Faculty and Staff
Dr. LaVerne Xilegg Demientieff is Deg Xit’an (Dene) and her family is from Holy Cross and Anvik,
Alaska. She currently resides in Fairbanks, Alaska, and is working as a Professor
in the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Bachelor of Social Work program where she has
taught since 2006; she is also a licensed master social worker through the State of
Alaska. LaVerne is a statewide trainer on the topics of historical trauma and historical wellness,
adverse childhood experiences, resilience, trauma informed care, and healing centered
care. LaVerne is very active in learning and teaching her Deg Xinag language, she facilitates a
weekly Deg Xinag language learning group and is interested in the connection between
Indigenous language revitalization and well-being. LaVerne’s research interests focus on looking at how cultural and traditional practices contribute
to individual, family, group and community resilience, health, healing, and wellness,
specifically with the Indigenous people of Alaska.
My teaching philosophy is grounded in the 5C’s framework (Compassion, Connection, Community, Curiosity, and Ceremony). The 5C’s derived from Indigenous Elder and Ancestral wisdom and experience passed down and shared with me throughout the course of my life. It is with deep gratitude and good intention that I share these ways of knowing and being. It is my belief that love, reciprocity, sharing and caring, and relationality belong in the classroom and academia as a whole; as well as that we bring our whole selves safely to the classroom so that we can be authentic and present and engaged. When we learn about how trauma impacts our mind and bodies we are more compassionate with ourselves and others. When we are curious about what causes pain and grief we can help to create connection and ceremony for healing. Healing happens when we are in our bodies and in relationship to others and our community.
Retchenda George-Bettisworth, DSW, MSW is Clinical Professor, and Statewide BSW Rural Cohort Coordinator. She has been working in the field of social work for over 20 years, focused in the areas of child welfare, work-force retention, and social work education and administration. Dr. George-Bettisworth is committed to providing access to quality higher education for students in rural and remote areas, and culturally relevant practice for all individuals.
Christina M. Ireton, LCSW, MSW, is a Clinical Assistant Professor and the Field Director for the UAF Social Work Program. Christina has been working in the field since 2010 when she graduated with her BSW from Radford University, and prior to that completed her A.A.S. in Human Services. In 2015, she graduated from the distance-based advanced standing MSW program through the University of Southern California (USC) with a concentration in Community, Outreach, Programming and Administration (COPA). She began her career working with victims of violence in a domestic violence shelter, and she has worked extensively as a client advocate and community-based case manager for victims, people with disabilities, and people with mental health issues. In addition, she has implemented community-based violence prevention programs including Girls on the Run in the Fairbanks community, coordinated fundraisers, and provided clinical social work on an inpatient behavioral health unit working with adults. Additionally, she has served on various community committees, coalitions and board of directors.
Christina currently resides in Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband and young son. Adventure and a larger perspective on life brought her to Alaska from rural Virginia in 2011. Her desire to pursue her MSW and become a professor came from serving as a field instructor for social work students. She has a deep desire to see students be well prepared for the social work field when they graduate, and watching students progress and grow brings her true joy.
Christina is a strong proponent for practicing self-care, especially as social workers who spend their lives helping others. She believes there is both peace and strength in the outdoors, in the mountains, and the land beneath our feet that grounds us as humans and as helpers. Christina’s own life experiences and work with diverse clients across the spectrum of social work gives her a deeper understanding of the complexity and influence of our experiences as humans. She is dedicated to lifelong learning and volunteer work, giving back to our neighbors and our communities.
A non-traditional social worker, Christian entered the field of social work, working, and eventually supervising, a large youth treatment facility in Salt Lake City. Christian later embraced an opportunity to work and live in Utqiaġvik, then known as Barrow, Alaska. While working with the Arctic Slope Native Association, and later Ilisagvik College, Christian joined the Rural Human Services (RHS) cohort through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It was in the RHS program, and later in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) cohort program, that Christian was introduced by Elders and culture bearers to Indigenous wellness and healing practices, specifically talking circles. Upon graduating with his Bachelor’s in Social Work, Christian obtained his Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with an emphasis on behavioral and mental health.Christian is currently working on his dissertation as PhD candidate in Educational Foundations at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. As an adjunct professor in sociology, social work, and education, Christian, honoring Elder teachings, implemented the talking circles that he was introduced to in Alaska, creating a safe space for them to connect, process, and engage in their own healing and wellness journey within academia. Christian is currently researching the talking circle method of delivery and how the same results might be achieved via distance courses (including video conferencing and asynchronous methods). Christian enjoys working in multicultural spaces and is committed to DEI and student success in academia. Christian is excited to be back in Alaska and lives in Auke Bay (Juneau) with his wife, a clinical social worker, and their three young children.
My teaching philosophy is heavily influenced by critical, indigenous, and dialogic pedagogies. At the height of my priorities as an educator is to create a meaningful experience for everyone participating in the class. From my experience, the best way to do this is through recentering to a more indigenous paradigm. I, respectfully, utilize talking circles to create a safe space for them to develop critical consciousness, connect, process, and engage in their own healing and wellness journey, in particular, as it relates to the course content. Believing that critical dialogue and reflection is essential, in asynchronous online courses, I aim to recreate the essence of talking circles utilizing other creative methods. I believe in sharing power with students. Every student is a teacher. Every teacher is a student. We all learn from each other when we remember to remove our proverbial hats. Finally, I believe connection to be an integral part of any course. A successful course is one where students feel connected to the content and are able to relate it to themselves and the world(s) they live in.
My name is Carol Renfro and I am the Administrative Professional for the Social Work
Program. I’ve been working with the department for over 25 years. I really enjoy the
faculty I get to work alongside, and our students are amazing.
I have been married to my soulmate for over 35 years and have 3 grown children, and 2 grandchildren. Alaska is home. I attended Hunter Elementary, Ryan Middle School and graduated from Lathrop High School. I’ve attended the University of Alaska ever since elementary school when I started taking violin lessons from Leslie Salsbury. I played with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, under Gordon Wright and continued studying violin with
Kathleen Butler (pre -Hopkins). I played on the Lady Nanook Basketball team during college where I met my husband (who played for the men’s team.) Our son also played for the Nanooks for several years.
I credit our strong family foundation to our strong faith. I give all glory and honor to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whenever you walk into my office you’ll hear my gospel music playing softly in the background.
My other passions, besides my faith and my family are dancing—zumba, line dancing, learning new dance styles—love, love, love! I love walking, hiking, and tennis, just to name a few. I try to be a shining light to others and try to see the positive in every situation I encounter. I strive to be better person day by day and I’m so grateful for the life I’ve been given.