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Grace Schaible receives Medal of Excellence

It is notable that Grace Schaible received the President’s Medal of Excellence at a reception at the Museum of the North because her generous endowment, over $1.1 million, was instrumental in the renovation of the state-of-the-art facility. Indeed there are few aspects of the University that she has not been an instrumental part of.

"Grace has been a steadfast supporter of the University of Alaska and this entire state for so long that it's inconceivable for me to think how Alaska would be today, without her having touched it so tremendously," Hamilton said. "I'm honored to present this token of our appreciation and gratitude to Grace."

The Medal for Excellence, established in 2000, periodically recognizes individuals who have exhibited unwavering dedication, far beyond the ordinary, to the University of Alaska.

University gifts from Schaible include an endowment in the name of her late husband, medical doctor Arthur Schaible, which benefits UA students pursuing medical degrees. She donated her home in Juneau and a home and land in Fairbanks to the university, as well as gifts of fine art, ivory and paintings. Her contributions also have benefited nursing students, national merit scholars, music students and fine arts students.

Schaible's contributions to public life in Alaska are many. She is the first, and so far only, woman to hold the office of Alaska Attorney General. Her University of Alaska service began in her freshman year of college, when she was named Outstanding Freshman Woman. She received a similar honor in her senior year. Later, she was appointed to the Board of Regents, and served many years on the University of Alaska Foundation's Board of Trustees.

Medical student Abe Tsigonis was a Schaible scholarship recipient

In addition to her passion for the university, Schaible has maintained an active interest and involvement with a variety of non-profit programs throughout the state. She served on the boards of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. and Nature Conservancy in Alaska, and has served on a host of local and statewide public advisory committees. She continues to lend enthusiastic support to a variety of music and arts programs, including the Sitka Music Festival and the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Schaible consistently, generously and graciously lends both her financial support and her leadership for the benefit of countless organizations throughout the state.

The Alaska chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives named Schaible Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year in 1996. In 2000, the Alaska Journal of Commerce named her one of the top 25 "most powerful Alaskans." The Boy Scouts of America awarded her the Distinguished Service Award in 2008.

Schaible was characteristically modest about the Medal for Excellence.

"Alaska has been very good to me and to my family," she said. "I'm privileged to be in a position to give back to the state and to the University of Alaska that have given so much to me."

University officials gathered to present the President's Medal for Excellence to Schaible during a reception held at the Museum of the North on the Fairbanks campus Feb. 5. Past medal recipients include Elmer Rasmuson, Leo Rhode, William Wood, Ann Tremarello, Darrellene Myers, Marshall Lind, Lee Gorsuch and Syun-Ichi Akasofu.

Many people at the reception, including Jeff Cook, director of external affairs for Flint Hills Resources Alaska; Sharon Gagnon, chair of the University of Alaska Foundation's Board of Trustees; Mike Burns, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.; and Abe Tsigonis, a Schaible scholarship recipient, described the high standard of public service set by Schaible. UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers closed his comments by noting Schaible's vast polar bear collection.

"Grace has many remarkable collections of Nanook art - sculptures, paintings, porcelain, fabric and more. But the most valuable collection of Nanooks is the thousands of students, faculty and alumni whose lives been influenced by this remarkable woman," Rogers said.

Alaska Distance Education Consortium (AkDEC)

Distance Education: A two-sided coin.

Distance education involves a multitude of aspects, but like a coin it really has only two distinctive sides. One side of the coin is the delivery of instruction.  The other side of the coin is infrastructure; what consistent and reliable speed is the internet capable of delivering?

There are many initiatives within the University system that can be credited for aggressively nipping at the heals of advancing distance delivery issues. The Alaska Distance Education Consortium (AkDEC) is one of those initiatives.  AkDEC is a consortium that includes K-12 school districts and post secondary institutions to 1) Develop a long-term distance education and technology strategic plan that effectively develops, coordinates and expands distance education opportunities and Alaska’s information technology infrastructure, and 2) Determine the role of educators, telecommunication companies, community organizations, government agencies and other stakeholders in meeting the needs identified by members.

In the early years of AkDEC, emphasis was on demonstration projects that illustrated the value and potential of distance instruction. Today almost every "enlightened" school administrator understands and embraces the value of distance delivery.  The greatest challenge now is to increase the bandwidth to Alaska's rural communities so that these instructional techniques can be implemented. 

Many of the communities on the Alaskan road system already have the bandwidth to employ various forms of e-learning, e-commerce, e-governance, virtual meetings, etc. For these communities, AkDEC coordinates with organizations to provide training on how to implement the technology in an optimal way.

The issues pertaining to distance education are so various and complex, we could develop a full "distance education currency" with facets represented in every denomination.  But if we continue to focus on the two sides of the coin: delivery of instruction and infrastructure, we are addressing the most crucial elements. This is the AkDEC mission and one we hope will improve the delivery of distance education programs to all regions of Alaska.

UA to accept Ted Stevens' Senate documents & papers

An estimated five thousand boxes of files and records gathered during Ted Stevens' four-decade career in Washington is on its way to the University of Alaska under an agreement between Stevens and UA President Mark Hamilton.

The boxes--the lion's share from the nation's capital--will begin arriving at the University of Alaska Fairbanks over the next few weeks. In addition, over 100 boxes will be shipped from Anchorage. Roughly two dozen boxes of the senator's papers are already located in Fairbanks. The collection will be housed principally at the Rasmuson Library at UAF, which is the only facility in the UA system capable of accommodating the extensive collection.

"The university is delighted to receive this collection. The historic value of these papers, speeches and documents is immeasurable; it's very fitting that the senator's papers come to the University of Alaska," Hamilton said.

Stevens said he's pleased to make the deposit to the university. "Alaska is my home, and it's my hope that this collection of papers and material will contribute to the body of knowledge about the many important federal issues which have affected our state," he said.

It will take an estimated two to three years for the university to assess and process the collection after it arrives, said Paul McCarthy, former director of the Rasmuson Library and advisor to the university on the Stevens' collection. McCarthy has extensive experience in handling large collections, and oversaw the receipt of the Elmer E. Rasmuson collection.

"The hope is to work with the senator to get some of the material with the most public interest, for instance in the area of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, posted online through the library's current digital archive system," McCarthy said. "We'd like to use technology to make certain records and papers within the collection available to as many Alaskan and non-Alaskan scholars alike, no matter where they live."

In accordance with Senate rules, the federal government will pay shipping costs. University officials may seek private and public funding in the future to help process the collection.

Many items will be made available to the public as soon as they can be properly archived. Certain files containing constituent information and other confidential files will remain confidential until 50 years after they were created, or longer if covered by state or federal privacy laws. Under terms of the agreement, most of the collection will be made widely available five years after Stevens' death.

FAFSA Frenzy success

With a week to go in this year's FAFSA Frenzy campaign a new counter had to be created in order to account for the record number of Free Applications for Federal Sudent Aid turned in. It seems that this year's unusual theme featuring the ransom of Freddie the FAFSA mascot got plenty of attention from the students. Already more than 4500 have been filed as of February 24. The ransom demanded 2000, the unofficial statewide goal was 3000.

UA volunteers read to K-12 students

University of Alaska alumni and student volunteers will read a colorful picture book to children across the state later this month as part of the UA College Savings Plan's ongoing "I Know I Can" outreach program.

"I Know I Can" features animal characters encouraging children to consider college and career choices, and to start thinking about those choices early. The university and the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education sponsored the program for the first time three years ago. It has now expanded to 37 classrooms in a dozen schools.

Volunteers from the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast will read the book aloud in schools the last week of the month. Five communities are participating this year, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Bethel and, new this year, Galena. The volunteers will give away free copies of the book to an estimated 730 children.

The book shows a group of animal characters thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. A little mouse character donning a cap and gown hides on each page, thinking "I know I can" to himself as the story unfolds. A teacher, Mrs. Walker, explains to the children that they should start thinking about their futures now, and she gives them lots of ideas, such as being a house builder, farmer, or doctor or nurse.

"You can become whatever you want if you try," Mrs. Walker says. She even gains the acceptance of one reluctant character who thinks he already knows everything, O'Toot the owl.

Linda Luper, director of the UA College Savings Plan, said the purpose of the book is to help youngsters think about what's ahead of them in life.

"Young children love to think about what they're going to be when they grow up, but we have to make sure they know it requires effort on their part," Luper said. "We know not every job requires a four-year college degree, but most jobs require some level of postsecondary training and workforce education beyond high school. Children should be encouraged at an early age to think about all of the possibilities for their life, including college."

The volunteers ask the students to draw a postcard showing what they want to be when they grow up.  When the participating children complete elementary school, the postcard will be mailed back to them to remind them of their goals. Participating schools this year include:

Anchorage: Muldoon, Willow Crest and Mountain View elementary schools
Fairbanks: Barnette, Denali and North Pole elementary schools
Juneau: Glacier Valley, Gastineau and Mendenhall River elementary schools
Bethel: Ayaprun Elitnaurvik and Mikelnguut Elitnaurvik
Galena: Galena Primary School

The UA College Savings Plan fully funds the project, with operational support from the ACPE. I Know I Can is a non-profit, national organization based in Ohio.

The UA College Savings Plan offers tax-advantaged savings plans to residents in Alaska and throughout the United States. Students who use the plan to pay for college can attend any qualified school, not just UA. The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is the state's higher education agency that promotes, supports and provides access to higher education through a package of financial aid and early education awareness services.

Join the SW Staff Heart Walk team to raise funds for the prevention of heart disease

Statewide employees have an opportunity to make a real difference in the community by participation in this year’s American Heart Walk, to be held on Saturday, May 16. Walk either 1 mile or 3 miles while enjoying music and acts along the way. Lunch is provided by the hospital. Other activities include photos and face painting. It's a fun family event and for a good cause.  Please Follow This Link to join the SW Staff Heart Walk Team.  The team's goals are to recruit 10 teammates and raise $2,500.  Please contact Paloma Harbour, x8184, if you have any questions or concerns.

The American Heart Walk is the premiere fundraising event of the American Heart Association (AHA). It is designed to promote physical activity and heart-healthy living. The AHA anticipates that more than 1 million walkers will participate in more than 450 events geared at raising funds for the two top causes of death in the country – heart disease and stroke.

In the past two years, UAF/SW has made a huge showing, raising $43,688 in 2007 and $37,956 in 2008.

Raising money has its rewards too.

Marianne Freelong, is the UAF/SW coordinator and can be contacted at mfreelong@fs.uaf.edu or ext 5990.

Freelong said, "I will mention that I was never one to throw too much time or effort into this event until my youngest sister died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart defect while in Guatemala at the Mayan Ruins. She left behind three young children and it was and still is a devastating event. I would do anything to see that no other young family has to go through such a tragic event if raising money can keep it from continuing."

Regents approve resolutions on NCAA and Native education & research

The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution decrying recent changes to regional NCAA Division II playoff tournaments that would prevent Alaska and Hawaii from hosting full, eight-team tournaments.  The BOR members also unanimously approved a resolution supporting the creation of an Alaska Native Education and Research Council, in cooperation with Alaska's regional Native corporations.

The NCAA rule change came in a memo dated Feb. 9, mid-season, and without input from the conferences or regions most affected by the change.   The resolution asks that the NCAA immediately rescind the rule change, which university officials believe unfairly penalizes the University of Alaska Anchorage Women's Basketball Team.  The regents' resolution states the NCAA's action "violates the respected principles of fair play and a level playing field."

Gov. Sarah Palin also wrote a letter to the vice president for Division II NCAA to express disappointment in the change.

On the Native council resolution, forming such a council already received the backing of the chief executive officers of the regional Native corporations. The council, once formed, will have the university and Native corporations work together  to identify, prioritize and support activities such as vocational and technical training, academic curriculum, research, community outreach, endowed chairs and other activities that would meet the needs of both the Native constituents of the corporations as well as the university.

UA has increased the number of its Alaska Native graduates by 108 percent in the past decade, and hopes to achieve another 100 percent increase in the next 10 years. Numerous programs have been created to specifically benefit Native and rural students. The regional Native corporations represent the economic interests of over 100,000 Alaska Native people.

"This resolution represents the university's desire to work more closely with our Native corporations," said Board Chair Cynthia Henry. "It's a formal framework for moving forward, and we're really excited about the possibilities. The Native corporations represent a vital sector of Alaska's economy. It only makes sense that we work together."

Regents also approved a new graduate certificate in statistics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, reviewed stages of various UA construction projects in progress, including renovations at the Anderson Building at UAS and schematic design for a new Health Sciences Building at UAA.

They also received an update from the McDowell Group research consulting firm on the impact of biological and life sciences at UAF. Eric McDowell told the board that, with over 800 degree-seeking students, the UAF biology and wildlife program is one of the largest degree programs in the entire UA
system. Four hundred additional students taking life science classes pushes total enrollment up to 1,200. These students and researchers monitor toxicants and diseases in Alaska, conduct Native health research, study Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, hibernation, bird flu and numerous other issues that aren't only important to Alaska, but have far-reaching ramifications. For instance, studying hibernation in animals could eventually lead to new innovations in science that could help people.

A new Life Sciences building at UAF is the Board of Regents' top new construction priority in the capital budget for FY2010, as it has been for the last several years.

Regents also met with Education and Early Development Commissioner Larry LeDoux, Gov. Sarah Palin, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and state legislators. They attended a reception at UAS and met with numerous students and faculty members of UAS. Thursday morning, they met with the University of Alaska Foundation's Board of Trustees.
 

SAA Nomination Deadline Feb. 27

Do you know someone who would make a good representative on the Statewide Administration Assembly, or are you interested yourself? Then consider nominating them or yourself for one of the open seats in the upcoming election!

Nominations are due Friday, February 27, 2009. All regular and temporary statewide employees, not including student employees, may vote in the election. Click here for the nomination form.

The election results will fill six voting seats to serve July 2009 through June 2011 and two alternates to serve July 2009 through June 2010. One of these voting seats is reserved for an Anchorage nominee.

Outgoing SAA voting members whose terms end in June 2009 are those of DeShana York, Paloma Harbour, Jennifer Mahler, Dana Platta, Linda Hall, and Jason Davis. Alternate members whose terms also end June 2009 are Lisa Sporleder and Kim Eames.

Continuing SAA voting members whose terms end in June 2010 are Rita Murphy, Betty Dupee, Bess Rounds, James Milburn, Tami Choquette.

Nominations may be submitted by:

  • mailing this form to SAA at PO Box 757780, Fairbanks AK 99775-7780
  • faxing this form to SAA at (907) 450-8041
  • dropping it off in the box at the SAA office at 105H Butrovich
  • emailing nominations to SAA at sysaa@alaska.edu
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