The Return of Concert Board

Michael Romanovsky, the new student chair of concert board.

Concert Board, an entity funded by the student government fee with the purpose of promoting concerts on campus, has reformed this semester with the intent of bringing music back to the forefront of UAF entertainment. Concert board is comprised of multiple members; an ASUAF presidential appointee, appointees from the senate, media board, and traditions board, a concert board appointed community member, the student selected as the concert board chair, all of whom hold voting power, and a coordinator/advisor that does not hold voting power. Ronnie Houchin, the current ASUAF office manager as well as coordinator/advisor to concert board, is helping to recreate concert board after a complete reorganization that occurred last semester. “Last semester there was quite a bit of transition within ASUAF; both the previous coordinator, Matt Roberts, position was eliminated and the previous ASUAF office manager left the university, so that put us in a position where my position was recruited for,” Houchin states, “I started in late september, and with the transition of me being onboarded, it took us some time before we could recruit for the concert board position and ultimately hire Michael Romanovsky and have him get started.” Michael Romanovsky, a senior in the business management program with a concentration in marketing, was chosen to fill the position of concert board chair and has been working closely with the board since the start of the semester. Romanovsky also volunteers as a DJ for KSUA, and serves on the station’s media board. “I’m a good negotiator,” Romanovsky says, “but I’m able to compromise and see what values everyone brings to concert board and respect that as well. I’ve been a KSUA DJ for 2 years, so I know music, and have been interested in local music since I was a high schooler here in Fairbanks.” While Houchin and Romanovsky make up only a fraction of the collaborative process that is concert board, their goals as members are simple. “I think for concert board, we’ve been inactive for a little while and it’s been a long time since concert board did a really big show, so a goal I would have for concert  board would be to take some time to understand the student body,” Houchin explains, “What they’re listening to, what they want to see on campus, do they want local shows, local bands on campus, or big national acts to come and play, do we want bands, singer/songwriters, etc , and to kind of just make the most of this responsibility concert board has to entertain the student body.”


UAF students and advocates celebrated at National TRiO Day event

Student Support Services (SSS) is one of the eight designated TRiO programs that aims to identify and serve “individuals disadvantaged backgrounds.” TRiO stands for the three original programs (Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Student Support Services) that were authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965. 

For students in the program, SSS provides invaluable help and resources to complete a college degree. Students can qualify by meeting low-income requirements, being the first generation in their family to earn a degree, or having a gap in their college education.

Along with Student Support Services, UAF also provides services through the Upward Bound program which provides guidance and educational opportunities to college-bound high school students. The third of the original programs, Talent Search, aims to encourage “persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or postsecondary level to enter or reenter” and finish their degree.

Celebrating shared success

Dr. Alexander Hirsch speaking on the TRiO Day Panel (Photo taken by Victoria Avery)

TRiO Day is celebrated annually and UAF held its celebration Thursday, February 21, in the Wood Center Multi Level Lounge. The panel discussed the importance of equal education opportunities for underrepresented populations and emphasized the need for more collaboration between departments, especially in these times of uncertain budget cuts. The panel consisted of Dr. Arleigh Reynolds representing the BLaST program, Amy Cross from the Nanook Diversity and Action Council, the director of the Honors House, Dr. Alexander Hirsch, and current SSS student senior Karissa Paschall.

The TRiO Achiever award was given to the UAF Director of Admissions, Samara Taber, for her advocacy as a former student in the program.

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office was recognized with the TRiO Champion Award for their advocacy of TRIO programs at UAF. Special Assistant to the senator, Trina Bailey, accepted the award and read a letter from Murkowski aloud. She also spoke on her experiences as a first generation college student, and what it meant to her for graduating with her Bachelor’s degree.

Sarah Curtis holding the SSS office mascot, “TRiOculus,” handmade by former adviser Dana Kinzy (Photo taken by JR Ancheta)

Provost Dr. Prakash provided words of encouragement and relayed her own life experiences of first arriving in Fairbanks from India. Provost Prakash encouraged students to seek out help when they need it because they are not alone here at UAF.

The event was well attended with over 60 faculty, staff, students, and community members including City Council Member Shoshana Kun and Assembly Member Leah Berman Williams for the 2019 TRIO Day.

The student speaker for the event, Charles Rossiter, also spoke on his life experiences as a DJ and a music rep for Warner Brothers and how big of a deal it is that he gets to walk this spring to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. In an interview leading up to the event, he gave additional details about his story.

Completing a dream, 20 years later

Twenty years, ago, Rossiter began college at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He never imagined that 20 years later, after several states, a few universities and over 100 credit hours later, he would be finishing up a bachelor’s degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Originally from Fairbanks, Rossiter grew up in a military family, living on Eielson Air Force Base but his father was moved to Nebraska when Rossiter was 15.

“I didn’t graduate high school. I always tried to do things other other ways, not bad ways to get around things, but different,” Rossiter said. “When someone says, ‘You have to do it this way,’ and I was like ‘Why can’t we do it this way?’”

He always struggled with math in particular and recalls a poster in his 9th grade math that was pivotal in the direction he took.

“One side [of the poster] had levels of math and on the other side it had all the jobs you could get. So there was one job that you could have that didn’t require any math and that was DJing. So I told myself, ‘Well if anything fails I’ll just become a DJ,'” he said. “And that’s what I ended up doing. I had my own DJ company and I ran it for 15 years.”

Originally starting his business in high school, at 20 years old he worked as a DJ for a fraternity at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO). He really liked the guys but realized that the only way to get into the fraternity himself was to be accepted into the university.  Without ACT scores or even a GED, he had a bit of catching up to do.

He passed the GED exam as well as the ACT without really studying.

“I just took [the ACT]; never even heard about it before but passed it and got a decent score,” he said.

When he spoke with an admissions adviser at UNO, she brought to his attention that out of the 16 high school classes required to be admitted, he only had 4.

Rossiter recalls, “She told me, ‘I’m going to let you go to school here and I’m going to approve your application and you will be admitted into this university but if your grades fall below a 2.0 at any point you will be kicked out and never be able to [return to] a university ever again.’”

At that point he purposed to never let his GPA fall below a 3.5, which he has kept up throughout the years.

“I never screwed that up because she gave me this opportunity that I knew I would have never ever gotten anywhere else,” he said. “I now had my foot in the door.”

It was certainly a challenge for him and he remembers struggling through some of the courses to keep up with his peers, given the gaps in his high school education.

He was majoring in Philosophy but ended up quitting the program, working as a DJ and bartending instead to make ends meet. Later on, he returned to study radio engineering and production for a time but after turning down a job offer with Warner Bros. in California, he found himself back in Fairbanks.

Rossiter speaking to the TRiO Day audience (Photo taken by Victoria Avery)

When he returned in 2009, Rossiter initially worked as a waiter and bartender, but ended up managing two local bars because of all his cumulative experience in the industry.

He still held a desire to return to school, though, so he started a two-year associate degree program at UAF Community & Technical College (CTC) for Early Childhood Education. He found it to be too much, though, particularly because of the early morning children’s programs he needed to attend following late nights of work.

After another break from school while continuing to manage bars, he finally decided to get out of the business entirely.

He said, “It was something I didn’t want to do anymore because of the hours. I’d been in the industry for 20 years and I was done with it.”

“I decided to come back to UAF because I’d had so many classes from different areas and had so many college credits and so much money in student loans,” he said. “I had so many credits that I should have had a degree I just didn’t.” 

Somehow, with all the starts and stops of classes at various universities, he had managed to avoid math entirely.

“I was bouncing around between too many schools and never took a math class,” he recalls. “If I would have continued to get my degree [at one school] they would have had some requirements but I wasn’t taking general requirements, I was just doing specialty classes.”

Since becoming a student again, he has now taken three, although two “didn’t matter.”

“I took one for Early Childhood Education then I took a Developmental Math course just to get me back into the idea of doing math.” He went on, “But last semester I took 113 [Numbers and Society] which is the the only math that’s required for my degree. I ended up with a really high B which I was really happy with, but I had to put a lot of effort into it.”

In addition to avoiding math, somehow he had never had an adviser at any of his previous schools.

“I never understood everything that was required, I just was interested in learning. So finally, for the first time, it was the fall of 2017, I met with my first adviser, 18 years after I started college”

He was uncertain which degree to pursue, but when he learned about the Interdisciplinary Studies option he was sold.

“I didn’t know that any school would offer something like this.”

With the help of his advisers he was able to cut the time required to complete a bachelor degree down to two years by using his transferred credits to count towards requirements for the BA program.

He is now completing his final semester at UAF and will be graduating with honors in May. This is a “huge deal” for guy who never graduated high school and almost got away with never taking a math class.

As for what’s next, he is contemplating his options. He is interested in possibilities teaching in the bush or maybe even going overseas. 

He jokes, “I have to actually become an adult now at some point,” but continues, “I have [an] opportunity to go to Germany so I might move [there]. … I always want to come back to Alaska, though, this is my home.”

Valuable services and resources for students

Rossiter was very motivated but now realizes that wasn’t enough.

“I think it would have helped a lot, but I still wouldn’t have had direction,” he said. “I would have taken classes that might not have helped me in my degree and I didn’t really understand DegreeWorks.”

Victoria Smith sees it similarly from her perspective, as director of Student Support Services.

“I think [Charles] is a really good example of a returning student with the motivation and the skills to be successful but just needing somebody to help navigate and assist them after returning to college.”

Beyond the advising, he is grateful for the simple services that SSS offers.

“Having a coffee maker, a place to study, and a place to come up and use a printer–[these are] very logistical services they offer but that are extremely important,” Rossiter said. “To be able to go up and even ask a simple thing like ‘Can you look at this term paper?’ or ‘What do you think about this scholarship essay?’ or asking my adviser about [the ELIF building] and whether or not there are good places to study.”

Simply being able to grab an orange between classes when he’s hungry makes a “huge difference as far as my mentality and spirit.”

“[All] of that helped me out way more than just the motivation I had to finish the degree. It gave me the doors to walk through and it opened up doors for me that I just wouldn’t have known were there,” he said.

Samara Taber also recognizes the valuable help available at SSS.

“Their staff is exceptional and not to say that all the staff at UAF isn’t great but when I go into the TRiO office I just instantaneously feel welcomed.”

Taber was a member of SSS when she attended UAF, and is receiving the TRiO Achiever award for her advocacy and commitment to educational access in her position(s) in the Office of Admissions.

Finding a way to pay

After maxing out his Pell Grant and student loan options, Rossiter has needed to rely on scholarships to pay for school–an additional incentive to keep his grades up. His regular adviser as well as those at SSS have connected him with scholarship options.

“I think there is only one [scholarship] that wasn’t through SSS directly but it was all from the advice of my advisers letting me know, ‘Hey these are opportunities that come about and you should apply for these scholarships.’” he recalls. “So at least all my tuition is paid for and I have a lot of oatmeal,” he laughs.

Taber found herself in a similar situation when she was a student at UAF. As a first generation, low income student, making ends meet was tough.

“Throughout college I just struggled tremendously financially. It was really, really hard. I went to the food bank and I was just barely making it through,” she said.

Forging new paths

Rossiter and Taber both qualified for SSS as low-income, first-generation college students, meaning they were the first in their families to seek and obtain a college degree.  After high school, both of Rossiter’s parents began working so they were never able to give him advice on attending a university.

Rossiter explains, “My dad had taken a couple classes and my mom had taken some computer classes but neither of them had ever graduated from college.” He continued, “I would never blame my parents or regret anything but they didn’t have very much direction to give me when it came to college because it was something they’d never experienced.”

Taber had a similar experience.

I was first-generation, low income, my parents always said to go to college but they absolutely had no idea how to advise me about how that would happen,” she said.

Although they didn’t have the finances or experience to guide her down that road, she is grateful for her parents’ undying support and encouragement in taking the college path.

Passion on a mission

Victoria Smith knows the program well after being involved as a student then becoming an adviser after graduation. Smith began in the TRiO programs as a middle school student, and continued in the “pipeline” of programs through college. Working for SSS was simply a continuation of this journey.

“[It] was my second professional job and has been the focus of my life’s work since then. It very much became clear to me that I found the place I was supposed to be,” she said.

UAF Student Support Services Staff pictured with Dr. Prakash (Photo taken by JR Ancheta)

After being in multiple TRiO programs, she understands the student population well and from her vantage point working as director, she sees the efficacy of the model. 

She continued, “The services we [provide have] direct impact on student success and I think very few people get to see that direct application of services and seeing students be successful.”

Taber has also enjoyed seeing similar impact on the student population with her work in the admissions office.

Beginning in her previous position as Associate Director of Admissions at UAF, Taber’s self-described “passion project” has been focused around removing cumbersome requirements for students to apply and be admitted to UAF, especially those who are low-income, first generation, or non-traditional.

“The thing I accomplished that was kind of a passion project of mine for a long time was [looking] into how it would work to allow students to apply for admission with self-reported test scores and unofficial transcripts, just for reviewing purposes,” Taber said.

She found that the University of California, among other schools, had been doing it this way since 1984.

“Many of our students have a lot of different community college credits from many different places and asking for official copies to even simply review them is very expensive,” she said.

Someone who might simply want to take online classes through UAF might be turned away by this requirement, she notes.

“If [a student] had gone to a lot of different schools, it’s really not unusual to have five or six different transcripts. Most schools charge $50 to $75 per transcript plus the application fee, and to me that’s a barrier,” she said. “I wanted to remove those barriers.”

In cases like these, she sees an individual showing “persistence and resilience,” trying to finish something they may have started years ago. 

Due to her efforts, UAF has adopted the same admissions policy, only requiring self-reported test scores and unofficial transcripts for the initial application. If a student is accepted, official documents are still required after being admitted “incomplete,” but they have more information to make that decision about which university to attend.

Now, as director, Taber continues to advocate for students who are just like she was– lacking resources and often basic knowledge about how to navigate the ropes of higher education.

A seat at the table

Smith recognizes the trade-off she now has as director of SSS  but knows it is worthwhile.

“It’s hard because as I’ve moved into the director position, I’ve had to downsize my caseload of students,” Smith said.

“Not that I don’t still get to interact or advocate, it’s just to be able to do that higher level advocacy you have to have a seat in the chair at the meeting,” she continued, “and if I’m at a meeting, I’m not really available for students.”

One thing she has noticed since moving up to her position is the invitations to advocate at those meetings.

“It’s been so great to be invited to the table. … We’re getting invited a lot more and the University has been seeing the value in the work that we do and that is so encouraging,” Smith said.

Taber sees the same effect in her position, now being able to advocate for students on a larger scale.

“One of the ways I enjoy growing in my career is that I feel like the decisions I make impact a wider breadth of student,” she said.

Advocacy and awards

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office received an award for their advocacy of UAF’s TRiO programs.  After almost losing the Upward Bound program last year after a budgetary error on the grant application that disqualified them from even being read by the Department of Education, Murkowski and her team saved the program.

“To get the Department of Education to backtrack on something and reread grants that they didn’t even have the money for, some serious work happened behind the scenes to make that happen,” Smith said.

Taber received the TRiO Achiever Award this year. This award is given to a student who previously went through a TRiO program and who, as Smith puts it, “has gone on to do great things in their life after graduating and moving into the workforce.”

As the Director of Admissions, she is in a place where, like Smith, she can more rigorously advocate for students who were just like her when she came to college.

Smith went on to describe Taber, “She’s so passionate about it which is what I get really excited about. Seeing somebody who has that equal level of passion in a department that isn’t mine, you know? To see people in admissions and in the registrar’s office who care just as much as I do, that makes it really meaningful.”

Encouraging students to continue on

Samara Taber speaking at the event (Photo taken by Victoria Avery)

Taber wants to remind students that no matter how dire their situation feels, they are not alone.

“At the Office of Admissions, we have quite a few first generation college students as staff, like I am.” 

She continued, “I just think it’s important that students understand that there are so many people that are just like you that maybe seem like they’ve accomplished all these things and they’re super professional but they were absolutely in the same position you are in.”

She now realizes she was certainly not alone when she first came to UAF.

“I just felt embarrassed; I just didn’t know that I was surrounded by so many people that knew what I was going through.”

Rossiter often gives his nieces, who are in high school, advice about their future college decision. 

“I always tell them to go to school.  Whether they know what they want to do or not they can still go to school because the opportunities they will have after they graduate are way more than they have if they don’t graduate.”

What Is #BrownUpYourFeed?

Mandy Harris Williams presenting on #BrownUpYourFeed at UAF. / Photo taken by JR Ancheta

Created by Mandy Harris Williams, #BrownUpYourFeed is about the reclamation of your social media space, representation, and pushing black and indigenous people to the forefront. She described the movement as a consistent pathway and grasping of what we have internalized about beauty and how it works.

“When we talk about beauty what we are really talking about is the propensity to receive love, interpersonally, and societally.” Through this movement she urges consumers to investigate our views and why we see less beauty in certain, specific demographics.

“I’m betting it is because we haven’t seen it on screens, screens represent glamour and success.” She proposes the question: “Now that we can all make images for screens, what can we do as consumers to push against what we’ve internalized and learned?”

The hashtag began as a response to the natural hair movement which, for a lot of people, was the first time seeing and experiencing a large promotion of black beauty. The natural hair movement sparked a community of black women throughout social media who began to cut off their previously relaxed hair to accept their natural textures, some of which these women never knew or experienced.

Black hair culture had then experienced a shift and launched full force into rejecting European beauty standards. Through this new journey of self-love and acceptance, black women began to educate themselves and others in mass about curl patterns, hair porosity and circulated the in-depth hair care language that we see reflected in advertising today. The movement however was quickly co-opted by women with loose curl patterns and light skin who were already represented and highly praised in the media.

“What has clearly taken place is that mixed raced people with one African descended parent have stepped in to represent blackness wholesale. Beyond that, in a white supremacist society, black people who are perceived to have more whiteness are going to be elevated.” said Williams.

With movements like #brownupyourfeed, cultural appropriation becomes an issue. One discussion of cultural appropriation in recent news includes Ariana Grande, who recently dropped the single “7 Rings” a pop and trap mash up who multiple people felt overstepped cultural boundaries.

“You have this convenient story that people tell themselves about black culture being cool and hip. It becomes this slippery slope where you have people who are light claiming this right to perform African descended cultures.” Williams said. “Because we still live under white capitalism you end up with a preference for those people. Due to the fact that most Americans have grown up with that visual indoctrination with all things being equal, the lighter popstar will be chosen.”

Lyrics such as “You like my hair gee thanks just bought it” have frequented throughout social media captions causing an influx of promotion towards wearing hair extensions while black women continue to live with hair related trauma, abuse, and widespread harassment over their hair length, textures, and authenticity.

“We have deep internalized antiblackness. You are going to get people that are barely black, performing blackness and claiming that it is their right. That’s how blackness works its always been about us not getting credit for what we do.” Williams stated. “Ariana is a natural result. If we can deconstruct the reason why we see certain people as less beautiful and move in another direction then we can have less Ariana Grandes.”

Brown up your feed may have began on Instagram but its message can be applied throughout education, art, advertising and all other platforms that send visual messages. As consumers we can push black and indigenous people to the forefront as they have been invalidated and dehumanized for the entirety of US history.

“For every one person that succeeds because of white supremacy, thin supremacy, there are ten people that get invalidated. That’s a bummer and it keeps consumers from having quality products. ”

Mandy Harris Williams goes by she/they pronouns, and can be found on Instagram @idealblackfemale

Troopers make arrest in 1993 Bartlett Hall cold case murder


Sophie Sergie. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Troopers.

Alaska State Troopers arrested 44-year-old Steven Harris Downs in Auburn, Maine on Friday for the 1993 murder and sexual assault of Sophie Sergie in a UAF dormitory bathroom.

“This arrest is the culmination of [over 20] years of effort and tenacious attention by this department to solve a horrendous murder,” said Amanda Price, Department of Public Safety Commissioner at a news conference Friday afternoon.  

Downs has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault. He will be extradited for prosecution in Alaska.

Steven Harris Downs was arrested Friday, Feb. 15 in Auburn, Maine. Photo courtesy of Androscoggin County Jail.


20-year-old Sergie made plans to return home to Pitkas Point after her stay with her friend, Shirley Wasuli, in Fairbanks for an orthodontic appointment. She disappeared after midnight to smoke a cigarette next to the exhaust vent in the tub room off the main bathroom area because it was cold outside. Case investigator Sgt. Jim McCann said Sergie was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

A custodian found Sergie’s body in the second-floor bathtub of UAF’s Bartlett Hall in the early afternoon of April 26, 1993. She lay strewn in a pool of blood, pants at her ankles, with facial stab wounds and the fatal bullet of a .22 caliber in the back of her head. No one recalled hearing the gunshot.

The original News-Miner story on the 1993 murder. Photo courtesy of The Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

At 18, Downs was a UAF student living in Bartlett Hall and working as a university security guard with his roommate, Nicholas Dazar. Dazar was interviewed in 2010 after investigators learned he was fired for possessing a firearm in the dorm. He did not own a .22-caliber revolver at the time he lived in Bartlett Hall, but as he told investigators, his 1993 roommate did. Forensic scientists confirmed the bullet from the crime scene would have been fired from such a gun.

Downs was identified as a suspect in the cold case through the use of genetic genealogy. An investigator for Alaska State Troopers’ Cold Case Investigation Unit decided to try the technique in July 2018, after its use to identify and arrest the suspected Golden State Serial Killer. Blood relatives of suspects are found by comparing DNA collected at crime scenes to that submitted to public genealogy databases. Such DNA technology was not used in Alaska in 1993, rendering the DNA found on Sergie’s body useless for 26 years.

Downs had been working as a registered nurse in Maine and was noted with disciplinary action and unprofessional conduct. In the days leading to his arrest, Downs still denied knowing Sergie and stated he was with his girlfriend most of the night she was killed. He told authorities he “remember[s] the pictures, it’s terrible, poor girl.” He also said if he had known anything he would have come forward immediately. Downs voiced his suspicions of Ft. Wainwright soldiers to troopers “repeatedly” as they were “often in the building.”

With the help of Maine authorities, AST later arrested Downs and he is set to for transfer to Alaska to face justice.

“The impact of [the] murder was felt statewide,” Price said. “The many investigators who have continued to work this case never let the loss of Sophie leave their mind.”

According to AST Director Barry Wilson, “Justice for Sophie is finally within reach.”

Proposed university budget could lead to loss of programs and campuses

On February 13th, Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year went public.  Included in this proposal was a $134 million decrease in the operating budget for the University of Alaska system from the current fiscal year.  This would drop the budget by about 41% from what is currently available, leaving the university with a budget of $193 million.  In an email concerning the proposed budget changes, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen discussed the drastic negative effect they would have on the University of Alaska.

“Cuts at this level cannot simply be managed or accommodated,” stated Johnsen. “If this budget passes the legislature, it will devastate university programs and services, and the negative effects will be felt in communities across the entire state.”

This is far from the first time that the university system has faced budget cuts in recent years.  Johnsen discussed the impact recent cuts have had on the university’s operations during a press conference on February 13th.

“UA has taken cuts four out of the last five years, we’ve laid off over 1,200 faculty and staff, we have cut over 50 academic and degree certificate programs.  We have been forced to raise tuition and we have watched our enrollment decline. So we know how it is, how cuts can be managed, and we know the negative impacts that cuts have on us, on our students, on employers of our students, on communities where our people live, and on our state.” Johnsen said.  “A cut this big, though, can’t simply be managed while maintaining campuses and services and programs across Alaska.”

In the past, the university system has faced multiple removals and combinings of programs.  However, with the amended budget proposed by Governer Dunleavy, university programs might not be the only thing being cut to make ends meet.  Many employees of the university would lose their jobs, enough that entire departments or even campuses would be affected.

“I am confident we’ll need to close campuses if this budget makes it all the way through the legislative process.” stated Johnsen.  “Again, we’ll need to eliminate a lot of programs, we will reduce services, no question about that.”

Elaborating on the magnitude of the cut, Johnsen compared it to the costs of running campuses around the state of Alaska.  “We have thirteen community campuses across the state, that’s only $38 million there.  Closing all of our community campuses is just $38 million, that’s not even a third of what this cut is.  All of UAA is $120 million, so closing the entire UAA campus does not meet this cut.”

“As a result of these proposed budget cuts we are heading into an extremely uncertain time.  There are going to be a lot of discussions, there’s going to be lots of options on the table, there are going to be lists with programs and names, and so a lot of uncertainty going forward.” stated Johnsen, acknowledging the difficult path ahead for the University.

In his closing remarks, Johnsen encouraged cooperation among the members of the University of Alaska system, as well as hope for the future.

“There will be a University of Alaska next year, and ten years from now, and twenty years from now.  Our state needs us, we may be less of what we are today but our state absolutely needs us.  And so what we need to focus on during this time is students, and our mission.” Johnsen continued, “And we also need to take care of each other.  What often happens in difficult organizational climates like we’re heading into is people start cheating inwards.  Elbows get real sharp, and there’s a lot of anxiety and tension and competition within the organization.”

If you wish to contact Governer Dunleavy concerning these budget cuts, you can do so at the official Office of the Governor page located here.

Shia’s Solutions – Allyship and Education Resources

Q: “I was wondering if there were any organizations you know of with a presence in Fairbanks that I could join or any resources I could use to educate myself with so I can be a better ally to POC and the LGBTQ+ communities here?”

Shia: When approaching activism, advocacy, and allyship, it is important to acknowledge how classism, stereotypes, and intergenerational trauma affect the people in need around you. Having regular conversations about how to become a good ally is essential because each demographic in need has varying experiences and disadvantages. Learning the difference between cultural appropriation vs appreciation is a good foundation to ensure that as an ally, you aren’t overstepping your boundaries. Uplifting the voices of people of color and activists within the LGBTQ+ community is just one small way to utilize your privilege. Correcting stereotypical statements that promote a culturally ignorant atmosphere can help build a community with a low discrimination tolerance.

Other ways you can support include: donating clothes, food, and menstrual products to shelters and individuals in need. On-campus organizations that students can utilize for community support and outreach include the Native Student UnionNanook Diversity and Action Center, Resource and Advocacy Center (or Interior Center For Non-Violent Living), Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Generation Action and Festival of Native Arts. Off-campus organizations include PFLAG, Fairbanks Pride, Fairbanks Queers and Allies, Native Movement, Native Peoples Action, Boys & Girls Club, Gender Pioneers, FCAC,  and the NAACP.


For the most up to date campus-wide resources, utilize the app Org Sync to join clubs and view events.

Design and Technology: Apple AirPod Earrings

Browsing social media is one of the best ways to stay current on news, technology, design and trends. On January, 26  I stumbled upon a tweet by non-binary designer Gabrielle Reilly otherwise known as L. This tweet included a video of their most recent design, an Apple AirPod earring. Apple AirPods cost approximately $160 and are completely wireless. Upon the release of the AirPod, discussion erupted addressing what consumers would do if they misplaced one of their headphones. Apple has since released a wired attachment for these cordless pods, however, some would argue that this design was less than sensible.

The creative process included a major need for a device that prevented the displacement and destruction of their AirPods. “I think the best inventions come out of having to fulfill a need.” L stated. The earrings consist of only a few materials including chain, plastic and jump rings.  The future of this design looks bright. L currently has a patent pending to ensure ownership of the design and will be custom making each pair of earrings to suit consumer needs. They are also working on making earrings for people with unpierced ears and are considering making an earring for those with stretched lobes, though they are more difficult to accommodate.

As a designer, L has been familiar with DIY and craft making as long as they can remember. When asked for their opinion on the future of design and technology L listed their friend Spicy as an inspiration.

” There are some very cool people doing very things. My friend Spicy (spicy.obj on Instagram) has been making 3d models of clothes, shoes, makeup, and herself. She really takes the future to the next level and makes me feel like people will start to do more adventurous things with inventions that already exist.”

This invention proves to me that the merge between fashion and technology is closer than we think. What results from that merge however is completely unpredictable.

“We are definitely moving away from tradition and making our own. Technology kind of implies that objects are functional, but Spicy has proven to me that they don’t have to serve a specific purpose. They can just be.” L replied

If you would like to stay up to date on this designer you can follow them on Instagram @deadanimom and you can purchase these earrings at

Shia’s Solutions – Lemons and Climate Change


Q: “I was trying to eat my lemon during one of the lectures yesterday but everytime I tried, it felt weird to take a bite and like the other students were judging me. When would you say is the perfect moment to eat my lemon during a lecture? I was thinking of chewing with my eyes wide open while I stare at the professor to make sure he knows I am still paying attention. Would that be acceptable? I don’t wanna risk to suddenly be not kewl anymore.”

Shia: Maintaining eye contact with the professor during lecture seems like the best way to achieve your goal of eating a lemon. Lemons aren’t usually eaten whole so students may be judgmental due to their inexperience, you shouldn’t take this to heart. Due to the fact that lemons are so sour, I would recommend being conscious of your facial expressions at this time to reduce onlookers and criticism. Good luck in your lemon eating ventures!



Q: “I am haunted by a recurring dream — every night I see a redneck type of a guy squatting in the Matanuska holding a human-sized Chinook salmon. While the dude is full of self-content, the salmon’s bulging eyeballs are rolling in a caleidoscopic whirl begging me to end his suffers and save him from the bitter destiny of a trophy fish. Would you say the dream has a meaning? Dream telling aside, would you support UAF students teaming up for redneck-free waters in Alaska?”

Shia: Your dream can be interpreted as your calling into a field dealing with environmental justice, and wildlife. Trophy hunting is seen as a large issue, stemming from greed and domination. One would say that because Alaska is already seeing so many effects of climate change it should be residents top priority to preserve and protect the population of our wildlife.



Q: “Some weeks ago, a fellow student started to show me pictures of her cat. I honestly didn’t mind at all and I have looked through all of them (the cat wore a pumpkin costume in one picture but I’m not sure if you would call that a costume because it was an actual pumpkin and the cat looked kinda mad). Anyway, she has now started to text me pictures of her cat, too, with weird role-playing captions like “just chilling out in the sun dreaming of catnips lol” and I was sitting on the couch with my dog when I got it and now my dog thinks I am cheating with another pet. How can I resolve this without hurting anyone’s feelings? I really like my dog.”

Shia: The jealousy of ones pet can feel like a stubbed toe, but it isn’t the end of the world. If you would like to stay in the good graces of your dog you should introduce your pet to the cat that has peaked your interest. This will help them to familiarize the scent of the animal and understand that you respect their place in your life as your primary companion. Although cats and dogs can be sworn enemies, this could spark a long lasting friendship.

















Catastrophic climate effects

The view of Big Diomede, Russia from Little Diomede, Alaska shows what should be covered in ice in February. Bering Sea springtime sea ice extent in 2018 was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1850.
Photo courtesy of Little Diomede resident Henry Soolook.


By Mackenzie Sylvester

Climate effects foreseen to hit by mid-century are already present in Alaska. Sea ice surrenders to astounding high winter temperatures. In February 2018, the Arctic experienced temperatures 45 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

“The Arctic is a preview for what the rest of the world can expect,” said John Walsh, chief scientist at the International Arctic Research Center at UAF.


The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming highlights the risks expected to surface by 2040.

In 2015, 195 nations adopted the Paris agreement that set goals to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) and to keep increases well below 2 degrees Celsius. The atmosphere’s temperature is expected to rise to 1.5 degrees by 2040 if the current rate of warming continues.

The report, with 91 contributing authors and over 6,000 scientific references cited, emphasized the climate change impacts that would be avoided by limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. By 2100, coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with a smaller increase, but at 2 degrees Celsius, virtually all coral reefs would be lost, according to the report.


“We are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree Celsius of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” panel co-chair Panmao Zhai said in the IPCC press release.

Climate change in Alaska and the Arctic is more dramatic and is happening faster than it is in the rest of the world. While those in the lower 48 still have 30 some years before these “catastrophic” events are expected to surface, Alaska is already enduring the effects.

On average, Arctic temperatures are warming twice as fast as in the rest of the world. Some of Alaska’s permafrost has been frozen for thousands of years. As it thaws, methane and carbon dioxide are released. Increases in the amount of water vapor in Alaska are proportionally larger than they are in other states. Along with carbon dioxide, water vapor is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Open water in the Arctic extends as sea ice melts, leaving more room for evaporation.


Bering Sea ice coverage in the spring of 2018 was at the lowest since record-keeping began in 1850. “It’s the sign of the times,” said Rick Thoman, Alaska climatologist for the National Weather Service. “I bet we won’t have to wait another 160 years to see a year like we had last year for Bering Sea ice.”


Change is evident to many Alaskans. October in Fairbanks entailed of nearing 70 degrees on the first, which usually averages only 30 to 46 degrees. This year has been the latest Fairbanks has gone without at least a trace amount of snow, according to a tweet by the National Weather Service Fairbanks.


Spring begins earlier than it used to. “We have data from about 1929 from the Fairbanks International Airport,” said Christa Mulder, professor of plant ecology at UAF, “on average we are about eight days earlier.” Spring, as Mulder defines it, is a period of five days in a row without freezing.


Summers have become longer than they were in the past. “We can expect it to increase by a month or two by the end of the century,” Walsh said of the lengthening growing season.


“This report just kind of validates what we’re seeing in our part of the world,” Thoman said, unsurprised of the doomsday-esque findings, “Here it’s so obvious.” Areas south of the Arctic, where climate changes are less dramatic or more episodic, may be getting caught up now, Thoman said. By 2040, Alaska will be “much further along than where we are today,” he said.


Animals have been observed to adapt to a changing climate. “As shrubs increase on the North Slope, we see beaver in places that they’ve never been observed before,” Thoman said. When they build their damns, they change the local flow of water. Moose are moving north and westward in search of food, Thoman said.


As the ocean warms, fish are going to migrate to places they have not been seen. Acidity levels in the ocean have been rising which poses threats to marine life. Salmon depend on tiny snail-like creatures called therapods for food. “In a more acidic environment the theropods can’t form their little tiny shells, so they can’t survive,” said Nancy Fresco, a climate change researcher at the International Arctic Research Center at UAF. “They’re an integral part of the food chain when the salmon go out to feed at sea and grow big and fat and come back and spawn in our rivers.


Freezing rain in 2013 caused more than 61,000 reindeer deaths on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Bruce C. Forbes in the 2016 Biology Letters.

Reports have shown caribou die-off ensues from mid-winter rain as they struggle to dig into the frozen ground for food. A study in the journal Biology Letters recorded a rain-on-snow event in 2013 causing 61,000 reindeer deaths on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Bruce C. Forbes, the study author, found the immediate cause of mass mortality was the solid ice barrier across the ground.

Some of the Arctic mammals that depend on ice are heavily impacted by the warming climate. “The sea ice is not there where it used to be and the animals are reliant on that,” Fresco said.

Walruses can no longer rest on large, spread out ice packs before diving for food. They are forced to haul out on small land-areas on the coastlines in Western Alaska and Eastern Siberia. Walrus stampedes have become prevalent in over-crowded shore haul-outs, endangering the young.

Scientists agree that fossil-fuel burning is a large factor in the increased global temperature and a large-scale transition to renewable energy is an essential step toward a solution.

The challenge in bending the curve on greenhouse gasses is knowing the people of today will likely not live to see their efforts, but there is no time to be wasted, as Thoman said. “At this point there is so much heat built up in the oceans, if civilization collapses and 99 out of every 100 people in the world die tomorrow, it will take centuries for that heat in the ocean to work its way out.” There is no silver bullet. Cultures in history have taken the “longer view.” “It’s not that humans can’t do it, it’s that we don’t do it. We have to, in the Western world, start adapting that attitude.”

Alaskans do not need to wait until 2040 to see the effects of the climate crisis. The rest of the world only needs a look north to see what is coming. As Thoman put it, “The bad stuff is here.”

UAF Professor coauthors study in Science magazine


The collection of bones and tools from which the infant’s tooth was discovered sat in a museum in Copenhagen for nearly 70 years. Photo Credit: Jeff Rasic National Park Service


UAF researcher co-authors study about first Americans

UAF Professor of  Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Dr. Matt Wooller’s isotopic analysis of a 9,000-year-old tooth was published in Science, one of the most prestigious journals in the country.

Wooller’s work allowed insight as to the diets of some of the first inhabitants of Alaska based on a nearly-forgotten artifact from a cave on the Seward Peninsula. His work led to a counter-intuitive finding.

“The site is surrounded by ocean and yet what we found chemically in the tooth was signatures that were more consistent with a terrestrial-based sources of food compared with marine sources despite marine resources surrounding the site,” he said.

Wooller said that this finding was particularly puzzling considering that the only other known site of these people, whom archaeologists call the Ancient Beringians, is in Interior Alaska on the Upward Sun site on the Tanana River. Paradoxically, those isotopic analyses showed a strong preponderance of marine food sources.

“Of course salmon are anadromous, so they are bringing marine nutrients into Interior Alaska,” he explained, “That’s how we reconcile that, is that those people had access to in close proximity with the Tanana River where today we have salmon.”

The site at which the tooth was found is located near Deering, Alaska in an area that is now inhabited by Inupiat Eskimos. Dr. Wooller and his colleague Dr. Jeff Rasic, who works with the National Park Service, said that they worked closely with the Deering Tribal Council to make sure that the research on the human remains was conducted with local input, which Rasic says can be a sensitive subject.

“We formally met with the IRA Tribal Council and raised the different possibilities for research with the collection and gauged their interests and input and objections,” said Rasic, “And they had none. They were curious to learn about their site more.”

The story of how the tooth was found stretches across decades and continents. According to Rasic of the National Park Service, the tooth was unknowingly excavated at a well-known cave at a site called Trail Creek back in 1949 by a Danish archeologist, Helge Larsen. Larsen brought the artifacts, which were mostly caribou and small mammal bones, back to Denmark, where they sat until 2012. In that year, a German graduate student conducted a thorough analysis of the bones and for the first time discovered an infant deciduous human tooth among the remains. That was when Rasic heard about the find, and he decided to investigate on a previously-planned trip to Copenhagen. 

“I brought the tooth to the attention of the ancient DNA specialist. It happened that one of the leading DNA labs in the world–and there are very few of these–happened to be in Copenhagen, so it was a very easy connection to make,” said Rasic.

The DNA analysis revealed that the tooth was indeed related to the oldest known inhabitants of Alaska, known as the Ancient Beringians, a term which was only coined in 2017 by another UAF archeologist, Dr. Ben Potter, who found cremated remains at the Upward Sun Site. That DNA showed only a distant relationship to the Native American lineage dating back to 35,000 years ago. Potter thus surmised that the Ancient Beringian lineage had died out while the Native Americans went on to colonize the rest of North and South America.

Pieces of the tooth were sent out to other laboratories for analysis across the world, including to Oxford, England where direct dating was done. A small portion was also sent to UAF for the isotopic analysis.

“The tooth is gone, there is one small fragment that we retained, but between the dating and DNA analysis that consumed the bulk of it,” he said, “We were very thoughtful, I think about that. We knew upfront that this was a very rare specimen and we were careful to squeeze every little bit of information from that tooth out of it.”

While the tooth no longer exists, Rasic says that scientists made high-resolution photographs of the tooth, and made a 3D copy of it so that future researchers can continue analysis. 

So are these the first ever Americans? “It looks that way,” says Rasic. “These are the earliest Alaskans and the earliest Alaskans are the earliest American.”

Still, he cautions not to read too much into this most recent analysis. “More finds, more analysis could change the picture,” he says, “We’re dealing with a sample size of just two Ancient Beringians, but each of those samples points to other relationships.”