Did You Know?

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Learn More About UA

This is a new series we are calling Did You Know.” The project is designed to highlight university excellence and collaboration through storytelling and data. Our goal is to keep university stakeholders informed about the university's key role in changing lives and shaping the state's economy. These vignettes and personal stories illustrate the university's many successes and the vital and profound impact it has on graduates and all Alaskans.



Aviation program

Did you know that the University of Alaska Anchorage’s program for training air traffic controllers [ATC] is nearly 50 years old? The ATC program was started in 1971 at Anchorage Community College and has become one of the top air traffic control programs in the country graduating more than 700 students in the past two decades alone. The nationally recognized program offers state-of-the-art air traffic control simulators and its grant-funded upgrade to the ATC radar simulation lab now replicates the current enroute radar systems. And, did you know that it is the only lab of its kind nationwide existing outside the FAA Academy? 

From a small classroom to today’s high tech, futuristic simulation technology, UAA's ATC program is an important part of Alaska's aviation history and a top destination for students to pursue a career in air traffic control. The growth of this program demonstrates the investment made by the university to meet the needs of Alaska’s aviation industry -- a major part of the state’s economy that impacts about 82 percent of Alaska communities not connected by a contiguous road system.


UAS at airport

Did you know that the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ drone program, also known as the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI), has just been selected to lead one of the Federal Aviation Administration’s eight new BEYOND program sites? In 2018 the FAA picked UAF as one of ten programs out of 149 applications to help find ways to advance flight techniques and capabilities that will better serve the state’s diverse needs. The drone research program accelerates that effort. The Alaska BEYOND team includes a diverse group of 27 partners across the state and nation, including the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Foundation Health Partners and Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

ACUASI’s research focuses on increasing the distance a drone can fly from the pilot or controller. The further a drone can fly from its pilot, the more useful it becomes. Since drones can access areas that humans cannot, they are ideal for search and rescue situations, as well as for delivering emergency supplies to remote locations. UAF drones are used for operations including critical infrastructure monitoring, marine and land mammal surveys, sea ice modeling, atmospheric sampling, wildfire surveillance and tidewater glacier mapping.

Since the program’s inception in 2001, it has grown, gaining financial support from a multitude of public and private sources, including the FAA’s Center of Excellence for UAS Research. The Center of Excellence funding alone currently provides more than $1.3 million for research at UAF, and ACUASI expects another $1.3 million from the program by late spring.

Robyn Capp

Did you know that UAS alum Robyn Capp is dedicating her teaching skills to helping students make an easier transition from the classroom to learning remotely? Capp, who graduated from UAS with a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education in 2019 and was recognized as the program’s Outstanding Graduate, received a $5,000 COVID-19 grant from the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation to create flexible learning kits for the students in her classroom at Randy Smith Middle School in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. 

Developed for the current school year, the kits were created to assist student learning as schools transition between risk levels. This will allow students to have access to familiar materials both in the classroom and at home. Each flexible learning kit includes core instructional material and hands-on activities. Additionally, each kit also will be individualized based on each student’s Individualized Education Program goals, objectives and specific family needs. The materials are aligned with Alaska’s Smart Start 2020. 

 Did you know that Ben Kellie [UAF ‘10] took a short path from helping his bush pilot father in Nikiski to launching SpaceX rockets in California? Learn more about his amazing career as part of a deep dive into UA's engineering programs and quality of the offerings through both the UAA and UAF programs in this video featured during the November Board of Regents meeting.


Elizabeth Bolling

Did you know that nearly 450 UA student interns have gone through the Sen. Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program [formerly known as the Legislative Internship Program] since its inception in 1988? One of those graduates, Elizabeth Bolling [UAS ‘13], now owns her own lobbying firm in Juneau. After graduating from UAS with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with an interdisciplinary concentration in Political Science, Anthropology and History, Elizabeth followed the entrepreneurial route and founded Bolling Consulting. “There’s no other place than Alaska where a 20-year-old can be a successful lobbyist with her own firm. You cannot do that in California,” she notes. Her current clients include those in the healthcare industry and companies that require her help in political strategy, communications and lobbying. Her firm is growing and she says she plans on hiring other UA grads in the future, but for now she’s putting her UAS degree to work for her clients and Alaska.



RV Polarstern

Did you know that UAF researchers Rob Rember and Marc Oggier from the International Arctic Research Center were part of the world’s largest and most comprehensive Arctic expedition? They were aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern, which returned to port in October after a year-long expedition bringing with it a trove of data, along with countless samples of ice cores, snow and water collected while drifting near the North Pole. Rember and Oggier were part of the project called the Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate [MOSAiC], the research vessel anchored to a large floe creating a small scientific village. In all, more than 300 scientists from 20 countries took part in the internationally funded expedition. Much of the data gathered will be used to improve scientists’ models of global warming, particularly in the Arctic, where change has been happening at a faster pace than elsewhere on the planet.


Thompson & Co. PR

Did you know that Jennifer Thompson [UAA ‘00] leads one of the most successful PR agencies in Alaska? Thompson & Co. has grown from 5 employees in 2008 to more than 20 today, 8 of whom are UA grads, and has an office in Houston, Texas, and a subsidiary company, Blueprint Alaska. As a small business owner, Jennifer has put her communications degree to work for many of Alaska’s top companies in nearly every sector, including the state’s tourism industry. Her agency’s social media marketing and communications work has helped establish Alaska’s reputation as a leading tourist destination--attracting visitors from around the world.