curriculum. Her degrees through the Rural Development program have given her the foundation to parallel her education directly with her work. Her goal has always been to find a career that will allow her to weave together her ties to her Native heritage, rural communities and desire to impact growth and opportunities among her people. Her education through UAF has given her the tools to continue that success.


Peter Hjelm, B.A. RD 2015

I graduated in May of 2015 then moved to Bethel, Alaska. It was my intention to find work as a grant writer or rural development specialist. I eventually was hired as a Grant Compliance Accountant with the Association of Village Council Presidents. I have been working for AVCP for a year now and am enjoying the experience. I give all credit for any success to our Lord and Savior and my family. A very special thank you to my steady companion for the last few years Kathy, she has pushed, inspired, and supported me in the completion of my degree. The journey has been long and winding, but through it all, I was never alone. Each step was completed with help from my family, friends. Divine intervention was constant, and each day I give praise and thanks for that.


Diane Okleasik, B.A. RD 2016

I attended UAF for three years as a full time student; then I moved home for one semester, and that one semester turned into many semesters!  I continued to take classes that interested me. Then I found out I did enough to get my A.A. in 1995. All the classes I found fun and interesting fit into the Rural Development Community Research and Indigenous Knowledge Concentration.  I always looked forward to picking out my classes from the catalog.  

In 1996 I enrolled into the BA Program for Rural Development.  I continued to take classes and made some friends of the heart through the program, including my husband Ukallaysaaq. I got serious about finishing when my oldest son, Ivik, graduated High School in 2013.  I wanted to get my degree before he got his; that was my incentive.  With laser-like accuracy I targeted and completed the last few classes I needed for my degree.  

I found that I could successfully complete one class a semester since I usually work full time and am a mother and a wife.  I have three wonderful boys, Ivik, Qaulluq and Talugnaqtuaq.  Ivik is a Junior at UAF and his younger brother Qaulluq will start at UAF this fall.  My youngest son, Talugnaqtuaq, is looking forward to Kindergarten this fall, he reminds us that he graduated too, from Pre-School.  I tell them to finish before starting a family. It is so much easier if you stay focused and able to concentrate on classes while you are young, rather than balancing home life with work and school.  

During the course of attaining my degree, I took two classes five times. One was World History. It was hard for me as an Inupiaq to learn about all the atrocities that have happened to Native People around the world.  I was able to pass the class once I created a barrier, a separateness from the people.  Keep trying even if you have to take a class more than once. I did.  I was talking to my sister’s step son; he was talking about being a drop out and how he didn’t finish.  He was really bummed out thinking he was a drop out.  I never thought of myself as a drop out. I knew I would finish. I didn’t know it would take 27 years!

I have had some good jobs, and this degree makes me more qualified for them. I have more opportunities now that I have this hard earned piece of paper.  I am able to graduate because of the rural campuses.  You can stay home and get your degree.  I did!  I am able to graduate with the support of my family, especially Ukallaysaaq--quyanaqpak Uiga.


Johnny Stickman, B.A. ANS 2014

To say that Johnny Kaduck Stickman is a renaissance thinker far ahead of his time would be an understatement. Born of humble origin to a single Native mother and raised in an undisclosed wilderness rumored to be the Yukon River village of Nulato, he overcame many obstacles in life such as stubbing his toe on a door that was left ajar by a reckless individual that shall remain nameless to prevent retribution. He is of Koyukon Athabascan Dena Alaska Native North American Indian consideration and a member of a Caribou Clan.

He graduated from West Valley High School in 2007 and in the fall, pursued higher education just uphill at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He received a B.A. in Alaska Native Studies with a minor in Film on December 2014 and landed internships with the First Alaskans Institute, National Science Foundation, Alaska State legislation, and Get Out the Native Vote via Doyon, Ltd.

In many ways, graduating from UAF, the support of the ANS and Film instructor(s), and comradery from the stellar advisors of Rural Student Services has propelled him to a path of future success. The education he obtained from both the halls of academia and the streets is sure to help him on his noble quest to mold and meld and mesh an ideal demonstration of the modern Native male in the 21st century. This is Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes signing off.


Yvonne and her husband Howard Gregg III have two children, Aubrianna and Howard IV.

Yvonne Gregg, B.A. RD 2015

Yvonne (Ashenfelter) Gregg received a B.A. in Rural Development, with a concentration in Community Business and Economic Development, from UAF in December 2015 and has an A.A. in General Studies from the University of Alaska Anchorage, 2008.

Yvonne is a 2003 graduate of Mt. Edgecumbe High School. Yvonne attended UAA, on-and-off again between 2003 and 2009, until receiving her AA degree. While in Anchorage, Yvonne worked for one of the CDQ organizations and found her passion of working with rural Alaska communities to work toward economic development and self-sustainability. It was during this time that Yvonne discovered the RD program at UAF and felt this degree would suit her best and began taking distance education classes. In 2013, Yvonne returned home to White Mountain with her family and continued to take distance education classes and work part-time. Yvonne loves that UAF has a great distance education program that provides the classes needed to obtain a degree while living away from a UAF campus. The option of distance education courses is what made the RD program attractive to Yvonne and allowed her to live and be with her family at home while taking classes. Yvonne is currently the Utility Clerk for the City of White Mountain Utilities.


Joanne Bryant, B.A. RD 2001

My name is Joanne Bryant and I am Gwich’in Athabascan, originally from Arctic Village, Ak.  My husband and best friend is Robert Bryant of 14 years and I have two brothers and 4 sisters and many nieces and nephews.  I am proud and honored; my parents and grandparents taught me, our language, culture and wealth of traditional knowledge but also, the importance of education and work force.  Today, I am passing that on to the younger generations so they can be blessed as well.

My educational background entail, I graduated from University of Alaska Fairbanks 2001 with BA degree in Rural Development Land/Renewable Resource with Emphasis in Natural Resource Management.   I completed two years intensive internship with US F&WS-Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and landed myself a job as Community Liaison and been with the refuge for 17 years and really enjoy my job.  My duties entails working closely with the tribes on many different issues and also teach and share comprehensive environmental education activities, such as coordinate Youth Conservation Corps program, Camp Goonzhii, public use, staff visitor center,  interpretation, workshop specialist, translation, land and animal presentations among many other duties. My main goal is have an open communication and have close working relationship with the tribes out in the rural villages to meet the village and refuge’s mission. Mahsi’ choo!


Kristy Malamute, B.A. RD 2000

I graduated from UAF with a B.A. in Rural Development, May 2000. Since then, I have worked in a number of positions. My first real job was working with the Louden Tribe in Galena as the Director of Tribal Operations. I lived in Galena for 10 months and then moved to another position working with the Fairbanks Native Association (FNA) with the Che'ghuten' Project, a partnership between UAF and FNA. My professional career began with UAF in 2004. I was first hired by the School of Education, in the Math in a Cultural Context (MCC) as an Administrative Assistant and was promoted soon after. After leaving MCC I started working with Interior-Aleutians Campus (I-AC) helping with the USDA Drumbeats Grant and Veterinary Science Program. I then began working as I-AC's Logistical Coordinator, moved on to become the Assistant to the Director, then to the HR/PPA position and I just recently got a new position as I-AC's Traveling Student Services Coordinator. I am excited for this new opportunity to help bridge rural Alaska students to our campus, resources and programs that we offer. My focus areas are the Nenana and Yukon Koyukuk Regions. In my off time, I love to spend time with my 7 year old son Alex, my boyfriend Barney, and my parents, Victor and Edith Nicholas. My son keeps me busy with snow machining, camping, hunting, and hockey. Healthy living, fitness, both spiritually and physically is a priority in my life.


Minnie Naylor, B.A. RD 2008

Rural Student Services is pleased to welcome their new Advisor, Minnie Naylor. She is originally from Kotzebue and has family from Noatak and Shishmaref. Minnie graduated from UAF in 2008 with a in Rural Development and an emphasis in Community Organizations and Services. She spent the last five years working in Anchorage. Minnie’s last position was Project Assistant with the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska. Prior to that appointment she was the Administrative Assistant for the UAA College of Education. Lastly, she was Village Access Coordinator for Chukchi Campus, performing similar duties that she will assume at RSS. Minnie is replacing Carol Murphrey, who became the Foundation Program Manager at Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation.


Jason D. Smith, B.A. RD 2014

My name is Jason D. Smith. I am half Yup’ik and half Cup’ig originally from Bethel, Alaska. I am the grandson of the Late Peter Jacobs Sr and Lucy Jacobs of Bethel, and the late Peter Smith Sr and Mary Smith of Mekoryuk. I am the son of Showalter Smith Sr and Grace Ann Smith currently of Eagle River.

I grew up in a mixture of rural and urban settings. I lived in Bethel as a child, and then spent my teen years living in Eagle River, Alaska.

I attended the Kuskokwim Campus (KuC) from 2010 to 2012, and enjoyed the learning experience. While there I was enrolled in the A.A. general studies program. I participated in Student Government as a member at large and as President. I was then selected as the KuC Student of the Year for the 2011/2012 school year. I graduated cum laude and was asked to be the student address speaker for the A.A. program.

I then enrolled in the B.A. program for Rural Development with a concentration in Rural Community Business and Economic Development and attended from 2012 to 2014. I spent one year at the UAF campus and the following year, I decided to finish in Bethel since the majority of the classes were offered distance delivery. The next year I finished at the Kuskokwim Campus which is a satellite campus for UAF, I decided to re-start Student Government and eventually participated as President again. I was also a member of the Coalition of Student leaders representing the Kuskokwim Campus. I decided to participate in the KuC graduation in Bethel and spoke as the B.A. student address speaker.

I then started working for the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP Inc.) as a Community Development Intern and was then promoted to a Community Development Specialist.


Bryan Uher, B.A. RD 2012

Bryan Uher is the Administrative Manager at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Interior Alaska Campus.  Bryan has been with the University for the past 14 years, where he started as a Student Assistant at the age of 18, and has moved up to the position he holds today. 

Bryan graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with an Associate of Applied Science in Applied Business:  Marketing and a Bachelors of Arts in Rural Development.  He is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Public Administration through the University of Alaska Southeast. He is currently a Road Service Commissioner for the Golden Valley Subdivision through the Fairbanks North Star Bough and has been a member of the UAF Staff Council.   

Bryan was born in Anchorage, Alaska and was raised in Trapper Creek, located at mile 115 of the Parks Highway.  He enjoys outdoor activities to include:  hiking, snowboarding, hunting and boating.  Bryan’s main hobby is art, where he builds furniture and wall hangings that incorporate Alaska’s beautiful Birch tree.  


Tonya Garnett, B.A. ANS 2002, B.A. Sociology 2002

Tonya holds a B.A. in Alaska Native Studies and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2002. She has completed coursework towards an MA in Rural Development. As an undergrad at UAF, Tonya made the Dean’s and Chancellors list and was the student of the year for both the Alaska Native Studies and Sociology department. She was a student employee for Rural Student Services, Career Services, and Alaska Native Language Center in conjunction with RAHI. Tonya was also a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Tonya is Neets’aii Gwich’in,  is the mother of Ashton Philip Peter, who is 6 years old, and both currently live in North Pole, Alaska. Tonya is the daughter of Lillian and Jerry Garnett, the granddaughter of Ezias and Martha James of Arctic Village, and Edgar and Lucy Garnett, of Cleveland, Ohio. She is originally from Vashraii K’oo (Arctic Village, AK) and enjoys going home as often as time allows to get grounded in culture and clarity in the direction of the life she chooses to live. She spends some time with community volunteer work, dancing with her traditional Native dance group and teaching the songs, volunteering for the Arctic Village Council and staff, and providing mentorship to youth.  

Tonya is currently the Communications Director for Fairbanks Native Association (FNA), a Native non-profit organization and Interior Alaska’s first civil rights organization providing services in the fields of education, behavioral health, and community services. Prior to working for FNA, Tonya has spent much of her post graduate work with Tanana Chiefs Conference Self Governance and Tribal Development, Arctic Village Council, Doyon Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters Rural Expansion Program, and with Three Star Enterprises, LLC on the Administration for Native Americans Alaska Region T/TA contract. Tonya has spent much of her time with meeting facilitations, public speaking, workshop/conference/event coordination, public relations, government relations/education, scholarship reviewer, federal grant reviewer, facilitator, evaluator, and traveling all over the United States meeting with Tribes and Native organizations learning about the projects empowering their communities. Tonya has served as a representative and as a board member on Gwich’in Council International, Yukon Flats School Board, and the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government. Tonya has also served as an ambassador to the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program by presenting at the local high schools on the scholarship process and benefits and as a reviewer of the submitted applications.


Pearl Kiyawn Brower, B.A. Anthropology 2004, B.A. ANS 2004, M.A. RD 2010

Pearl holds a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.A. in Alaska Native Studies from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2004.  Also a Masters in Rural Development from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2010.  She is currently pursuing Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies, with an emphasis in Indigenous Leadership from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Expected graduation date of May 2016. 

Ms. Brower is currently the President of Iḷisaġvik College, Alaska’s only Tribal College.  She has been with the College for the past eight years working in External Relations, Institutional Advancement, Student Services, and Marketing.  She has served as President since 2012.  Prior to working for the College Ms. Brower managed an education and culture grant for the North Slope Borough and worked as the Museum Curator of the Iñupiat Heritage Center. 

Ms. Brower grew up in both Barrow, Alaska and in northern California practicing a subsistence lifestyle in both areas.  She has a daughter who is 3 and along with her husband, Jesse Darling, lives in Barrow, Alaska where she loves to be close to her culture and community.  Brower was named one of Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 this year.  She is Board Member of the Friends of Tuzzy Library, and was a co-founder of Leadership:Barrow. 


Brianna Gray with her husband and two children.

Brianna Gray, B.A. RD 2012

My name is Brianna Gray; I am originally from King Cove, Alaska and currently reside in North Pole. My grandparents are the late Lydia and Ernest William Mack of King Cove. My parents are Dorene Bunch Mack and Lavelle Webb. I am married to LaCross Gray Jr. and have two beautiful children Aaliyah and LaCross III.

I received my BA in Rural Development from UAF; a Master’s of Science in Leadership and Human Resources from Walden University; and a Masters Certificate in Government Contracting from Villanova University. Up until my current position I worked for UAF in various departments from 2009-2012. I moved to Florida from 2012-2015 and recently contributed to the planning and implementation of a welding program at Northwest Florida State College to meet the workforce development needs of the Okaloosa County area. I am currently employed with the Tanana Chiefs Conference as a Community Planning Coordinator. 

I encourage others to further their education through the Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development Program because it revitalized my motivation to continue my journey in higher education. The faculty and staff at DANSRD gave me the opportunity to grow professionally and personally through a curriculum that truly meets the needs of Alaska Native and Indigenous people. I know how important education is in the development of our communities and Tribes and hope to support and set an example as a RD Alumni.


Sandra & her mother Hannah J. Solomon

Sandra Solomon-Madison, B.A. RD 2015

My name is Sandra Solomon-Madison, I am a proud Gwich'in from Fort Yukon, Alaska.  My grandparents are the late Paul and Hannah Solomon, the late Ambrose and Lucy Williams and Moses and Jenny Sam.  My parents are Hannah J. Solomon and the late Jonathon P. Solomon.  I am married to Bert Madison, I have two children (Elizabeth and Vanessa), and four wonderful grandchildren (Denique, Faith, Chance, and Justin).  I would like to thank my husband who was there for me during those long nights and less sleep, to my children and grandchildren who help me take a break from homework, my mom who inspired me to become who I am, my brother and sisters who stood behind me and all other relatives and friends who were there.
For 35 years, I have spent my time facing many issues and challenges as well as enjoyment but my true achievement was not accomplished.  For the 35 years I have always dreamed of receiving a BA degree.  I took my dream and turned it into a reality over a 35 year span and now, I graduated this year with a BA degree in Rural Development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Please don’t ever let your dream fade, keep it alive, even if it takes a lifetime to achieve.


Denali Quyanna Qapvik Whiting, B.A. ANS 2015

My name is Denali Quyanna Qapvik Whiting, born and raised in Kotzebue Alaska. I recently earned my BA in Alaska Native Studies with a minor in American Sign Language with a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.69.  I am Iñupiaq Eskimo and was raised going to camp throughout the year with my grandparents to be immersed in my culture and live a subsistence lifestyle.

Some of my accomplishments while attending UAF included: being the Resident Assistant for the Eileen Panigeo MacLean House; being promoted to the Resident Director of the Eileen Panigeo MacLean House; holding the title of Miss Alaska Teen USA 2011; receiving the Alaska Native Visionary Award by the Alaska Native Heritage Month celebration in 2012; being awarded 2013 Tribal Youth of the Year by the Native Village of Kotzebue; presenting on a panel for the Alaska Forum on the Environment entitled: “Success in College”; representing the Caleb Scholars Program; speaking on the AFN panel on Traditional Family Values about the Iñupiaq Values in 2013; speaking on the panel of Alaska Native Women Leaders at the 2014 Elizabeth Peratrovich event; presenting on rural life as part of campus wide RA training in 2013 and 2014; and speaking on a panel for Rural Student Services at the 2015 Alaska Native Studies Conference.

The Alaska Native Studies Program at UAF was the perfect fit for someone as enthusiastic and curious about their culture and history as I am.  It was always so fun to do research that benefitted my home communities or taught me more about my personal family history.  I had opportunities to interview family members about growing up in camp, hunting, tanning sealskins for clothing, rural leadership, and more. It was hard to leave home in the fall, especially since that is one of the most active times for subsistence hunting and gathering.  I would be in school studying and writing papers about being out in the land while my family and peers were actually at home hunting caribou and gathering blackberries… living the life I was writing about in research papers.  It was hard to miss out on camping and family gatherings while I was away.  However, I realized that I had the opportunity to learn a lot more about the history and traditions of my own culture through active study in this program than I might have if I chose to stay home in the village.

I learned folktales, sewing practices, studied old Inupiaq tools, learned more about the traditional social structures, learned a lot more about Inupiaq spirituality and taboos, and was inspired to focus on learning more about my culture every time I got a chance to visit home.  It was important for me to participate in subsistence activities and help my family when I could, but I also realized that a formal education was important and could supplement this lifestyle.  The ANS degree program offered many opportunities to be connected with my home community and stay immersed in my culture even in a more formal environment. I also knew that my journey, although difficult, would be inspiring to my little cousins and others at home who might consider post-secondary education. I know it is hard to leave home, especially when you come from a small tight-knit community, but the Rural Development and Alaska Native Studies programs created a home away from home for me.  Now that I have graduated, and spent hours upon hours researching, reading about, interviewing, and writing about living a subsistence lifestyle in a rural Inupiaq community, I am ready for the second part of my education journey, which is to actually learn more through doing.  For example, I had recently written about traditional ways of processing seals.  I am hoping to return home this spring to participate in seal hunting and skin a seal the way my aana (grandmother) used to.  I am also working on a book that I hope to get published soon about growing up at camp and learning the Iñupiaq Values.  I would not be where I am today as a young Iñupiaq woman without the experiences that the Alaska Native Studies program at UAF has offered me.  


John Henry, B.A. RD 2015

John Henry is a 33-year-old RD graduate originally from Anchorage, but living permanantly abroad in the coffee growing mountains of Panama. In 2011, after years of volunteer work among Indigenous peoples in Latin America, John and his wife founded a small non-profit whose objectives included cultural revitalization efforts of Indigenous traditional music, storytelling, and dance. Through his work, he began to see the need to make a practical difference concerning the injustices, poverty, and cultural trauma that too often plagued the people he worked with. He felt like furthering his education was the next step. However, working full time, and having a young family in another country presented difficulties for attaining that education. 
After much research, he discovered that the UAF B.A. in Rural Development was a perfect fit for his work with Indigenous Peoples and had the added bonus of offering all classes via distance learning. Also, by using Skype and Blackboard, he could even complete his entire course load of general education requirements as well! The RD courses he took and their concentration on Indigenous Knowledge have already begun to make positive changes in his work with the Ngäbe people of Panama. He has also recently been accepted into the UAF M. Ed. in Cross Cultural Education program and hopes to work with bi-cultural curricula and multicultural affairs in a university some day soon.

Hillary Presecan, M.A. RD 2014

I am a recent graduate from the MA Rural Development program. Since graduating, I've worked as an
 Archivist/Documentary Film Intern at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum. After finishing my internship, I accepted a job offer as an Administrative
 & Museum Technician Assistant at THE INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA at the Crazy Horse Memorial, located near Rapid City, South Dakota. I work under a grant that  brings in American Indian artist to the museum at the Crazy Horse Memorial to do monthly lectures, one person shows, artist in residence, as well as student internships for American Indians to learn more about the museum world. As a museum technician, I will be cleaning, moving, labeling, and reorganizing the artwork and objects throughout the museum's collection.


Sharon Hildebrand, B.A. ANS 2013

The Alaska Native Studies B.A. degree has helped me tremendously with my goals and future career. The degree program introduced me to contacts that I still have today. The week long leadership seminar was the best.  I am currently attending the University of Idaho, College of Law.  I am living with my family in Pullman, WA, pursuing a J.D. with a Native American Law emphasis.


Crystal Frank, B.A. RD 2007, M.A. RD 2011

I am alumni of both the B.A. and M.A. Rural Development programs, class of 2007/2011. I'm Di'haii Gwich'in from Arctic Village and Venetie, Alaska.
Since graduation, I've been the Administrative Assistant to the College of Rural and Community Development, also the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development. I'm currently the Graduate Student and Administrative Coordinator for Cross-Cultural Studies. I've been working for UAF for eight plus years as an Administrative professional and I really enjoy working with students and taking photographs of landscape in the free time.
I'm also a transcriber and a translator in the Gwich'in language. For two years I was working on the Caribou Anatomy Project transcribing Gwich'in stories. It helped me to learn so much more about my language and has given me the opportunity to strengthen my skills as a transcriber and translator.
I encourage young people to be a part of the Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development Program because it has given me many great opportunities in my life. The faculty at DANSRD still continue to encourage me, push me out of my comfort zone and give me opportunities to grow. Other programs that have been a positive influence on me was the Rural Alaska Honors Institute and also an internship with the First Alaskans Institute. I encourage you to apply to these programs, it's worth it.


Aimee Kniaziowski, B.A. RD 1997

The City of Kodiak has a seasoned professional at the helm in her new role as City Manager.   Aimee Kniaziowski accepted and began her position as City Manager in April of this year and loves her new community of Kodiak.   Having spent eighteen years in the city of Unalaska, eight of which she served as Assistant City Manager, Aimee is no stranger to the needs of our rural communities.   Aimee and her husband have raised five children in Alaska and were intimately involved in “growing” the community of Unalaska through their civic volunteering and active participation in their children’s schools.   One of the biggest changes is moving from a 15 mile road system to 100+ miles of roads in different directions on Kodiak Island.   Her work has taken on a “whole new level” from being the assistant to now, City Manager.   The City of Kodiak projects have a slightly different focus as well in that not only are there new capital projects (which Unalaska had seen a lot of over the past twenty years)   but also projects to replace and improve existing, older facilities and   partnering with the Kodiak Island Borough.   The service area becomes larger when you factor in these partnerships.   Kodiak has been very welcoming to the Kniaziowski family and Aimee attributes the community’s friendliness to Kodiak’s long history of new residents with the active fisheries, tourism and Coast Guard contingent on the island.  


Alan Sorum, M.A. RD 2004

Director of Training for Prince William Sound Community College is a natural fit for Alan Sorum.   Although he started his new position with PWSCC this past February he was no stranger to the community or the field of professional training.   Alan has a full career history in marine safety, harbor and port facility management, maritime security and public service.   He has worked in Wrangell, Skagway, Whittier and Valdez (twice, having recently returned to start this position) and has facilitated development plans and training activities for communities around Alaska from Eyak to Barrow.  

Alan was the first RD student to take advantage of the partnership between the UAF Rural Development M.A. program and the M.P.A. program at University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) where students can take classes in each and count towards the RD M.A. or M.P.A.   Alan ended up doing both degrees simultaneously while working full-time as the Valdez Harbormaster.   His M.A. project “Northern Harbors and Small Ports:   Operation and Maintenance” was published by the Alaska Sea Grant Program and can be purchased online at .

As Director of Training for PWSCC Alan can be responsive to industry and corporate training needs quickly.    PWSCC is the only independently accredited community college in Alaska and so can create courses and fee structures to fit specific training requests.   His position includes teaching, development of curriculum and programs for PWSCC and outreach to outside entities to offer these training options for Alaskan communities and organizations.   As Alan says on his personal website “Boating is a way of life here in coastal Alaska…A person can never have too many boats here!”


April Laktonen Counceller, M.A. RD 2006

April Laktonen Councellar entered the Rural Development M.A. program after graduating from Brown University in 2002.   Her masters project “Kodiak Alutiiq Language Conversational Phrasebook (with audio CD)” was published by the Alutiiq Museum.   She is currently the Alutiiq Language Manager at the Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, Alaska and pursuing an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. researching the cultural significance of the Alutiiq Language New Words Council on Kodiak Island.   She will advance to candidacy this summer, and plans to complete her dissertation and graduate in 2010.   She is receiving funding support through the UAF Linguistics program's SLATE grant from the Dept. of Education, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Dissertation Completion Fellowship.


Beverly Melovidov, BA RDEV ’04, MA RDEV ‘07

Beverly began her career with the federal government while in college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.   She works for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in their Wildland Fire   and Alaska BLM Aviation unit.   Beverly started out with BLM as an administrative assistant and over the course of time through her work experience combined with her education she has been promoted to her current position as a Budget Analyst.   The financial oversight includes big ticket responsibilities such as aircraft payments and coordinating the government charge card system.   She likes the direction her career is moving; as her fiscal duties have become more advanced she can now see how budgets are formulated and looks forward to more “big picture” budget planning responsibilities.   Her years of federal government experience also strengthen her background for her newest accomplishment of having been elected for the first time to the Tanadgusix Corporation (TDX) Board, her village corporation.  

Beverly ran for an open Board seat for TDX and won her seat with a solid vote margin which gave her confidence in the community’s faith in her to serve the shareholders well. Her new board responsibilities are exhilarating and daunting.     (The volumes of reading in preparation for meetings remind her of Rural Development graduate classes.)   As one of nine board members Beverly also serves on subcommittees for the village corporation and their Bering Sea Group of subsidiary companies.    Projects range anywhere from environmental clean-up in Hawaii to fisheries related projects on her home island of St Paul.   Some of TDX’s newer ventures include exploring alternative power generation.  

Being the youngest board member is not a problem.   Beverly values the leadership of her peers on the board and appreciates their wise council when evaluating TDX investments.   The board is making the most of modern technology and streamlining their meetings by providing electronic laptops for board notebooks and moving away from the printed binders of material.   The laptops allow for more efficient use of electronic documents, easier and more accurate note-taking and quicker access to pre-meeting materials.   Sounds like TDX is in great hands and will benefit from the sound counsel that their new and seasoned board members bring to the table.


Dawn M. Salesky, B.A. RD ’93, M.A. RD ‘05

Dawn M. Salesky has committed her career toward increasing the employability skills of Alaska Native youth and adults. As Vice President of Kawerak, Inc.’s Education, Employment and Training (EET) Division, she is an active program partner, working with organizations such as the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, University of Alaska’s Northwest Campus, the Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Center, the tribes of the Bering Strait Region, and the Norton Sound Regional Health Corporation.

After many years on her employment and training career path, Dawn has concluded that one of the biggest barriers to employment success among youth and adults is easily preventable. That barrier is the lack of basic math skills (such as fractions and measurements), and geometry and algebra.   She would like to encourage all parents, leaders, friends and college alumni to help our children and young adults focus on MATH SKILLS, especially in preparation for Alaska’s future skilled workforce.

Every workforce category today demands mathematics skills.   Math skills are no longer a requirement for degree-seeking students only. All apprenticeships and training programs require math proficiency, which is most often the one factor that eliminates applicants from these valuable career paths.   Even when specific math skills aren’t apparent for a job, the analytical thinking and logic skills that the math curriculum utilizes are very valuable in today’s work environments…analyzing a problem, pacing workflow, and incorporating self-discipline, to name a few.   Dawn’s advice on how to help get the message out:

Make sure students take math every year in high school (ALL four years of high school). Parents should check each year to see that their child is scheduled for a math class.

Offer to help at least one youth regularly with their math so they don’t get frustrated and quit.

Help students take a college math class if their school can’t offer the next level.

Pass the word to everyone that math skills are required for every job and every college and training program, from art and music to engineering.

When Dawn helps to coordinate job fairs, she asks presenters to show students how math is used in their profession.   In Nome, one presenter started outlining on the white board all of the computations carpentry laborers use, and the students were surprised.   Hands-on demonstrations help students see the relevance of taking math.

Dawn’s commitment to serving the workforce of rural Alaska has resulted in her participation with several statewide advocacy groups.   Dawn serves on the Alaska Native Coalition on Employment and Training (ANCET), of which she currently serves as Chair. ANCET is comprised of representatives from Alaska Native employment and training services from every region in Alaska. She was selected to serve on the Denali Commission’s Training Advisory Committee, and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Section 29 Alaska Native Hire Program Advisory Board.


Diana (Riedel) Burton, B.A. RD 2003

Diana’s name has changed since graduating with her RD degree (she has since married James and they have a four year old daughter Kiley) but she is still growing the same family business she has shared with her mother since she finished apprenticing the art of skin sewing with her through high school.   Dineega Specialty Furs is an Alaskan Native owned family business that specializes in seal and sea otter products that are created by Diana and her mother.   Diana received an Alaska Market Place Competition grant in October 2007 and was able to further develop the business.   She markets her products on their website and at the Ilanka Cultural Center in Cordova.

Diana spent the past few years in Sitka where she was close to a local tannery and Southeast Alaskan cultural activities but is now back home in Cordova where she can operate her fur business and also start commercial fishing with her husband James.   They are geared up to seine salmon on their F/V Keta this summer.   While in Sitka Diana served as Vice Chair for the Sitka Marine Mammal Commission and will continue working on marine mammal management and issues in Prince William Sound.   For now, Diana says “just getting settled back home and playing with my daughter, fishing, sewing, and enjoying this nice spring we just got.”  


Fred Smith, B.A. RD 2000

Ninty-six miles per hour across the smoothest, fresh ice ever seen between Elim and White Mountain…and witnessing Alaska as few can ever hope to imagine.   In what little “free time” Fred gets from his career in operations management with NANA, his Regional Corporation, he has taken up the sport of long distance snow machine racing.   This past year he ran the Iron Dog in the Trail Class with his brother and they are eagerly anticipating their first run in the Pro Class next season.   Growing up in Noorvik, Alaska Fred has been intimately tied to his culture and region and carries that intrinsic knowledge into his management style.   Officially, he is Operation Manager for NANA and President of NANA Oilfield Services.   His dual appointment allows him to contribute to several of the 35 subsidiaries under NANA including those based in Kotzebue.  

The primary focus in operation management, for Fred, is trying to define a direction based on the values important to the company.   For NANA that means generating revenue income that supports building businesses for the NANA region’s future 25 years from now and the multi-faceted projects funded from NANA’s Aqqaluk Trust, a foundation that sponsors Elders programs, awards education scholarships, provides youth with a summer cultural camp (Camp Sivu) and language revitalization.    Fred is proud of NANA’s ability to be successful in a business environment where most competitors look only for the bottom line.   NANA has a profitable net income and still able to implement shareholder hire priorities and business choices that reflect or enhance regional values.   We understand the environment that we work in, according to Fred, and always communicate our values to our operation.   “I’m a NANA shareholder so I can carry that expectation out in our workplace and communicate that to our shareholders.”

NANA Oilfield Services is small (in relation to other Prudhoe Bay operators) but well regarded.   Its 35 years on the “slope” is a long history and is the oldest of the NANA companies.   Fred states that “dollar for dollar we still bring in solid net income to the NANA family.   Revenue and growth are good.”   NANA operations account for 400+ jobs in their home region and shareholder hire takes place as far away as Alexandria, VA and Boulder, CO.    NANA is able to recruit shareholders by Zip Code so all of their subsidiaries can focus on shareholder hire efforts.  

Traveling for the job is a positive as it allows Fred more trips “home”, keeps him grounded to the needs of the shareholders and region, and makes him realize what the financial needs are for families.   In his recent trip to Noorvik he spent $350 on gasoline for his snow machine which made him rethink how far he went out into the countryside.   The work week is more often seven days rather than five and ten to twelve hours a day rather than eight but for Fred this is, again, a positive.   He finds it allows more intense, focus on the project at hand without distraction or interrupted thought.   He also stated that “we have folks working these long days on the slope so it reminds me of what they are putting into the job and I want them to see me as doing the same.”  


Linda Joule B.A. RD ’95, M.A. RD ‘07

Linda Joule is the Executive Director for the Native Village of Kotzebue which provides social services, education, tribal enrollment, cultural preservation and environmental protection for the 2000+ tribally enrolled members.   She and her husband Reggie make their home in Kotzebue.   Her husband Reggie Joule is the District 40 State Representative for Alaska and he met with the DANRD students this past February as they visited Juneau for the RD F492 leadership seminar.   Linda and Reggie have contributed regularly to the DANRD program by teaching at our various seminars and always guest lecturing for our faculty in their distance classes.

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