UAF NWC celebrates 29 graduates at commencement ceremony
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Northwest Campus Class of 2017 celebrated their commencement ceremony last week on Thursday, May 4 at Old St. Joseph’s Hall in Nome.
Students gathered to receive recognition from faculty, administration, advisors, the UA board of regents, and friends and family that gathered into nearly every available seat in the crowded hall.
After an introduction from NWC Director Bob Metcalf, an invocation by Pastor Karen Sonray and greetings from NWC Advisory Council chair Luisa Machuca, Alaska State Senator Donny Olson welcomed the students and congratulated them on the challenging task of achieving a higher education in a rural setting.
Greetings followed from Evon Peter, the Vice Chancellor of Rural, Community and Native Education at UAF, John Davies from the Board of Regents, and from Jim Johnsen, President of the University of Alaska.
Vice Chancellor Peter, Regent Davies and UA President Johnsen all recognized as well the challenges faced by students studying for a degree while living in a rural setting. “We are strong, we face challenges, but we will succeed,” said Johnsen.
The conferring of degrees was preceded by occupational endorsements for Certified Nurse Aides, which were presented by the Chief Nursing Officer from Norton Sound Health Corporation. Certificates were then presented to students completing the Community Health Aide program, Tribal Management, and High Latitude Range Management.
Adjunct Faculty member Joshua Samuels presented the certificates to the 2017 class of Community Health Aides, after a warm introduction and explanation of a health aide’s occupation and the challenges faced in that position. “These are people that give themselves,” said Samuels. “It is a work of love – it is a labor of love.”
NWC Joint Faculty member Jackie Hrabok-Leppäjärvi presented the certificate for High Latitude Range Management, or reindeer herding and husbandry, and welcomed program coordinator Marie Katcheak – who is retiring this year – to the stage to give a few words. After asking the audience to stand and stretch and then take a seat again, Katcheak expressed her appreciation for NWC and the hopeful continuation of the High Latitude Range management program.
After the completion of endorsements and certificates, Director Metcalf, Regent Davies, Vice Chancellor Peter and UA Faculty members then presented degrees to students. Nearly all degree recipients made their way to the podium to thank various faculty members, advisors, family members and friends.
Louise Bauman, who received her Associate Degree in Applied Business Finance, took the podium to thank her family for their support and give encouragement to her children through advice she received from her own parents. “If you are capable, then that is what I expect from you,” she said.
Tom Okleasik, who received his Master’s Degree in Rural Development, thanked a large list of people he has never actually met in person – a common case in campus extensions and rural education settings. Okleasik encouraged the audience to value heritage and culture, and to recognize that there can be many different ways to do things when it comes to achieving a higher education. “Equally, if not more important, is the need to be grounded in who we are,” said Okleasik.
Katya Wassillie of White Mountain, who also received her Master’s Degree in Rural Development, took time at the podium to thank her family, as well as faculty and staff that have helped her continue and further various projects in pursuit of her degree. “Through the experience of higher education, you are growing and learning in ways you have never expected,” said Wassillie.
After closing remarks by Director Metcalf, degree recipients stood to pull their tassels from the right to the left side of their hats, signifying the completion of their undergraduate studies. Members of the Nome-Beltz Choir performed the Alaska Flag Song at the end of the commencement, before students proceeded down the aisle in their final recessional and stood in line to receive congratulations from waiting audience members.
Masters Degrees: Tom Okleasik— M.A., Rural Development; Marie Tozier— M.F.A., Creative Writing & Literary Arts (UAA); Katya Wassillie— M.A., Rural Development.
Bachelor’s Degrees: Jolene Nanouk— B.A., Alaska Native Studies; Theresa Olanna— B.S., Nursing (UAA); Heather Payenna— B.L.A., Interdisciplinary Studies (UAS).
Associate Degrees: Louise Bauman— A.A.S., Applied Business, Finance; Katie Ellanna— A.A.S., Nursing (UAA); Krystal Hensley— A.A.S., Early Childhood Education; Charles Marble— A.A.; Lillie Nylin— A.A.S., Early Childhood Education; Gussie Olanna— A.A.S., Early Childhood Education; Darcee Perkins— A.A.S., Nursing (UAA), Lucinda Wieler, A.A.S., Tribal Management
Certificates: Sara Daly— Cert., Community Health; Brianne Gologergen— Cert., Community Health; Theodore Katcheak— Cert., High Latitude Range Management; Dorothy Kava— Cert., Community Health; Channa Koozaata— Cert., Community Health; Marissa Oxereok— Cert., Community Health; Frieda Southall— Cert., Community Health; Lucinda Wieler— Cert., Tribal Management.
Occupational Endorsements: Jamie Adsuna—O.E., Certified Nurse Aide; Amanda Homekingkeo— O.E., Certified Nurse Aide; Nicole Sherman-Luce— O.E., Certified Nurse Aide; Elsie Strickland— O.E., Certified Nurse Aide; Mary Swann— O.E., Certified Nurse Aide; Rachel Takak—O.E., Certified Nurse Aide; John Washington— O.E., Certified Nurse Aide; Kailey Witrosky— O.E., Certified Nurse Aide.