The candidates present for the town hall. From left to right: Tim Lamkin, Grier Hopkins, Ed Alexander, Billy Toien, Van Lawrence, Adam Wool, Rep. Scott Kawasaki, and Bart LeBon. Not pictured: Sen. Mark Begich.
Though the town hall was small in attendance it was overall hailed a success.
With the midterm election just around the corner, ASUAF hosted a town hall on Oct. 24, allowing the Fairbanks community to ask questions of those running for office. However, the town hall lacked the presence of Sen. Mike Dunleavy, Sen. Pete Kelly, Kathryn Dodge, Rep. Steve Thompson, Rep. Tammie Wilson, Jim Sackett, Kevin McKinley, and Rep. David Talerico.
Over the course of 1 ½ hours, various hot-button questions of concern to the residents of Alaska, such as the Permanent Fund Dividend, affordable education, preservation of Native Alaskan culture and the environment were brought up. These questions showed the myriad of concerns that Alaskans have and the responses were just as myriad, some crystal clear, and others more difficult to discern.
“I gotta say this was an excellent event. Although I am not a Fairbanks citizen and I voted in Anchorage. It was really interesting to be able to understand what is affecting Fairbanks and the community, what’s affecting the community that I’m currently living in,” said Emma Ashlock, a current University of Alaska Fairbanks student.
Rep. Scott Kawasaki
That sentiment was echoed by UAF alum Christina Sinclair, “It went very well. I really like that UAF and the students are getting more involved in politics because it is very important to us. I recently graduated and getting involved in politics I see how it can go hand in hand. We have a very diverse community here especially at UAF and we need to make sure that the students are protected and the best way to do that is with legislation.”
The event featured the gubernatorial candidates, state house and representative seats. It allowed the population of not only the university but also of the greater interior a chance to ask questions of those they will elect to represent them on Nov. 6. The chance to come in direct contact with their representatives allows a more human approach to a political system that, more often than not, doesn’t allow the people to meet their representatives.
Grier Hopkins (right) and Tim Lamkin (left).
When asked how the event went from the coordinating side, the overall opinion from Daniel Vaziri, the public relations director for ASUAF was that the town hall was, indeed, a success:
“[The town hall went] Surprisingly very well, because we were expecting more people but after Walker dropped out then no one knows what to do, everyone’s confused. But with Audrey, Bernard, Peter, Dawson, they all were making calls until 10pm till the Wood Center closed trying to get as many candidates as they can, being as fair to everyone as possible, organizing it […] But I think it went very well because we still have candidates talking to people right now they showed up on time,” Daniel Vaziri, the public relations director for ASUAF.
Gubernatorial candidates Sen. Mark Begich (left) and Billy Toien (right).
Though the turnout was small for the town hall, the ability to watch democracy in action was invaluable, even with the swath with candidates who weren’t present. Which, in and of itself is telling of the priorities of those who chose to be at an event to earn money for their campaign than to talk to the grassroots supporters of politics, and the future of politics, the young people.
Voices of Our Ancestors: Documentary film to revitalize the Indigenous languages
Yup’ik, Inupiat, Tlingit, Alutiiq, Koyukon, Aleut, Tsimshian, Gwich’in, Haida… Alaska is home to more than 20 Native languages. From the fjords in the Southeast to the northern tundra where it meets the Arctic Ocean, the Alaskan languages have been spoken and sung for tens of thousands of years. Sadly, all of them are facing an imminent risk of extinction.
On this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day (Oct 8), the UAF community had an opportunity to reflect on revitalizing the Indigenous languages. An award-winning documentary short, “Voices of Our Ancestors”, was screened to the public in the Ballroom at Wood Center.
‘Waats’asdiyei (Joe Yates) is introducing his documentary short, “Voices of Our Ancestors” to the audience before the screening.
The event started with an introduction to the film by the director, ‘Waats’asdiyei (Joe Yates). Yates is a Haida from Craig, Alaska, majoring in Film here at UAF. “Our mission is to spread awareness on the state of our languages right now, to inspire others to learn their language, and to provoke them to teach what they know,” said Yates to the audience of about 50 people.
The 12-minute-long documentary was shot mostly at Yates’ home, starring his Yup’ik wife, Charleen, and daughter, Nayak’aq. Yates narrated how the Yup’ik and Haida languages are being forgotten as elders pass away, along with the hope to revitalize the languages. “After having my daughter, she re-woke my spirits. She made me realize that I don’t know enough to continue on our history,” said the Haida director in the film.
The film showed the Yates’ teaching their daughter Yup’ik and Haida by reading her children’s books and putting name tags on various objects in the house. Nayak’aq, who was at the screening with their parents, would grin and laugh whenever she saw herself on the screen. Although the circumstances of her languages are certainly not positive, the big smiles that she made to her elders’ songs showed a living hope. With parents like the Yates’, her languages will survive and be passed on to her and her children.
The documentary film, “Voices of Our Ancestors”, is screening in the UAF Ballroom in Wood Center.
The greatest moments in making “Voices of Our Ancestors” were “Seeing the growth of my daughter’s knowledge of both her culture’s language; that and my wife is understanding more Haida and I am learning more Yup’ik,” Yates told the Sun Star in an email interview. He said his family was his biggest inspiration to create this film.
“My wife’s culture is so beautiful and vibrant, it’s not hard to see how strong their culture is. With my language, Haida language is slipping away, my goal is to keep it alive and the best way I know is to teach it to my daughter. My wife and I agreed before our daughter was born that we wanted to teach her our languages.”
In fact, Charleen was not only his motivation but also one of his most valuable colleagues. The film’s authentic feels of home and intimacy that gave the audience a warm satisfaction naturally stemmed from his close collaboration with others.
“Charleen helped me out tremendously and not with just the cultural side, but she made sure the story was there and would notify me if anything looked of sounded off. I received a lot of advice from my professor, Rob Prince as well. After going to my wife, I’d go to him to get more of the filming side of the advice. Other than those two, my co-worker, Buck, helped me out a lot with my outline and helping me how to animate my title,” Yates wrote.
But not all processes were smooth, the filmmaker also mentioned. “On this project, I was doing both [the technology and story] sides. I was directing, starring, working with sound, everything. In the beginning we had to re-do a few interviews because the audio wasn’t up to par.”
‘Waats’asdiyei (Joe Yates) talking with the audience after the screening, holding his daughter, Nayak’aq, in his arms.
And it seemed like Yate’s endeavor has paid off. Wataru Takahashi, an anthropology exchange student and amateur filmmaker from Japan, praised “Voices of Our Ancestors” as a “very well-done film” with so much information in short runtime yet with the perfect amount of weight.
Takahashi said, “the reason I found [the film] very interesting is because, usually in university, all teachers and students think we have to study –in general, people have to study–their own language, but they don’t say they want to teach their own children in the future. Now I want to know more about the Alaskan languages.”
He sounded inspired by how the Yates’ taught their daughter Yup’ik and Haida. “I found it really cool that when they put stickers which he writes the name of the furniture in their language. It’s very cool to learn language as a life-tool in baby’s life. For me, I can use that way to learn the Athabascan, Yup’ik or Inupiat language,” said Takahashi. He was already a fan of Voices of Our Ancestors.
“Films are a really good tool to inform who don’t know or who don’t have really strong interest in this kind of issue,” he said with enthusiasm. “I really want to watch the full-length film.”
Image courtesy of FBX Films
Yates is currently making the 26-minute-long television version of Voices of Our Ancestors with a plan to have it completed by the end of this year. This longer version will contain the stories of the Yates’ visit to Kasigluk, Alaska, where Charleen is from. Yates is also planning on making a full-length version of the documentary but told the Sun Star that it is hard to predict what will be in it. “My goal is that we will go to my hometown, Craig, Alaska, and have both my wife and daughter adopted in the Haida culture so that they both can have a clan. Within the documentary, I explain further on what all that means,” the rising director showed his ambitions.
“A message I would like to share with the Indigenous communities at UAF is that I am honored every time I am able to speak. I know there was a time that if you were able to speak to a crowd, you were most high honored to do so,” Yates wrote.
He also shared a message to the UAF’s non-Native populations, “a Seawolf is a Haida creature that we share in our stories often. Before you chant ‘what’s a Seawolf’, Google the question first!”
“Voices of Our Ancestors” won Best Alaska Film by the MôTif Film Festival in 2018 and an award by the Ketchikan Film Festival in the same year. The documentary was also nominated and officially selected at other film festivals.
Gwich’in elder Luke Titus gives a blessing at Troth Yeddha’ Park, the future site of an indigenous studies center.
The University of Alaska held day-long celebrations for Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, October 8th with guest performers from around the community and a visit from the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska.
“There was a time that this university reflected a society that was not particularly embracing of or understanding of or even welcoming of Alaska’s First Peoples and other races, and that has changed powerfully as society has changed,” said Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallot, a Tlingit from Yakutat in an interview with the Sun Star.
The day began with an invocation ceremony that was shortened by the cold temperatures that left the twenty or so spectators shivering as they circled up around the grass at Troth Yeddha’ Park on West Ridge.
After delivering the invocation in Gwich’in, Vice Chancellor of Rural and Native Education Evon Peter announced new funding goal.
“Our number one fundraising priority for the university is getting Troth Yeddha’ built,” he said, referring to the planned indigenous studies center. Troth Yeddha’s architectural plan was completed in 2014 by a renowned national architect, but lack of funding has stalled construction since then.
At the invocation, Gwich’in elder Luke Titus recounted a story of growing up in his home village of Minto, 60 miles down the Tanana River from Fairbanks. He recounted waking up in an unheated cabin on days much colder than Monday’s 20 degrees.
“Who in the heck would wanna get outta bed when its -30, or -40 outside?” he joked, “My uncle taught me to do those things without complaining.”
Celebrants walk from Troth Yeddha’ Park to the Wood Center on Monday Morning
Titus said his uncle would wake him on those cold morning and he would pretend to be sleeping, but eventually was forced to go outside to “run out,” for a morning jog. He was supposed to go to a certain tree a ways down the trail and come back to the cabin. One day his uncle caught him turning around before his tree.
“In life you can’t take shortcuts,” he said, “In life you are going all the way, and if you try to cut off, you’ll get caught like that.”
After the 10am invocation, celebrants walked down to the Wood Center for an impromptu dance performance that redirected traffic through the side stairs.
Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed the bill establishing indigenous peoples day in July of 2017. That makes Alaska one of only two states to recognize the day, which was formerly celebrated in Alaska as Columbus Day.
Dancers Julian Thibedeau, Evon Peter, and Travis Cole perform an Athabaskan dance at the Wood Center
Julian Thibedeau, a second year student in Rural Development and a member of the Troth Yeddha’ drumming group at UAF, echoed Mallot’s optimism about the progress the university has made in recognizing indigenous heritage.
“It’s huge,” he said referring to the celebration, “When we ignore the facts of the origins of our country–and don’t get me wrong, American has done a lot of good, and stands for a lot of good things–but it’s huge for the university to acknowledge us. It doesn’t fix all the wrongs.”
He said that he sees reasons for optimism elsewhere too.
“Not just at the university but around Indian country there’s progress being made,” he said.
Afrosexology informs students with sex positivity trivia night
With questions concerning contraceptives, sexual acts, and sexual health, visiting sex educators Afrosexology hosted a special night of trivia in the UAF Pub on September 20th, followed the next day by a workshop on building an ideal dating life.
Rafaella (left) and Dalychia (right) hosting the Sex+ Trivia Night.
As the hosts of the trivia night, Rafaella and Dalychia sat near the front, next to a screen displaying the questions. With years of experience as Afrosexology, they’re no strangers to holding educational events such as this one. After each set of questions, students would bring their group’s answer sheets up to the front, where they were collected. After all of the sheets were collected, Rafaella and Dalychia would reveal the answers among cheers and frenzied discussions between members of the various teams. The focus of these questions was to create discussion and inform the students about a variety of sex positivity related topics.
“Afrosexology aims to educate, explore, and reclaim Black sexuality and promote Black self-empowerment through sexual liberation,” said the duo in an email interview.
Questions were organized under categories such as this one.
Although the focus was on education, plenty of fun was had by those involved.
“We had a great time at UAF! Trivia Night was lively and we were really excited to see how engaged everyone was,” said Dalychia and Rafaella. “We heard that Tuesday trivia night is a big deal, so we are glad to know that everyone had a great time. We love our workshops because we get to help people challenge negative messages and explore new ways to experience sexuality. We hope that those who attended the Build Your Ideal Love Life felt the same way. ”
With how packed the Pub was, and with how loud the cheering was for the winners, it would certainly seem like the students enjoyed their time with Afrosexology.
“I thought it was fantastic. Some questions I had never really thought about a lot, so that was fun and challenging,” said Bobbi, an english and art major here at UAF.
Jeremy, a communications alumni, also enjoyed the trivia night and said he would “absolutely” come to another Afrosexology event if they came back up to UAF in the future.
Winning team “Kavanaugh? Kava-nope” with their 1st-place prize.
Talking about potentially coming back up and doing more events in the future, they said: “We would love to come back to UAF, just not during the winter!”
“We want to remind the Nanooks that your pleasure is essential! The relationship that you have with yourself and others should be as pleasurable as possible,” said the duo in a final message to UAF. “We encourage you to continue the work of unpacking shame, rejecting negative messages, and strive to live your most authentic lives!”
You can find Afrosexology online as @afrosexology on social media.
Celebrated Ceramics Artist Patti Warashina Visits UAF
Patti Warashina explains her creative process at a presentation on Wednesday
Patti Warashina, an iconic Japanese-American ceramics artist from Seattle, visited Fairbanks last week for a workshop sponsored by the UAF Students Ceramics Arts Guild.
“When the Ceramics Guild proposed Patti I said, ‘No way, she’s too big of a star!’ ” said the Faculty Adviser for the guild, Jim Brashear, in introducing Warashina, “But she was super excited to come up.”
Brashear said that Warashina is considered a pioneering iconoclast in a movement of ceramics called California Funk that evolved from a hyper-masculine ceramics styles of the 50s and 60s.
“California Funk started looking at mold making: Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and that kind of shit, that was considered kitschy,” said Brashear, “Patti was one of the first successful artists to come out of that and she was the first successful female [ceramics] artists.”
Warashina hosted a public two-day workshop at the UAF ceramics studio as well as giving a presentation about her work that was attended by about forty people. The 78-year old Warashina talked about her wide-ranging influences–from the religious fragmentation of the Japanese American community she observed during her upbringing in Spokane, to her flower garden and King Tut– that have inspired her art over her iconoclastic 50-year career. While a lot of her recent work has included political commentary, she says she hasn’t let it get her down.
“My work is so happy,” she said.
Warashina says that she never tried to make explicit feminist commentary, but that it was taken as such.
Despite her trailblazing achievements, Warashina said she usually wasn’t trying to make feminist statements, but that they came out naturally from influences she was feeling.
One of her earlier pieces entitled “Clothesline Robbery,” portrays a naked woman smiling ebulliently from atop a car towing the scraps of a run-over clothesline. “I wasn’t consciously doing it as a women’s thing, but because of the timing it was taken as such,” she said.
In another example of her light-hearted irreverence, Warashina talked about her portrayal of her then-husband sitting atop a rat in “A Procession.” “My husband asked, ‘Why’d you do that to me?!’ I said, ‘It’s my work, I can do what I want.”
Despite her age, Warashina said that she continues to work in the studio and sleep only a few hours per night.
“I cat nap, but I sleep for two hours and then I’ll wake up and I just gotta read something,” she said, “But I still love going into the studio, and I feel bad when I don’t go in.”
Zoey Hensley, a sophomore art student, attended the workshops and said she was interested in Warashina’s entry into pottery.
“She talked about what was popular when she started was these large, macho, pots, and she started using things that were considered kitschy,” said Hensley.
Hensley said that she has never run into the barriers of being a woman that Patti described from her early career.
“She got picked on a lot,” said Hensley, ”I haven’t had any problems with gender issues, and thinking about what she did is so much more impressive.”
Colors, glitters and beats! Caravan of GLAM takes over The Pub
For at least one night every semester, UAF turns into a venue of pride where everyone can be whoever they want to be, as free as they can ever be. This fall, the night of colors and glitters arrived on Sep. 21, as the Caravan of GLAM came to perform at The Pub in Wood Center.
The Caravan of GLAM is a drag show based out of Portland, Oregon. At this Fairbanks show, Johnny Nuriel, Verxsai, and Isaiah Esquire took the stage along with local performers, Vivi and Bianca. The audience of over a hundred people filled The Pub. It was not hard to catch the evident excitement in the air, especially with guests of all age in a variety of shiny costumes.
The show kicked off as Nuriel, Esquire and Verxai danced on the stage to “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. Esquire encouraged everyone to take pictures during the show, not forgetting to mention how fabulous their costumes were.
The host of the show was Bianca. In their red skirt with white polka dots, Bianca led the show by doing jokes with and dancing among the audience. The crowd cheered even louder every time Bianca walked into them to collect tips.
Verxai pushed the already heated audience even further to the edge by inviting one of them onto the stage for a shot of drink. But Verxsai didn’t stop there. To everyone’s amusement, Verxsai drank the rest of the bottle bottoms up.
Nuriel, who was on the stage in a glittering red dress, was perhaps the highlight of the first act. They swirled and spun around with flashy scarves in both hands, leaving the audience no choice but to hold their breath. It was when Nuriel stripped almost naked the audience broke the silence with a roaring cheer. Esquire scored the last session of the first act with their acting, comedy, and dancing.
The performers continued to showcase their respective talents. Verxsai in a Mulan costume opened the second act by acting out “Reflection”. Vivi showed off their adorable yet eccentric dance moves, which included their bra pads flying out.
Following the dances, strip-teases, and jokes by Esquire and Verxsai, Nuriel waved and swirled two long rainbow-colored scarves.
“If we don’t step outside of our comfort zone, we never be able to get a chance to learn how we think and what we experience,” Esquire said in a heart-to-heart before the last number. “Everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. So please be patient and be kind and be receptive of other people.”
In an email interview with the Sun Star, Justin Buckles, producer of the show, has sent a similar message to the UAF and LGBTQ communities of Fairbanks. “Never be afraid to be yourself! Live open, live honest, work hard, set goals, and do all that you can to steer clear of the BS and drama. Every single person has the ability to achieve whatever they set their minds too,” Buckles wrote.
Johnny Nuriel, a cast member of the Caravan of GLAM, is performing at The Pub.
And it seems like Buckles and his cast have found an original way to live a brave and joyous life. When Buckles started the Caravan of GLAM in 2013, he wanted to create “outside-of-the-box entertainment and tour into smaller cities and towns that do not have big city entertainment.”
“My goal is to expand the brand around the world. I currently book Isaiah and Johnny around the world at festivals, and a lot of that exposure has come from their involvement with the Caravan of GLAM. We’re in 20 states and Canada already, with a bunch of television and media appearances under our belts as well,” Buckles wrote.
It was not hard to see that Buckles’ plan has worked out so far. The audience at the show was very content with their ‘GLAMorous’ experience. Bryce Schwarz, a justice undergraduate, said this was his first time coming to see the Caravan of GLAM.
“There is a lot of interesting bits in between the performances, and they are a lot of fun. It’s a very good experience, and I would definitely recommend it to everybody who’s interested in it or curious about it,” said Schwarz.
This September’s show was the Caravan of GLAM’s sixth performance at UAF. Considering the success of the show, it is expected that the Caravan will return to Fairbanks in February next year.
Meanwhile, Buckles is bringing Latrice Royale from RuPaul’s Drag Race to town on Nov. 3.
UAF Hosts Ceremony to Inaugurate new Combined Heat and Power Plant
Tents erected for Wednesday’s event at the former site of the UAF Greenhouse, which was dismantled to make way for the new Combined Heat & Power Plant.
About 200 people celebrated the near-completion of the nation’s first coal-fired power plant in a decade at UAF with a ceremonial flip of a switch last Wednesday, August 29.The event included speeches from a state Senator and the President of Usibelli Coal Mine, which has long supplied coal to the university power plant.
“I thought a lot about what this means to the university,” said UA President Jim Johnson, who also spoke at the celebration, “It means the merging of state of the art technology and responsible natural resource development.”
The event also included a ceremonial switch-flipping event, though the plant is not expected to be fully operational until the end of November. Currently, the different systems are being tested independently.
Though the event on Wednesday was celebratory, UAF Public Information Officer Marmian Grimes acknowledged some mixed feelings about building a coal power plant at a time when about 27 such plants have closed since 2017, according to the Sierra Club.
“We certainly recognize that this is unusual to be building a new coal plant in late 2015,” she said in a phone interview, “but for Fairbanks, and for the university, that option made the most sense from the economic, logistical and even an environmental standpoint. The new plant does greatly reduce emissions.”
Guests at Wednesday’s event listen and learn about the new plant.
The 9-story power plant uses a circulating fluidized-bed technology, a more efficient industry standard, instead of the Atkinson Power Plant’s stoker boiler, a technology that dates back to the 1890s. Project engineer Piotr Sawka estimated that the new boiler would use about 20% less coal per unit of electricity produced.
Particulate emissions, which are a major health concern in winter in Fairbanks, will be reduced by an estimated 45%, according to the project website, as will other contaminants such as sulfur dioxide.
“This plant is designed to have the lowest emissions of any plant in the US,” said Scott Bell, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Services. It also is permitted to run on up to 15% biomass, though so far the university has not found a reliable source, according to Grimes. It also has the potential to be retrofitted to burn more than that, or, with a little more invested, be converted to natural gas, should it become more cheaply available.
Construction teams broke ground on the project in early 2014, but the origins date back to December 11, 1998, when a pipe from one of the coal-fired boilers burst, shattering windows in the plant and shuttering electricity and heat to buildings across campus. Power wasn’t restored for 12 hours, but the incident stoked Mike Ruckhaus, a Senior Project Manager along with Utilities Director Chilkoot Ward to begin investigating alternatives to the old Atkinson plant that was nearing the end of its planned 50-year operational life.
Ruckhaus showed off his commemorative t-shirt from the time at Wednesday’s ceremony, which read “Where were you when the lights went out?”
Speakers on Wednesday elaborated its ability to secure the $245 million in funding in a time of tight budgets, though they acknowledged the project was not without hiccups. A major one occurred when Ruckhaus and his team were working on a comprehensive project estimate and realized that they were about $50 million over their $245 million budget. By slashing the administrative room from the plan and leaving the room designed to house the biomass turbine empty, the administrators were able to cut the costs back to within the original estimate.
“You can’t do those things because I sit here and tell somebody to do that,” said Ruckhaus “there has to be a level of cooperation.”
While the mood Wednesday was of celebratory students and faculty interviewed by the Sun Star had mixed emotions about the plant.
“It’s a pretty impressive structure–it’s huge and state of the art!” said Sherjeel Cheema, an Electrical Engineering Sr. who interned at Chugach Electric in Anchorage last summer and was at Wednesday’s event, “Of course you always want the greenest technology and the cleanest fuel, but in Fairbanks coal is the only fuel that is economical.”
The new plant is linked to the old Atkinson Power Plant through an elevated tunnel, allowing workers easy access to between the plants.
Computer Science professor Jonathan Metzger brushed off any criticism of the plant. “It [coal] is more efficient than it’s ever been,” he said, “It’s not like you can put wind up here–I don’t think anyone wants to build a nuclear power plant up here!”
Wenshi Fraser, a civil engineering Junior, was more critical and expressed an interest in seeing more investment in renewable energy. “I like that it’s fitted for other options,” she said, referring to the potential to retrofit the plant to burn more biofuel or natural gas, “But it is what it is.”
Fraser said that although she found the building to be an eyesore each day when she walks from her residency at the Sustainable Village, she has come to appreciate it for a paradoxical reason.
“I like that it’s right in front of you so that people can decide what they want their future to look like,” she said, ‘It is a good reminder since it is right in front of you every time you come onto campus.”
What depression looks like for UAF students
Alaska is notorious for seasonal affective disorder, which a 1992 study said affected 9.2 percent of a random sample of 283 Fairbanks residents. Hoping to update some of that mental health research, Kathryn Harrod interviewed UAF students about their experience with depression.
“There is not a lot of research going into Alaskan college student life so it kind of opens up a new demographic,” Harrod, an undergraduate researcher, said.
The study was based off of the Social-Ecological Model, which was developed by the CDC to understand what factors into violence. The model includes four levels of influence: societal, community, relationship and individual.
“We found that there is another [level] that needs to be included for Alaska in particular which is an environmental level—because we have the darkness in the winter time,” Harrod said. “So that could potentially benefit research in Alaska or other places with seasonal affective disorder.”
The goal of Harrod’s study is to find out what factors helped or hindered students coping with depression at UAF. Two undergraduate students are in the process of analyzing the audio from the ten interviews—looking for similarities and differences.
Harrod said students brought up things that are commonly known to ease depression, such as exercise.
On UAF Research Day, April 10, Harrod presented on the use of photo elicitation as a method of interviewing.
The 10 participants were instructed to bring two photos with them to the interview: one that represents what it’s like to be a student living with depression and one that brings the participant hope in the face of depression.
“People who brought in the photos, they really seemed like they put effort into it and put some good thought into it and it really reflected how they felt,” Harrod said. “So I think that photo elicitation in general could even be useful for interviews involving other mental illness or difficult topics.”
Photo elicitation is a method designed to help prompt the interviewees to discuss topics. Adding the visual element seems to evoke more feelings, memories and information, according to a 2002 review by Douglas Harper, a professor of sociology at Duquense University.
“It was just a really nice starting place,” Harrod said. “Kind of just breaking the ice instead of just jumping right into questions. It helped us relate on a level before we got into the more complicated stuff.”
Feeling through photography
At the Research Day showcase, Harrod’s poster had a few examples of photos that participants took and what those students had to say about them.
One participant’s photo was just of the interior of their backpack—loose change, pens and crumpled pieces of paper lining the bottom.
“Yeah, that photo just makes me cringe, cause it’s just so dirty at the bottom,” they told Harrod. “It makes my skin crawl. It doesn’t feel good … it’s kinda what ends up happening when the depression takes over.”
Many of the examples reflected this photojournalism style of chronicling the participants experiences as they occur. One example was very different. It was more like a self-portrait—made with thought into what was in frame and how the photo was edited to be desaturated.
“And so I guess my picture. … I chose to have it in not-realistic colors, kind of like grey and bleak, because that’s how you feel ‘cause there isn’t colors in the world,” they told Harrod. “I chose to have it with my computer because that’s how you spend your life as a student is with your computer. And I chose to have it, like you can’t see my face because you don’t want to be seen when you’re in that way. And I chose it with a crumpled up tissue because that’s reality. Usually there’s tears.”
Harrod noted that one thing that was clear from the photos was that depression can affect people in many ways.
“Depression isn’t just one thing,” Harrod said. “Even in these photos, participants went and brought up specific parts of their life that they found most important and it was different for everyone. There was some correlation, but really it’s not just one thing. You can’t just look on WebMD and see this is what depression is.”
Club Spotlight: Students Who Enjoy Economic Thinking
Students Who Enjoy Economic Thinking is a club that anyone can visit to talk about economics in a respectful environment. Meetings start out with a set or rules about respect, such as waiting in queue and not talking over one another. Members have a specific set of hand gestures to know when people want to speak next or add a comment to the current discussion. Economics Professor Sherri Wall created the club as a way to connect with her students more.
“SWEET has been fabulous, this is my favorite time of the week, engaging with the best and the brightest students on campus from multi-disciplinary backgrounds. Plus, we have had dozens of speaks come up,” Wall said. “I initially started SWEET because I wanted a forum to interface with some of these fantastic students I encountered in class.”
Before each meeting they decide on a topic, read up on it, and then discuss it at the next meeting. Members at the March 11 meeting discussed the pay gap between men and women UBER drivers. Past discussions have included Free, Fair and SMART Trade, Sam’s Club Catastrophe, and Alaska Gasoline Development Corporation (AGDC) Natural Gas Pipeline Agreement with China Sinopec.
SWEET is a way for students to keep up with economic news and give or form opinions about these current events.
“Economic discussion,” said Destiny Dowling, the club president, “is the goal of the club.”
SWEET meets in the Kayak Room in the Library every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The club is open to the public, and they provide dinner for those who join them. Though Professor Wall will no longer be working at UAF after this semester it is currently unknown if SWEET will continue.
For more information about SWEET readers can visit their OrgSync or their blog.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month kicks off on campus
SAO assistant Nikki Crenshaw Manning at the SAAM kickoff booth as NDAC assistance Chia Muas participates.
Sticky notes that lined the walls of Arctic Java read “I would not have PTSD,” “I wouldn’t be afraid of being touched” and “Everyone looks out for each other.”
April 4 was the kickoff for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and Arctic Java was donned in facts, a survey, artwork from various students, and shirts from the clothesline project. Those not affected by sexual assault and those who have been affected were prompted to add sticky notes about what a world without sexual assault would look like to them. Student Activities Pro Staff Lisa Latronica and Student Activities Assistant Nikki Crenshaw manned a booth promoting awareness of SAAM.
On the far back wall there was an interactive display that allowed people to learn about the statistics of sexual assault and the feelings of others. People could colour parts of the display.
Event goers were encouraged to stop by the booth and spin a wheel to test their knowledge, learn something new, and spread the word and win a prize.
Landing on “tell me a fact,” a participant was asked to tell Crenshaw and Latronica a fact they knew about sexual assault. She walked over to the interactive display.
“Every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the US,” the participant said when they came back to the booth.
Another participant gained the chance to win a prize if she shared a SAAM event on social media. She found an event, shared it to Facebook and walked away with a SAAM water bottle.
As people left, they were asked to fill out a survey about their knowledge of sexual assault, regarding if they felt like they would help anyone who was assaulted and how many events they have attended. This survey appears at every SAAM event.
For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month visit the NDAC Facebook page.