2019 Staff Make Students Count Honorees

May 3, 2019

Morgan Dufseth

Staff members lay the foundation for our students’ success. From providing emotional support when a student is discouraged or help with applying for financial aid, UA staff members support just about every aspect of our students’ experience.

The University of Alaska will honor four outstanding staff members during the June 6 Board of Regents meeting with the Staff Make Students Count award for providing outstanding service to students.

Each recipient will receive an award plaque, a lump-sum of $1,000 and two domestic airline vouchers from Alaska Airlines. The Staff Make Students Count Awards were establishing in 1999 to recognize outstanding service to UA students.

Award winners include:

Kelly Foran, Director of TRiO Student Support Services,UAA

From her nomination letter:

After serving as an advisor, Kelly quickly took on a permanent leadership position as Director of TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) at UAA. She dove in head first and immediately took steps to improve services to participants of the program. Since her time in her new role, Kelly has strengthened the student mentorship component, built partnerships with student-serving community organizations, and provided professional development to staff to better prepare them to serve students. She diligently tracks information about SSS participants and frequently meets one-on-one with students to help them navigate the complications of higher education. Kelly’s ongoing support removes barriers to access and success every single day.

Statements of Support:

I have known Kelly Foran, or Miss Kelly, for four years and counting. Words cannot describe the impact Miss Kelly has had on me,  mostly as a student, but also as a young immigrant, who came to Alaska barely able to speak English. She stood out to me a lot because she was extremely invested in the students. She opened up to us and was there every step of the way. She insisted that if we needed anything, she and the other advisors were there for us. She is not only an advisor and a director - Miss Kelly is a mentor. She became a role model to me because she went out of her way to make sure low-income and first-generation students were not alone. She made sure that our voice were heard.


Mrs. Kelly has helped me become a leader on my UAA campus. She has taught me the importance of being fearless and how to stand up for what I believe in. She has given me opportunities to develop my leadership as well. Mrs. Kelly has helped me develop my leadership skills by allowing and helping implement programs such as the food bags she gives out to students at the SSS office. Also, she has helped me gain the courage to help start the Hunger and Homeless Support Network on campus. With her constant support, she has shown me how to be a leader and has set an amazing example of how to lead.

As a first-generation college student, Kelly was one of the first people I encountered in college. She was eager to make sure I was taking the correct courses, had an idea about how I would pay my tuition and helped me apply for financial aid. Not only was Kelly interested in me enrolling in the appropriate courses but, she was also attentive to the enjoyment of my classes and always asked how things were going on and off campus. Kelly is always willing to meet

with students at any point in the semester whether it be to figure out financial aid, talk about course progress or talk about future plans for the upcoming semesters. On rare occasions when Kelly does not have the answer to your question, she will call or e-mail the right person during the one-on-one meeting and get you an answer promptly or she will contact you with an answer as soon as she hears back.

Jennifer Lu, BLaST Program Coordinator, UAF

From her nomination letter:

May of the students we have here at BLaST are from rural Alaska, small communities far from Fairbanks. For some, college is the first time away from their families. Jenn has spent her three years at BLaST creating an environment where our students can feel a little “at home.” A place where students can open up, talk about their lives, their issues, their struggles.

As Jen’s direct supervisor, I know first-hand how large her workload is. It’s extremely impressive how she is able to juggle that increasingly large workload, and the amount of time she spends with the students. No matter how busy she is, she’s never too busy for our students. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Jennifer Lu. It was like the award was make for her.

Statements of Support:

Jennifer has been working for BLaST as our program coordinator and office manager for about 2.5 years. In that time Jennifer has shown deep dedication to our students. She is the face of BLaST and often the first point of contact for our students. She always greets students with a smile and truly gives them the feeling she and by extension our program cares about the students and their success. She finds answers or people with answers to solve any problems students bring to her.

The BLaST program is all about student support, and students have numerous formal opportunities to receive mentoring and support from the BLaST staff and faculty. But Jen tends to be the first stop for many students. She is a smiling face in the main office, with an always-full candy dish – the perfect place to drop in when you are between classes and need a “lift.” On the formal side, Jen sends out all the announcements and deadlines for the BLaST Program. She helps students track their completion of requirements, she makes appointments for them, and she identifies proper resources for students. But the reason I support her for this award is that she goes far beyond her job requirements by establishing supportive relationships with of our BLaST Scholars and our Undergraduate Research Students. Her care and concern for each student is evident when you see her interact with students. She knows who to gently josh into a laugh, who to pat on the back, and who needs an opportunity for a serious conversation.

I met Jennifer Lu when I first considered being a part of the Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program at UAF. Jennifer guided me through the process of the application and helped place me into a laboratory setting even before I was accepted into the program. Early on, I saw Jennifer as a mentor during my undergraduate career. When I was accepted into BLaST, she was the first to congratulate me; supplying me with biomedical themed gifts and praise. I knew that I was where I needed to be to succeed at this university as a developing researcher. Throughout my two years of being in BLaST and knowing Jennifer Lu, I have always been able to go to her at any time of need. It became a trend to see all members of BLaST go to her as a mentor; including undergraduate scholars and researchers, Research Advising and Mentoring Professionals (RAMPs), and general UAF administration. I was not the only one who appreciated Jennifer for her mentorship and knowledge.


Denise Carl, Academic Advisor, UAS

From her nomination letter:

Denise’s duties include direct advising of over 260 individual students as well as providing advising leadership and support for the School of Arts & Sciences. She meets in-person with her advisees to assist with schedule planning and college adjustment issues and regularly follows up with them during the semester. She surveys students to collect information about which academic and advising resources they utilize and provides useful results to faculty advisors.

Denise has show incredible initiative in planning, execution, and organization of advising projects. She created and presented a series of workshops for students who live in UAS house. She built an online orientation for students who are not physically on our campu. In addition, she created a Blackboard non-credit course for advising, online advising tutorial videos for student reference, and a detailed registration checklist with instructional links for students. She also developed typical four-year degree planning sheets for the degrees offered in the School of Arts & Sciences.

Statements of support:

I can attest to Denise’s dedication, professionalism, and enthusiasm for making students count. She always makes herself readily available to students who need assistance with their academic plans. Denise goes beyond academic advising by being a valuable resource to students. In assisting students with questions, she will refer students to various office on campus. For example, she escorted a student to the financial aid office on campus when he had a question  regarding his scholarship and taking summer courses. Denise is continually working on ways to improve advising resources for students within the School of Arts & Sciences. She sends to each newly registered student a detailed step-by-step checklist of what is needed in order to be successful in their studies (how to find their UA ID, placement testing information, housing information, financial aid, registering for classes, obtaining textbooks, etc.). Denise truly cares about the success of the students and the various academic programs.

Denise truly stands apart in the compassion and caring that she has shown me. She delights in my successes and achievements like when I share the news of my acceptance into the Pathway’s program, but she also reaches out in the moments where things aren’t perfect. We all have bad days and I had one earlier this year and on that bad day, Denise and I share some time together. Later that evening, my email mail box sounded with a message from Denise stating, “Obviously, things aren’t 100% in your world. Know that I am thinking about you. I am here for you in anyway I can be. It seems like you have a pretty good support crew and I am glad to see that. If you need an “adult” I am happy to be there. At the very least, know that you are seen and cared about.” That level of caring and acceptance is something that I have rarely experienced before and something that made that sad day better and that I will never forget. Feeling heard and cared for is so important to every student in any situation and Denise never forgets that.

Denise is one of the most thoughtful, conscientious, and organized university staff that I have encountered. She goes above and beyond to alleviate the bureaucratic burdens of the students she works with so they can keep their focus on their academics. She also makes a great effort to be a part of the campu community through her involvement in campus and community-wide activities. Outside of her office, I know her as a fellow student of the Outdoor Studies program’s Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue course that took us on weekend expeditions to Douglas Island and the Mendenhall Glacier. Denise proved herself to be a hardworking, humble team member. Seeing Denise involved in so many UAS events outside of her work requirements shows her investment in the university.

I tried real school. Didn’t like it. Then I heard about the Outdoor Studies Program at UAS. A way to stay in school and be outside? That can’t be real. Little did I know once you get passed the super convincing ads and the application you have all kinds of bureaucratic stuff to sort out. Paperwork on paperwork. Then there are the classes. “You can’t take this class before this one and you can’t take that one since you’re taking that one.” So many can’ts. Here’s the thing. I found this wonderful resource tucked away in the Soboleff Building. A resource that say you CAN. This is Denis Carl. She makes things easy to understand and figures stuff out.

Michael Hostina, General Counsel, SW

From his nomination letter:

Mike’s work is performed mostly in the background advising administrators on issues of compliance, liability, and process. Because his work is mostly behind the scenes, he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for his steadfast commitment to working toward an environment that protects the right of all students to seek and education in a safe environment that is free from barriers like harassment and discrimination.

When faced with pushback over compliance issues, Mike will always advocate for the right answer to a problem. In his mind, the “right answer” is the one that abides by the law and does what is best for students. Mike’s sense of integrity is unwavering, and his advice to administrators always has that bedrock quality. His steady hand is often needed in times of uncertainty and it is because of his ability to remain constant in the face of turmoil that his actions aren’t always noticed, but that makes them no less important to the success of the university community.

Statements of support:

In reflecting on the qualities common to recipients of the “Staff Make Student Count” award, terms such as “servant leadership,” “student success,” and “dedication” come to mind. While these terms may not commonly be used to describe a lawyer categorically, these are appropriate words to describe General Counsel Mike Hostina. Mike is dedicated to the success of students, and ultimately, the success of the university. Mike is a quiet force at the university. His counsel is on‐point, insightful and delivered respectfully. Mike excels at strategy development; he has provided counsel to me on many Title IX and university policy issues involving students. Despite his busy schedule and the exhaustive long hours he works, Mike always make time to meet with me. Not only is he wise, but Mike is an accomplished writer and is usually the unnamed author when important university issues call for a polished final document.

In everything Mr. Hostina does, service to students and impact to students is his first consideration. This was demonstrated  most recently in the UAA School of Education loss of accreditation issues. Mike was a relentless advocate for students always pushing us to ask ourselves, “but what is best for students and their future? It is not about us, it’s about them.” He wanted to make sure students had a path to licensure and therefore a path to getting a job whether inside Alaska or outside Alaska.

In my capacity as Vice President for Academics, Students and Research, I have had the opportunity work closely with Mr. Hostina and his staff on these difficult issues. As General Counsel for the University of Alaska, it would have been perhaps more typical that Mr. Hostina would put the legal interests of the University first – to “protect the institution”. However, in working with him, I have seen that Mr. Hostina has consistently approached our Title IX and Accreditation issues from the position that we need to do what is best for the students at our university, even if it might result in some “negative publicity” for the institution or its leaders.