2012 CLA Special Edition Magazine - University of Alaska Fairbanks


2012 CLA Special Edition Magazine - University of Alaska Fairbanks

College of Liberal Arts • University of Alaska Fairbanks

2012 Issue

• Language Trail

Potential links

across continents

• Ángel Vásquez

At home in UAF’s unique

doctoral program

• Peruvian Parallels

A graduate student

bridges hemispheres

• Japan’s Aftermath

UAF support network

in action


The College of Liberal Arts is composed of

great people and great programs accomplishing

great things in a unique and nurturing

place. This year’s magazine offers a glimpse of

just a few of our distinguished people and programs.

We are proud to introduce our latest degree program,

the bachelor of arts in film. In just one year,

the program has produced three graduates and

received several accolades, including a citation from

the Alaska State Legislature.

We have been joined by scores of interesting and

energizing new faculty members in recent years.

This year’s CLA Special Edition introduces you to

a few of them. You will meet a couple of our graduate

students and learn about the ways in which the

College of Liberal Arts is helping them to make

a difference in our communities, and you will be

introduced to one of our student clubs, the Socratic

Society. You will also learn of contributions that our

faculty members are making to the field of linguistics

and how these contributions are being shared

with our students and the public. The opportunities

for student engagement in our college and at our

university continue to impress me and provide

proof of the excellent education that UAF and the

College of Liberal Arts provide.

The students and faculty members from Japanese

studies demonstrate how a liberal arts education

produces compassionate and socially responsible

individuals. Finally, our donor profile of Deben Das

and Kate Cross Das reminds us of the legacy we all

can leave.

I invite you to visit us. Come to a show, drop

in on a class, take a tour, attend a lecture, enjoy a

concert, mentor a student, or support an activity

or program that is important to you. You are our

friends, alumni, students, staff and faculty. You are

what make us great.

— Shelbie Umphenour

Enrollment Management and

Public Information Officer

2012 contents

1 Psychology Graduate Student Earns Prestigious Fellowship: Ángel Vásquez earns high honor from national group

2 Japanese Studies — Through Good Times and Bad: UAF rallies to support victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami

4 Filmed in Alaska by Alaskans: The new film program fills a need for BA-qualified talent

5 Philosophy Matters: CLA’s Socratic Society takes on big questions — fearlessly

6 In Pursuit of Environmental Justice: Peruvian graduate student Fátima Ochante Cáceres gains experience in rural Alaska

8 Linguistic Connections: Linguists explore links between Siberian and Native American languages

10 “If I Got An Opportunity, I Would Try To Help”: Debendra Das and Kate Cross Das give back to CLA and Fairbanks

12 Introducing: New faces among the CLA faculty

on the cover Kellog Village on the Yelugui River in Central Siberia. Photo by Edward Vajda

CLA Special Edition 2012

Editor: Shelbie Umphenour

Designer: Dixon Jones/Rasmuson Library Graphics

Writers: MA applied linguistics student Kelly Kealy; Shelbie Umphenour

University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Liberal Arts

404 Gruening Building • P.O. Box 756280

Fairbanks, AK 99775-6280

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is accredited by the Northwest Commission on

Colleges and Universities. UAF is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer

and educational institution.

above: shelbie umphenour. opposite: courtesy of Ángel Vásquez

CLA outstanding graduates

psychology graduate student earns

Prestigious Fellowship

Each year hundreds of students apply, but only a handful are

chosen. This year doctoral student Ángel Vásquez became

the second UAF student to receive a fellowship through the

prestigious Minority Fellowship Program in Mental Health and

Substance Abuse Services from the American Psychological Association.

Vásquez is pursuing a PhD in clinical community psychology

with a rural, indigenous emphasis through the joint UAF-UAA


The APA fellowship is “one of the highest honors a grad student

can get in the discipline,” according to Tim Lower, department chair

for the UAF Department of Psychology. “This fellowship will open

many doors for Ángel.” The APA fellowship is for one year with the

possibility of a two-year renewal and provides an annual stipend,

tuition and health insurance. “The financial support offered through

the APA Minority Fellowship…will allow me to focus on developing

my clinical skills to treat co-occurring disorders,” says Vásquez.

Vásquez’s research interests are varied. His current research,

under the direction of psychology professor Monica Skewes at

the Center for Alaska Native

Health Research, “evaluates the

links between college student

binge drinking, ethnicity, cultural

identification and coping


Vásquez grew up in San Jose,

Calif., and spent his summers

with family in Albuquerque,

N.M. At the University of New

Mexico he earned both a BA in

Spanish (his first language) and

a BS in psychology. While at

UNM Vásquez developed a passion for helping others. He worked

with several community projects that fueled his enthusiasm for

advocacy and social justice. One such project was with resettled refugees

from the Congo and Great Lakes regions of Africa to improve

their English skills, their ability to access community resources and

to mediate problems that they encountered in the community. He

also worked with the Navajo Nation as part of a community-based

participatory research program to re-establish family connections

and cultural traditions.

Vásquez came to Alaska from New Mexico because he wanted

to attend a clinical-community psychology program that focused

on rural populations. “I found the UAF-UAA clinical-community

psychology program to be a perfect match for me especially because

it has a rural and indigenous emphasis. There are only a handful

of programs in the country that combine clinical and community

psychology, and none have an official focus on rural and ethnic

minority issues except the UAF-UAA program.” He continues, “I

primarily wanted to study at UAF because the doctoral program is

unique and offers opportunities

to train in rural Alaska and to

work in town with various marginalized

groups.” Vásquez has

been in UAF’s PhD program

since 2009 and after receiving

his degree plans to continue

research in the field of addictions

and use his clinical skills to

develop community prevention

programs and address barriers

to treatment for rural and indigenous

groups. 4

“I wanted to study at UAF because the doctoral program is

unique and offers opportunities to train in rural Alaska.”

—Ángel Vásquez


CLA outreach

Japanese Studies

Through Good Times and Bad

The devastating 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami off

the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, touched many lives,

both in Japan and around the world – including nine UAF

students studying in Japan.

Erica Keiko Iseri, exchange and study abroad advisor and

National Student Exchange coordinator with the UAF Office of

International Programs and Initiatives, serves as the primary contact

for students at UAF while they’re abroad, helping to ensure

students’ safety and well-being while they’re thousands of miles

away from home. Her first thought after tuning in the news on

March 11: “I better get to work.”

She and many others across UAF spent the day in a flurry of

emails, phone calls and constant monitoring of students’ Facebook

pages. They learned that all of the current exchange students were

safe, including a student studying at Tohoku University, in Sendai

near the quake’s epicenter. Through a Facebook message the student

posted from a phone with waning battery power, she let people

know she had made it safely to a school gym being used as a shelter.

Some students decided to come home early and both UAF and

the Japanese partner universities where they were studying supported

that choice. For the majority of students who were in areas

less affected, Iseri says, there was a very strong sense of “this is my

home right now.”

When the earthquake occurred, the students on exchange were

in the middle of cultural and linguistic immersion experiences they

had been preparing for, in some cases, well before setting foot on

the UAF campus. When students do enroll at UAF many seek

involvement with the Japan Club. The club holds game nights, calligraphy

practices and other cultural events. Japan Club also helps

promote the Japanese traditions of senpai and kohai, by which

less-experienced individuals (kohai) are helped along by the moreexperienced


“It’s this mutually beneficial relationship where the senpais

are mentoring and tutoring their kohais; the kohais benefit from

that. After they go abroad they come back and they’re the senpai,”

explains David Henry, assistant professor of Japanese. “When they

2 cla special edition 2011 | www.uaf.edu/cla/


An aerial view of damage to Sukuiso, Japan, a week after a 9.0 magnitude

earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the area.

Many U.S. groups and agencies,

including the U.S. Navy, provided

rescue and relief immediately after

the disaster.

Trisha Widmayer, a senior

majoring in Japanese studies and

an exchange student in Japan

during the earthquake, wears her

authentic kimono during UAF’s

PopCon event in the Wood Center.

UAF music professor Jun Watabe

performs at a fundraising

concert for survivors of the 2011

earthquake and tsunami.

NOAA/NGDC, Dylan McCord, U.S. Navy; U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class

Alexander Tidd; UAF PHOTO BY TODD PARIS; Photo by Taro Nakai

leave there’s this network in Japan [of Japan studies alumni] who

can help our graduating seniors make connections, so that [senpaikohai

relationship] continues.”

While some students expressed their solidarity with Japan by

remaining in the country, the Fairbanks community expressed

theirs by forming the Fairbanks-Japan Relief Society (a division

of the Fairbanks Japan Society, formerly known as the Fairbanks

Aurora Club). After the disasters, the group quickly went from a

casual listserv for the Japanese community in Fairbanks to a driven,

highly active, all-volunteer fundraising force that sponsors everything

from bake sales to concerts and has already sent more than

$35,000 to the Red Cross in Japan.

For the disaster’s one-year anniversary, the Fairbanks-Japan

Relief Society held a memorial event at Pioneer Park that featured

traditional Japanese drumming, music, calligraphy and martial

arts demonstrations, and a video from survivors in Japan. Most

importantly, this event – and the others since the quake – fostered

a higher level of collaboration than was seen before the disaster.

Japanese instructor Chisato Murakami notes, “It’s a sad event, but

because of it I think people in the community and students really

got to know each other and felt connected with Japan.”

“Real friendship and communication – that can be really important,”

continues Murakami. “Their involvement in the various relief

events gave the students valuable experiences beyond the classroom.”

The personal connections Japanese studies students have

been making, either while studying abroad or participating in community

activities, will have a lasting effect. 4

More on the UAF Japanese studies degree program can be found at

www.uaf.edu/language/japanese/. For more about the Fairbanks-

Japan relief effort, visit https://sites.google.com/site/fjrelief/.


CLA program highlight

Filmed in Alaska

By Alaskans

If you had to point to a single location as the nexus of the film

world in Fairbanks, and arguably Alaska, you’d be hard-pressed

to find a more fitting place than Maya Salganek’s office. You’ll

know it by the steady stream of students coming to “talk shop” and

check out specialty equipment.

In less than a year, Salganek, assistant professor of digital performance

media, and her colleagues in the Journalism, English, and

Theatre Departments have brought the new bachelor of arts degree

in film from a dream to a highly popular first-of-its-kind-in-Alaska

program. Students now have a place to gain the education, credentials

and experience needed to become active participants in the

newly burgeoning film industry in Alaska.

Alaska needs trained film crew staff; when films and TV segments

are filmed in Alaska crews are often brought up from Outside,

but that’s begun to change.

In addition to the educational video Field Techniques for Sea Ice

Research, crew work for the major motion picture Big Miracle (2012)

and several on-location Alaska-themed TV series, students have

been gaining experience with feature films that originate here in

Alaska. Chronic Town, a 2008 Sundance selection written by UAF

alumnus Michael Kamsky, was filmed with a largely Californiabased

crew bolstered by 10 UAF film students. AlaskaLand (2012)

was written and directed by UAF alumna and Fairbanks-raised

Chinonye Chukwu, and was produced by Salganek. Students in

the program’s Let’s Make a Movie class worked on the set in each

set department for the small feature film. Salganek produced and

Professional film crew and students from “Let's

Make a Movie” on location at the Tanana River

for the Chinoyne Chukwu film AlaskaLand, a

coproduction of Philadelphia-based Where’s the

Fire? Productions and the UAF Film Program.

served as director of photography for The

Messenger (2012) which was written and

directed by UAF theatre professor Kade

Mendelowitz and has the honor of being

the first film created under the new film

program, incorporating students at every

stage of production.

An interdisciplinary film minor has

been a part of the UAF Theatre Department

since 1995. In 2008 a committee of

media faculty began the process of drafting

the film program curriculum. The UA

Board of Regents accepted a proposal for

the program in February of 2011 and the

program was accepted by UAF’s accrediting

body in April 2011. After only one year

the program has a core group of highly talented

majors and graduated its first three

students in May 2012.

The program has two foci, documentary

and narrative. While only one track

is required, most students in the program

enjoy both and get to work on several student

projects in both genres. Junior Aaron

Gordon’s interests lie with narrative, but he’s

enjoyed every opportunity to get behind the

camera. He says it’s been invaluable “just

being able to do all the hands-on things and

have all the equipment available.”

Christopher Kern has returned to complete his bachelor’s degree

after retiring from a military career and received the film program’s

Outstanding Student of the Year Award this spring. Kern worked

on The Messenger and other film projects. He notes, “I have had so

many opportunities to work in the film industry the last couple

years it is amazing. I cannot express to my fellow students how

lucky we are to have these opportunities [including dedicated networking

events]…. The staff is amazing; the challenge is given to

be as creative as we want to be. We have good equipment to work

with. The labs have improved every year. Any concerns students

have are addressed.”

Approval of the BA in

film is just the beginning.

Salganek, who received

the Mayors of the Interior

Arts Leadership award

for 2012, hopes to establish

summer certificate

courses to speed-track

students into specific

“crewing” skills. As graduates

forge their own

identities as directors,

Congratulations to film student

Adrina Knutson

who was awarded a $5,000 Undergraduate

Research and Scholarly Activity grant to

participate in professor Len Kamerling’s

visual anthropology research project in

Tanzania, summer 2012.

producers, boom operators, gaffers and actors, we’ll have more and

more opportunities to read the words “filmed on location in Alaska

on the big screen. ❧

this page: photo by Jodi Samsel. opposite: Photo courtesy of Eduardo Wilner. socrates image by Eric Gaba, wikipedia.


CLA program highlight

philosophy Matters

Ask any member of the Socratic Society what its biggest

accomplishment has been and they reply, bringing Richard

Dawkins to campus.

The Socratic Society is the student club of the Department of

Philosophy and Humanities. The society encourages students and

the public to share ideas and arguments by hosting public lectures,

forums, panels and debates.

Renowned evolutionary biologist and writer Richard Dawkins

visited UAF in July 2010 and gave a public lecture. According to

professor Eduardo Wilner, the Socratic Society’s faculty advisor,

Dawkins is one of the most important evolutionary biologists of all

time. Dawkins is a prominent writer and has written several seminal

books in the field and many others, making sophisticated scientific

issues accessible to the general public. Most recently, Dawkins

chaired the Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of

Science at the University of Oxford, where he also held a professorship

for many years. While at UAF Dawkins met with graduate

and undergraduate students and faculty, and recorded several

video pieces for public viewing on his Richard Dawkins Foundation

for Reason and Science website. His visit was precipitated by a

2009 email from Socratic Society then-president Simon Suchland.

Under the supervision of Wilner, Suchland emailed the Richard

Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science asking for advice

on showing the relevance of critical thinking in a campus setting.

Suchland not only got the advice he was seeking, he got a visit from

Dawkins himself and the society hosted the largest public lecture in

UAF history. The Davis Concert Hall, where the lecture was held,

was filled to its 900-plus seat capacity. Estimated attendance was

closer to 1400.

The Socratic Society was responsible for hosting and organizing

Alaska’s most recent Ethics Bowl in spring 2011 with students from

both UAF and UAA. Then-secretary Kristina Miller, now a law

school student, brought the Ethics Bowl to UAF after visiting the

2010 Northwest Regional Ethics Bowl competition in Seattle.

It took a great deal of coordination with faculty and students

at both UAF and UAA, but five months after Miller attended the

Seattle competition the Socratic Society was hosting a premier

statewide collegiate debate event. While UAF didn’t win, their loss

to UAA meant the trophy travelled south and UAF looks forward

to the next Ethics Bowl, currently slated for 2013.

In addition to several well-attended faculty lectures and debates

often featuring invited philosophers from the Lower 48 (whose

travel arrangements are also coordinated by the club), the Socratic

Society this year coordinated frequent brown bag lectures, featuring

student presentations on topics from computer programming

and language to economics and the Palestine-Israel conflict.

The events attract diverse members of the UAF community, often

bringing students from the humanities and the sciences together.

A brown bag lunch on free-market anarchism even drew members

of a non-university affiliated libertarian book group from town.

It’s this level of community involvement, not just with students

but with the general public, which makes the club’s efforts stand

out. Society co-advisor and professor Joseph Thompson says, “They

have shown themselves to have a good sense of topics of interest to

the UAF public, and they have been very active in promoting and

getting out the word about their events.”

The Socratic Society hopes to encourage the Fairbanks community

to think critically, and be curious and open minded. As Wilner

stresses, “Philosophy is not about obscure, ivory-tower stuff. Philosophy

is the only discipline that provides systematic training, an

antidote against our unquestioned ancestral biases and fashionable

or political fads. Unfortunately, but quite regularly, these fads and

biases lay undetected at the core of many of the vital decisions we

make every day. It is in this way that philosophy matters also for life

outside the classroom. I think that, in this sense, the Socratic Society

serves the crucial role of making philosophy spill over from the

classroom, and onto the Fairbanks community at large.”

Whether it is through high-profile visiting lecturers,

faculty debates and brown-bag lunches, or even casual

conversations with friends on a Saturday night, the

Socratic Society is helping to spread the – useful, transformative,

relevant – effects that philosophy can have, one

mind at a time. 4

For more on the UAF Department of Philosophy and Humanities

and the Socratic Society visit www.uaf.edu/philo/.

More on the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and

Science can be found at http://richarddawkins.net/.

Richard Dawkins (center) dines with Socratic Society member Christiana

Wright (left) and then-president Simon Suchland (right).


CLA graduate highlight

For Fátima Ochante Cáceres a lifelong interest in environmental

justice led her to study the policies driving public programs

for delivering access to safe drinking water and sewer

systems in some of Interior Alaska’s remote villages. Her work at

UAF is the culmination of the cultural and environmental questions

she began to form as a child in Peru.

Ochante Cáceres’ path to UAF’s Northern Studies master of arts

program has been unique. She grew up in the urban environment

of Lima, Peru, but she took many trips to the rural countryside

in addition to visiting other countries including Germany, Sweden

and the U.S. Growing up with one foot in the fast-paced, resourceconsuming

culture of urban Lima and the other in the conservation-minded

culture of rural villages gave her a unique perspective

on environmental justice.

Namely, certain environmental resource use policies that were

conceived of in the capitol were having destructive consequences

out in the country. Such disjunction between policy conception

and policy enactment are, Ochante Cáceres believes, of critical and

increasing importance for environmental justice.

Ochante Cáceres was drawn to our Northern Studies program,

and chose it over similar programs in Germany and Sweden,

because of the opportunity to research environmental issues as they

apply to Alaska Natives living in remote villages. UAF’s program

allows her to study first hand a case where rural and urban views

clash: a public program determined by policy makers located in an

urban setting and applied in the rural setting of AK Native villages.

In Pursuit of environ

“I’ve learned

so much

about my own

culture through

learning about

the indigenous

cultures here.”


Ochante Cáceres explains: “This study has been informed by the Ochante Cáceres credits her graduate committee (professors

village perspective. Local representatives have discussed the challenges

they face trying to comply with the program and sustain her with the academic tools she needed to connect all the pieces —

Mary Ehrlander, Ellen Lopez and Chanda Meek) with equipping

their water systems. In doing this, some strengths and weaknesses policy, history, Alaska Native health — in meaningful ways. On a

of the public program have become evident.”

more day-to-day level, Ochante Cáceres says her advisors provided

Studying the cultures of Alaska has taught Ochante Cáceres much some necessary encouragement. “When I talk to them, they’re like,

about Peru. “I’ve learned so much about my own culture through ‘this is really important,’ and it helps to hear that because research

learning about the indigenous cultures here.” This might seem counterintuitive,

given that Alaska and Peru are thousands of miles apart. (most interviews with village representatives were conducted via the

can be a lonely process at times. It’s just me, my papers and my phone

In distancing herself from Peru, Ochante Cáceres has been able to telephone)…they renew my motivation every time they talk to me.”

see the resource management issues that plague Peru from a different

perspective. Here, as in Peru, remote indigenous peoples’ value res is also grateful to the culture of support and diversity among

In addition to the faculty of the NORS program, Ochante Cáce-

systems and traditions are often at odds with the dominant, urbanized

culture from which policy originates. For example, in some is co-president of the Northern Studies Student Organization, or

the students in the program, both in the classroom and out. She

Alaskan villages it is considered rude to serve tea to an elder with NORS Club, with fellow Northern Studies MA student Irmelin

water from the water treatment plant; water from the river is more Gram-Hanssen.

appropriate. This is because residents have been used to drinking Ochante Cáceres has in mind water policy when she says, “You

“pure” water (directly from water body) that has no unpleasant taste can’t just take something and put it somewhere else without adapting

it.” But the same applies to people. She’s adapted skillfully to the

from treatment chemicals. Such a sentiment can permeate villagers’

realities in ways that are unanticipated by policymakers, possibly unique yet challenging research opportunities available through the

causing much bigger conflicts down the line.

Northern Studies program and UAF. In its way, as with so many

Ochante Cáceres hopes to continue working for the communities

she’s come to know here in Alaska before she ultimately returns the better, too. 4

strong research projects done at UAF, Alaska has been changed for

home to Peru to adapt what she’s learned in Alaska to the unique

cultural and technological mismatches in resource management For more information on the Northern Studies Program please visit

and policy making there.


mental justice

Residents of Nulato during the June 2011 Denakkanaaga Youth

and Elders conference. Nulato is one of the villages where

Fátima Ochante Cáceres researched water policy.

opposite: UAF photo by todd paris. left: Photo by James H. Barker.


CLA research

Linguistic Connections

That Tie the World Together

It wasn’t yet 9 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning last March,

but the Brooks Building’s Gathering Room was buzzing with

energy. Linguists, archaeologists, biologists, anthropologists,

elders and young people eager to learn from them were gathered

for a day-long presentation extravaganza on the Dene-Yeniseian

hypothesis — an exciting, continent-spanning development in one

of the greatest unsolved puzzles in human migration.

Luckily, you don’t need to be trained in any ‘–ology’ to understand

the basics of the Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis. In a nutshell: the

Ket language of Central Siberia (which is part of the Yeniseian language

family), once thought to be an isolate, might in fact be related

to the Na-Dene languages of Alaska (Athabascan, Eyak, Tlingit)

and the American Southwest (other Athabascan languages such

as Navajo). While this linguistic connection has been proposed by

Russian scholars of Ket for nearly 100 years, only now is it being

backed up by new research from several different fields, including

anthropology, human genetics and newer developments in linguistics

such as advanced computational phylogenetics.

Spearheading this new work is Edward Vajda, Professor of Russian

and linguistics at Western Washington University. Vajda first

noticed convincing linguistic evidence for the hypothesis when he

was doing historical reconstruction of verbs in the Ket and Navajo

languages. He reported on some of his first proposed cognate pairs

in 2000. UAF’s James Kari, professor emeritus in linguistics who

works with Athabascan languages, heard of Vajda’s research and

knew he was on to something big.

Vajda presented additional research in 2006 and he and Kari

collaborated to hold the first conference on the Dene-Yeniseian

hypothesis. The conference was held in Fairbanks in 2008 and coincided

with the Alaska Anthropological Association’s annual meeting

in Anchorage. The hypothesis conference was a huge success;

many linguists and researchers from across the sciences presented

work, including UAF anthropology professor Ben Potter, who has

remained active in Dene-Yeniseian research. In 2010 Potter and

Kari co-edited The Dene-Yeniseian Connection, a book of edited

papers from the 2008 conference.


Photos courtesy of Edward Vajda

Reaction from the linguistics community has been positive. Earlier

this year Michael Dunn, a prominent historical linguist writing

in the journal Language, the most prestigious linguistic journal

in the U.S., concludes, “This collection is clearly a very important

contribution to historical linguistics and prehistory in general, but

as the authors themselves point out, the Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis

is a work in progress. In the best traditions of science, Vajda

and colleagues have presented their evidence and arguments to the

scrutiny of their peers, and there are exciting times ahead as in the

coming years we can hope to see a scientific consensus emerge.”

For linguists both established and budding at UAF, where many

focus on recording or revitalizing endangered languages, a highlight

of this year’s conference (which included the Saturday workshop

and a Tuesday evening lecture) was learning about Vajda’s recent

fieldwork. In 2008 Vajda conducted fieldwork in the village of

Kellog, located in the Yenisei River basin of Central Siberia. Kellog

is home to most of the remaining fluent speakers of Ket, projected

to be less than 50 in number. As with many Alaska Native languages,

Ket suffered from years of state-sanctioned oppression of

native languages and cultures.

(This page) The Siberian village of Kellog, seen from the Yelugui river.

(Opposite) Edward Vajda with residents of Kellog, who speak the Central Siberian

language Ket.

In connection with Vajda’s visit, articles from the book were used

in classes, from linguistics to anthropology; Vajda then participated

in some of these classes.

The 2012 conference presented an opportunity for UAF students

to learn about interdisciplinary research first hand. Anthropology

graduate students Allie Dewey and Michael Kenyhercz

presented a paper exploring evidence of the Dene-Yeniseian

hypothesis from genetic and biological anthropology. UAF professors

Gary Holton and Mark Sicoli were able to involve undergraduate

students from math and linguistics in their phylogenetic

modeling of linguistics data.

From the classroom to the all-day workshop, from book publications

to evening lectures, the 2008 and 2012 conferences underscore

how UAF values and promotes interdisciplinary research and

the deep connections that can be found here, both personal and

professional. “Vajda is quick to remind you that he’s standing on the

shoulders of giants,” says Holton. UAF students have the opportunity

to experience this first hand when projects like these become

part of the research and classroom culture. 4

The 2008 and 2012 Dene-Yeniseian conferences were organized and

hosted by the UAF Alaska Native Language Center. Additional information

about ANLC and Dene-Yeniseian can be found on the web at



CLA donor highlight

“if i got an opportunity, i would try to help”

For Debendra Das, UAF professor

of mechanical engineering

and past president/

current board member of the Fairbanks

chapter of the National Alliance

of Mental Illness, or NAMI,

the choice to orchestrate the funding

of four scholarships for students

either struggling with or working in

the field of mental illness was a very

personal one.

“In 1980,” Das says, “my family

was touched with mental illness.

My wife and I were graduate students

at that time with a one-yearold

child, when she (Kate) was

diagnosed with bipolar disorder.”

Today, his wife, Kate Cross Das, is

president of the Fairbanks chapter

of NAMI and an activist for Alaskans with mental illness, but the

road to wellness has been a difficult one. “We struggled quite a bit

together” Das says. “I was determined that, if I got an opportunity, I

would try to help out people who were in these same shoes.”

It’s safe to say he has succeeded. From the time he joined the

group in the early 1990s, Das says, “whenever we had a little bit of

money, I kept thinking that it would be very nice to [do something]

for the young people who had just gone through an episode and

treatment.” Often, taking the step back into education is a daunting

one; after “a serious mental episode, I have seen that you lose all

your self-confidence.”

His first opportunity to take action came in 1999, when then-UAF

chancellor Marshall Lind enacted a matching funds program for the

establishment of scholarships. Lind promised $5,000 in matching

funds if NAMI could raise that same amount on their own. When

NAMI raised $10,000, Lind matched as promised and NAMI

established the Joy Albin Scholarship that year. It has provided support

for undergraduate students to the tune of $1,000 minimum for

a decade (the first few years saw awards at about $500).

Criteria for this award, and the subsequent three, are aimed at

providing support for mental health where it’s needed most in any

given year. First priority is any student who has him or herself been

treated for serious mental illness. If no applicants fit those criteria,

the award expands to include individuals with an ill family member

and who plan to dedicate their work to mental health issues. Eligibility

then expands to those without affected family but who plan

to work in a “service discipline” such as social work or psychology, or

who have an interest in mental illness.

In December 2003 the Ann Denardo Memorial Scholarship

was established in memory of Denardo, who founded NAMI of

Fairbanks in 1983 and worked

tirelessly to change the mental

health system. Since 2007 the fund

has been supporting one student

annually per previously mentioned

criteria – though with a preference

for students interested in helping

families in particular.

The NAMI board is often contacted

by professors of sociology,

psychology and social work to bring

NAMI volunteers and families

in to talk about their experiences

as “consumers” in the healthcare

system. Seeing an important support

gap, Das spearheaded efforts

Kate Cross Das and Deben Das to establish principal funding for a

Fairbanks Graduate Student Scholarship.

NAMI raised $25,000 dollars

and created the scholarship fund in 2004. Since 2007 it has

been supporting a different mental health services-committed graduate

student annually with a $2,000 award.

The most recent scholarship to be funded was conceived during

a NAMI meeting. Das relates that a woman had asked, “what happens

to the kids who have mental illness in all the rural towns in

Alaska?” So Das and others at NAMI raised funds to establish the

Rural Campus Scholarship in 2005. Since 2009 it has been providing

an award of around $1,000 annually to rural students either

dedicated to or affected by mental health issues.

Through NAMI’s work, Das sees real space opening up in the

dialogue about mental illness that wasn’t in existence 20 years ago.

Part of that change comes, he says, when students have “personal

connection with the challenges which individuals with mental illness

and their families face.” By supporting students, NAMI is

strengthening some of the most important voices in the conversation,

and strengthening UAF at the same time.

Das gives credit to the board members of NAMI of Fairbanks

who approved, in most cases, his requests to contribute funds for

the creation of these wonderful scholarships at UAF, and to the

UAF staff who make the process of establishing scholarships easy.

Due to this close collaboration between NAMI of Fairbanks and

UAF, twenty nine students have received the benefits of these scholarships

thus far. 4

Das is still raising funds to enhance principals of these scholarships to

higher levels. His goal is to increase the amount and number of these

scholarships. If you would like to contribute to this cause, please feel free

to call him at (907) 479-0776 or contact him at dkdas@alaska.edu.


CLA donors and supporters


special “thank you” to all our generous donors! The following

list displays the various donor-established funds that benefit

the College of Liberal Arts. These contributions are as diverse

as the individuals who created them, and anyone can contribute to any

fund at any time. The funds are held at the UA Foundation and benefit

the college in many ways, including scholarships and fellowships for

our students, faculty and staff support as well as general support for

various departments and projects.

Alaska Native Languages Department

Support Fund

American Legion Post #11,

Heather Dowdy Memorial Scholarship

Anchorage Daily News Scholarship Fairbanks

Anthropology Department Support

Art Department Support Fund

Arthur and Frances Buswell Scholarship

Banarsi Lal Social Work Scholarship

Barry McWayne Fine Art Photography


Bebe Helen Kneece Woodward Scholarship

Betty Jo Staser Memorial Endowment for

Women’s Studies

Bill Stroecker Jazz Endowment

Bill Walley Memorial Scholarship

Bob and Sharon Swope Scholarship

Bon V. and Bernice Davis Award

Boys’ Project Fund

C. Russell Huber ROTC Memorial Award

C. W. Snedden Chair

Carl Tillitt Memorial Scholarship

Caroline Musgrove Coons Writing Scholarship

Carolyn W. Collins Scholarship in Alaska

Native Languages

Charles W. Davis Summer Fine Arts Camp

Memorial Scholarship

CLA Center for the Arts Support

CLA Undergraduate Research Fund

Claus Naske History Scholarship

Cliff Brennen Journalism Scholarship

Colin Gilmore Memorial Scholarship

College of Liberal Arts General Support

Communication Student Support

Connie B. Kalita Memorial Scholarship


Creative Writing Program Endowment

Dr. Gerald S. Berman Founders Scholarship

E.L. Bartlett Literary Criticism Prize

Edward K. and Alene R. Christiansen Music


Emery Chapple Memorial Scholarship

English Department Support Fund

English Emeriti Award

Fairbanks Art Guild Scholarship

Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival

Caroline A. Kaptur Memorial Scholarship

Fathauer Chair in History

Fejes Music Scholarship

Food Factory Fine Arts Scholarship

Forbes L. Baker Scholarship

Foreign Language Department Support Fund

French Program Support

Gale L. Anderson

Endowed Scholarship for Music

Genezaret Barron Memorial Photojournalism


George W. McDaniel Writer’s Workshop


George Walton Memorial Scholarship

Glenmede Music Scholarship

Golden North Rebekah Lodge (Est. 1913)


Harvey Shields Memorial Scholarship

Helen B. Harrel Memorial Scholarship

Helen Van Campen Journalism Scholarship

Helmut Van Flein Memorial Scholarship

Henry B. Collins Fellowship in

Circumpolar Anthropology

History Department Support

J 2 Brass Chamber Music Scholarship

James C. & M. Chris Hayes Scholarship

James R. Crook Memorial Scholarship

Jane Griese Memorial Scholarship

Jazz Festival Support Fund

Jimmy Bedford Memorial Scholarship

Joanne Wold Journalism Scholarship

John Kevin Lamm Memorial Scholarship

Journalism Internship and

Outreach Enrollment Support

Journalism Special Guest and Faculty

Development Fund

Journalism/Broadcasting Department

Support Fund

Kleinfeld Northern Studies

Student Research Endowment

Leona Lowrey Memorial Scholarship

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT)

Friends and Allies Student Scholarship

Lesley Salisbury Music Scholarship

Liz Berry Memorial Scholarship

Lyndsay Thomas Memorial Scholarship

Marian Thompson Memorial Scholarship

Metalsmithing Support Fund

Minnie Wells Award

Music Department Support

Music Scholarship

NAMI Rural Campus Scholarship

NASW Scholarship

Native Arts & Crafts General Support

Northern Studies Jim Cook Memorial

Operation Re-Cover

Organ Chimes

Patricia A. Davis Memorial Scholarship

Patrick & Thomas Maher Musical Assistance

Pearl Berry Boyd Music Scholarship

Pep Band Support

Philosophy Department Research Library

Philosophy Department Sculpture Studies

Public History Support Fund

Rachael Patterson Memorial Scholarship

Richard G. Possenti Memorial Student

Research Endowment

Richard Grey Smith Endowment

Roland E. Skip Chevalier Memorial


Rudy Krejci Memorial Scholarship

Rural Social Work Scholarship

Scholarship for International Education

Shanon Gallant Memorial Art Scholarship

Sociology Department Support

Stephen McCarthy

Photojournalism Internship

Steve Miller Creative Writing Scholarship

String Players Scholarship

Student Ceramic Arts Guild (SCAG)/Krist

Anderson Memorial Scholarship

Summer Fine Arts Music Camp

Theatre UAF Support

Theresa Jimenez Memorial Scholarship

Tom and Nancy Hallinan Music Scholarship

Tom Rohr Memorial Scholarship


Troy Duncan Memorial Justice Scholarship

University Chorus Support

Visiting Writers Support

Walter J. Benesch Philosophy Scholarship

Warren G. Brown Memorial Scholarship

William Hunt History Scholarship

William O. Wood Memorial Scholarship

William P. Cole Phi Alpha Theta Scholarship

William R and Dorothy Jane Wood Talent


William I. Waugaman Memorial Scholarship

Women’s Studies and Center Fund

Women’s and Gender Studies Department


Bold listings were initiated in 2011.

For more on how to create a new fund or support one of these, please see the back cover.


CLA Faculty


The College of Liberal Arts’ new faculty members have hit

the ground running. As active participants in the UAF

community they are mentoring student clubs, serving as

volunteer judges, running newspapers and journals — not to mention

teaching classes and doing research.

Professors Farmer, Stanley, Lott, Prince and DiStefano are just

five of the more than three dozen new professors who have joined

the College of Liberal Arts in the last few years. Their energy and

enthusiasm for working with students outside the classroom is one

of the main reasons CLA is such an exciting place to learn. 4

Daryl Farmer

Daryl Farmer, assistant professor of creative writing and faculty advisor

for the graduate student-run literary journal Permafrost, teaches

creative nonfiction and multi-genre creative writing classes. He finds

his students, both grad and undergrad, are one of the best parts of his

job. “They are passionate about writing, engaged and eager to learn.

They keep me inspired.” Two of Farmer’s passions are environmental

writing and travel writing; he excels at guiding students towards writing

around topics that are meaningful to them with the kind of scope

and nuance that will help them get published – and more importantly,

grow as writers and individuals. “Having so much related research

[about the North] right here,” he notes, “has enhanced that.” His

book Bicycling beyond the Divide received a Barnes and Noble Discover

New Writers Award and was also nominated for a Colorado

Book Award.

Diana DiStefano, assistant professor of history, is deeply committed

to engaging students in the environmental history of the American

West, her main research area. Reflecting on her first year of teaching

at UAF, she recalls an assignment for a history methodology course.

“The students enthusiastically embraced an assignment to present

a historical event in various formats, including writing a song. Their

creative (and hilarious) musical efforts will remain one of my favorite

teaching moments.” DiStefano is an avid writer and recently completed

a book on historical avalanches. She is working on another that

examines situations when Euro-Americans in disastrous situations

were driven to cannibalism during the settlement process. DiStefano

is faculty advisor for the UAF chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national

history honor society.

Diana DiStefano

Farmer: UAF photo by Todd Paris; DiStefano: Courtesy of D. Distefano; Stanley: photo by Shelbie umphenour; Prince: courtesy of R. Prince; Lott: courtesy of L. Lott.


Sarah Stanley, assistant professor of English and director of Composition,

enjoys engaging the intellectual curiosity of UAF’s diverse

students. She incorporates student perspectives and voices into her

qualitative research, which brings together disparate ideas from the

fields of linguistic and social theory to inform curriculum. UAF has provided

many opportunities for Stanley to pursue professional interests

and engage in the campus community. Stanley is a representative for

the College of Liberal Arts on the advisory committee for the Office

of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity. She volunteers her

talents by engaging in outreach activities with high school students

and teachers and working with student clubs. One memorable experience

was serving as a judge for the Socratic Society’s statewide Ethics

Bowl competition in spring 2011.

Sarah Stanley

Robert Prince

Robert Prince, assistant professor of journalism, is impressed and

delighted by the energy and enthusiasm of his students. In a recent

course he and his students made a documentary that reveals the facts

and fiction behind many of the mysteries surrounding UAF’s Earnest

Gruening Building, home to most of the departments in the College

of Liberal Arts. Prince says the experience was “the most profound

teaching experience of my life.” The students’ research ability, interest

and energy in the project, and ability to anticipate his needs as executive

producer were impressive. He says, “They took on their tasks as a

production crew with the same vigor and determination as any professional

crew I’ve ever worked with.” Prince serves as advisor for the

unofficial Journalism Broadcasting Club and is a member of the media

board, which supervises KSUA radio and TV.

As an assistant professor of journalism, Lynne Lott strives to engender

in students the inquisitiveness and tenacity required of media professionals.

Lott is the faculty advisor for The Sun Star, UAF’s student

newspaper, and teaches writing and digital journalism courses. Lott

relishes the opportunity to guide students through collaborative and

creative projects that provide crucial relevant experience for a future

in media: “It’s extremely gratifying to work with the next generation

of journalists [at UAF],” she says. In addition to being a member of

the Online News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists,

she serves on the board and is secretary of the Alaska Press Club.

This spring she served as moderator for a panel at the Alaska Press

Club Conference in Anchorage, an event that drew high-profile panel

members from The New York Times, NPR and other national outlets.

Lynne Lott


UAF College of Liberal Arts

404 Gruening Building

P.O. Box 756280

Fairbanks, AK 99775-6280


Art major Joel Isaak,

center, gets some

help filling a mold with

molten bronze as part of

the process of creating

a life-sized sculpture for

his senior thesis in the

UAF Fine Arts Complex.

UAF photo by Todd Paris

From the Development Desk I’ve spent a lot of time with

people this past year; it’s my favorite part of my job. Everyone’s different,

and I like that there are so many reasons people choose to

give, and so many stories behind each gift. There are people who

give $10 to CLA and people who give $50,000 to CLA. People

who want to give but can’t, and people who wish they could give

more than they do. One alumna recalled her journey at UAF as a

grand creation. She didn’t come to UAF to find herself; she came

to UAF to make herself. That alumna created a self that is full

of wonder and a little bit of weirdness, and she likes it that way.

A liberal arts education creates more than knowledge — it creates

creative and unique people. Students come to UAF from many different

paths, but what many of us discover is that we can be a little

weird here and not only be accepted but – most importantly – be

encouraged. That is a trait that CLA fosters in our graduates –

create your unique self, cultivate your individual talents and expertise,

make your way in a world that already seems paved.

Support a scholarship or program that is closest to your heart.

Your gift will support a student next year on their path to creating

their unique self.


Naomi Horne, CLA class of 2006

CLA Development Officer

P.S. If you would like to make a gift please visit www.uaf.edu/cla and select

“give now” or contact me at (907) 474-6464, naomi.horne@alaska.edu.

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