2024 Faculty Initiative Fund Awardees

Tier 1 Proposals

PI: Julie Avery, UAF, Ruby Fried (UAA)


Maternal (women and non-binary pregnant persons) and child nutrition are of critical importance to long term population health. Alaska is unique among the other states in the ethnic and cultural diversity represented, reliance on subsistence foods, and challenges in food security. The primary focus of this proposal is to develop a Community Advisory Board (CAB) for establishing collaborative and equitable nutrition research supporting the unique needs of Alaska communities in Maternal Child Health (MCH). This project will build a strong foundation for the PIs to collaborate on a NIH RO1 submission to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

Awarded: 29,622.00

PI: Jessica Ross, UA, Dr. Maria Williams UAA


This proposed Tier I Faculty Initiative Fund project will address the appreciation and preservation of Alaska Native traditional healing activities as a resource for advancing indigenous health care in Alaska. The project will build the capacity of Nughejagh, an emerging state-wide participatory, collaborative project that seeks to expand culturally responsive and trauma-informed healing methods in Alaska Native tribal community health centers in part through the use of traditional healing activities. Such activities incorporate art, song and music, dance and movement, and storytelling, as well as ceremony, to promote healing in its most holistic expression involving mental, physical, spiritual, and community health, linking health outcomes and traditional health activities.

Awarded: 25,859.00

PI: Dr. Getu Hailu, UAA, Co-PI: Dr. Sunwoo Kim, UAF


In general, in the US, Britain, and France, the energy consumption of the drying process accounts for 12% of the total energy consumption of the total industrial process energy consumption (Bhandari, 2015). In recent years, in Alaska, kelp farming has gained much attention and momentum. Since kelp drying is one of the processing operations with high energy consumption, it is of practical significance to research alternative ways of energy consumption reduction in the drying process, especially in Alaska, where the energy price is higher compared to the continental US. The goal of this project is to achieve energy efficiency through the design and development of methodologies for a heat recovery system for kelp drying.

Awarded: $29,998

PI: Dr. Hannah Ekstrom PsyD, Term Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, UAA

Co-Investigator: Dr. Vanessa E. Meade, PsyD, LCSW, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, College of Health, UAA


The proposed Tier I pilot, designed with UAA’s aspirations to put students first, seeks to address a timely student concern: graduate student burnout and stress. Students are significantly impacted by stress, academic strain, and burnout and about half of graduate students report academic work is impacted by stress (Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lustig, 2006). Graduate students also have unique needs, including work-life strain and financial stressors (Hyun et al.). This project will provide diverse UAA graduate students with opportunities for engagement and a learning community to enhance wellbeing through education and skill-based groups. Graduate students will learn essential information and skills to develop individualized, culturally relevant wellbeing knowledge and tools. This effort will include a collaboration between UAA’s Graduate School, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Health, and other relevant UAA student service partners. We will design and collect an outcome survey. This will be utilized to inform future development of graduate student wellbeing programs at UAA.

Awarded: $30,000

PI: Kristen Gorman, PhD.

Co PI: Lauren Divine PhD, Douglas Causey, PhD, Veronica Padula PhD


We request funding ($30,000) from the University of Alaska, Faculty Initiative Fund (UA FIF) to support a Tier I, 12-month project to be conducted between January and December 2024 that is designed to add a marine contaminant perspective to an ongoing investigation into the spatial foraging ecology of blacklegged kittiwakes that nest at St. Paul Island, Alaska. The proposed project will broaden an ongoing collaboration between investigators at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF, Gorman), the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island (ACSPI) Tribal Government (Divine), University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA, Causey), and the Seattle Aquarium (Padula). Importantly, project funds will support a foundational field experience for a UAF graduate student researcher to assist with fieldwork to generate data for their MS program in Marine Biology at CFOS/UAF. The data produced by the project will contribute to future extramural funding proposals. Our research team is broadly focused on advancing knowledge of Bering Sea seabird response to environmental change by considering new parameters not incorporated in previous studies. We intend to use detailed spatial foraging information based on GPSand geolocator-tracking of seabirds, and measurements of multi-stressors including contaminant burdens (total mercury concentration, [THg]), all of which is critical information for our ACSPI collaborators who have a strong interest in Indigenous-led management of the marine waters surrounding the Pribilof Islands. The proposed project addresses criteria outlined in the UA FIF RFP regarding 1) inter-university collaborations, 2) scholarly endeavors and student engagement, 3) start-up funds to help develop extramural grant proposals, and 4) community partnership.

Awarded: $30,000

PI: Dr. Steffi M. Kim UAA,

Co-PI: Dr. Britteny Howell, UAA Dr. Vanessa Hiratsuka, UAA


The AN CARE Collaborative (Alaska Native Community-Engaged Aging Research Collaborative) aims to establish a group of researchers, professionals, organizations, and Alaska Native community members to assess and address the needs of Alaska Native Elders within the State of Alaska related to aging well, dementia, and dementia caregiving. Project goals include 1) assessing the existing needs of rural Alaska Native Elders that can facilitate aging well, improve dementia care and services, and dementia caregiver support; 2) addressing the identified needs by developing culturally tailored knowledge and dissemination of educational materials and resources; and 3) enhancing accessibility and visibility of the needs and developed resources by educating professionals, communities, and community members. Major steps include the establishment of one Graduate Student Assistantship to support the project, coordination with collaborative members, development of educational materials, and conducting community-based participatory research projects informed and guided by participating communities.

Awarded: $29,626

PI: Jacqueline E Cason, UAA , Jay Szczepanski II, UAS,

Co PI: James William Ryan PhD, UAS-Ketchikan, Jennifer Tilbury, UAF, Carrie Aldrich PhD, UAA


In the nine years since the Board of Regents encouraged statewide alignment of course numbers, titles, descriptions, student learning outcomes, and placement mechanisms, UA writing programs have experienced evolutionary change. Numerous events and factors have affected how we deliver writing instruction to students–a global pandemic requiring an extended pivot to remote instruction; declining enrollments nationwide (and especially in Alaska) (e.g. Aldrich & Prielipp, 2022; Fawcett, 2022); natural drift in instructional approaches and strategies as functions of time, distance, and technological innovation (Wood, 2023); the deployment of large-language model (LLM) generative artificial intelligence (Dobrin, 2023); and co-requisite developmental writing support interventions, including Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) models (e.g. Adams, et al., 2009; Armstrong, Geist, & Geist, 2020; Sullivan & Adams, 2023). Moreover, recent pedagogical innovations that increase student persistence and performance in developmental and gateway composition courses show great promise in reducing equity gaps for our students from historically underserved populations (e.g. Baker-Bell, 2020; Kopko, et al., 2022). During the process of statewide alignment in 2016, faculty across the system elected to create a new WRTG prefix to forge a stronger connection between developmental and general education writing and to establish a pathway more intelligible to students, a goal that could more fully be realized during the next revision.

Because University of Alaska students enroll in general education writing courses across the system, which serve as prerequisites to upper division courses, retaining alignment statewide makes sense. Yet in a very real sense, the opportunity for UA’s writing practitioners to lean into innovations that keep pace with technological change and retain more students is hindered by an alignment mandate that provided no systemwide means for routine curricular revision. Faculty initiative funding would provide a statewide opportunity to re-engage and realign in a meaningful way that addresses current and future contexts for writing. To acknowledge this reality–and to engage in an organic form of curricular design that addresses the spirit of content alignment and credit transfer–writing faculty from each MAU propose the inaugural Quinquennial Statewide Symposium on Effectiveness in First-Year Writing: Instituting and Maintaining Best Practices for Student Persistence and Retention. Our goal is to bring to Anchorage full-time writing faculty from UAA, UAF, and UAS (including branch campuses like Mat-Su, Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, Kuskokwim, Prince William Sound, Bristol Bay, Sitka, and Ketchikan) who are involved in first-year writing for a two-day symposium during which we will deploy working groups to address current and pressing issues in developmental and general education composition courses in an Alaskan context.

We anticipate the attendance of approximately 25 full-time faculty, of whom approximately 15 will travel to Anchorage from their branch campuses. Our goal is to split faculty into six interest/working groups to develop or draft, over two days, specific proposals that will align our courses and programs, increase student access and success, and institute the best, most effective practices that result in increased retention and graduation rates. We see in-person collaboration as essential to this process, both as a trust-building effort, which will increase participant investment and chances for branch campus adoptions of our recommendations, and as a matter of learning more about how writing courses serve a diverse student demographic. To make the most of our time together, our proposal outlines preparatory tasks in advance of the symposium. We intend to host this conference every five years and seek funding through this Tier 1 FIF ($30,000) to establish its first iteration only.

Awarded: $30,000

PI: Dr. Andrew Harnish, Assistant Professor of Writing, Department of Writing, UAA Goose Lake Co-PI: Dr. Amy May, Associate Professor & Chair, Department of Communication, UAF Troth Yeddha’

Co-PI: Dr. Peter Praetorius, Associate Professor of Communication, UAA Mat-Su College

Co-PI: Dr. James William Ryan, Assistant Professor of Writing/Communication, UAS Ketchikan Co-PI: David Leiva, Economic Recovery and Academia Advisor, Federal Emergency Management Agency


The goal of the University of Alaska Grant Writing Network is to connect aspiring Alaskan grant writers with writing resources, professional opportunities, and a platform for networking. These tools are vitally needed given the state’s dependence on grant funding. The efforts of the Network will be enabled by a website, the creation of which is the primary focus of this funding request. The Network website will include a regularly updated list of Alaska-specific grants and grant seeking resources, a job opportunities list for grant writers, a centralized directory of UA grant writing courses and times, and a listserv and moderated discussion board that will help to create a “community of practice” to enable Alaskan grant writers to connect with and support each other. Drawing on expertise from across the UA system, the project will provide communities throughout Alaska with the tools they need to obtain valuable federal, state, and philanthropic resources. Moreover, it will equip students with marketable skills for Alaska businesses, all to the benefit of our state.

Awarded: $29,931

PI: Raghu Srinivasan PhD Associate Professor and Department Chair of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alaska Anchorage


Corrosion is a significant problem and losses due to corrosion are estimated to cost the United States approximately 3 to 4% of its gross domestic product (GDP). One of the primary costs associated with effective corrosion integrity management is recruiting and training the highly specialized engineers required to carry out this work. However, there is a fundamental knowledge gap for the future workforce in corrosion due to various reasons. This project aims for the States of Alaska, through Universities’ summer camps, to take a more active role in introducing corrosion as a viable career opportunity to the community and help ensure the long- term sustainability of the corrosion workforce. PI Srinivasan is the current instructor for the College of Engineering’s Summer Engineering Academy: Corrosion Chemistry. The main goal of this proposal is to continue the work done in the past year as part of the Tier I AY 23 Faculty Initiative Fund (FIF) and to develop corrosion camp materials for students with unique educational needs and neurodiversity groups. This will be accomplished with the help of community partners like the Anchorage School District (ASD) and the Special Education Service Agency (SESA). The collaborative work from Part I will be incorporated into this year’s Tier I and develop more comprehensive learning materials. PI Srinivasan will also identify a few students with unique learning and educational needs with low-incidence disabilities with the help of the community partners and those students will be admitted to the regular Corrosion camp in the Summer of 2024. The camp fees for these students will be paid through the AY 24 Tier I FIF. This community-engaged development of high impact pedagogical practices serves the UA mission of inspiring, educating, and propelling students from diverse backgrounds to sustained STEM learning through high school and all the way up to graduate school.

Awarded: $30,000

Tier 2 Proposals

PI: Shannon Doherty, Research Assistant Professor, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences


Planktic foraminifera, single-celled marine plankton that form shells, are crucial to studies of Earth’s climate. Although Alaska waters have great potential for research on high-latitude planktic foraminifera, little work has been done characterizing the planktic foraminifera around Alaska. This Tier-II proposal seeks to establish the geographic boundaries of planktic foraminifera species living in Alaska coastal waters, generating 1) preliminary data to be used in future NSF proposals and 2) a set of foraminifera fossil samples to be used in teaching and outreach. In addition, the equipment requested for this analysis will compose a full suite of micropaleontology resources for future research at the University of Alaska.

Awarded: $9995.88

PI: Dr. Helena Wisniewski, UAA Co PI: Terry Nelson, UAA


We are honored to present a proposal for a Tier II mini-project to the UA Faculty Initiative Fund, seeking a strategic investment of $10,000 in the 2024 College of Business and Public Policy (CBPP) Showcase. This funding will be pivotal in orchestrating "Innovate Together: Unleashing Potential with Artificial Intelligence (AI)," the theme for the CBPP’s third annual Showcase scheduled for October 2024. The impact of the showcase is illustrated through the following four cornerstone goals that encapsulate our vision for a collaborative and groundbreaking exploration into the realms of AI.

  1. Elevate the understanding and appreciation of AI's transformative power within UA and the broader Alaskan community.
  2. Ignite cross-disciplinary synergy and innovation and foster new inter-college and community collaborations that harness the limitless possibilities of AI.
  3. Demonstrate the vibrant AI endeavors already underway at UAA, celebrating faculty and student work in AI across various colleges and illustrating AI integration into the curriculum for student success.
  4. Serve as a platform to highlight the benefits of our existing community partnerships in AI while paving the way for new alliances and illustrating how AI can drive educational excellence and community advancement in Alaska.

"Innovate Together" will engage the audience through interactive sessions on AI topics presented by faculty, students, and external experts from the industry who are AI practitioners and experts and hands on interactive AI demonstrations in ADSAIL. Also, we will provide food, music, and venues to facilitate networking.

Steps to complete the project: We will use the funding for planning the showcase, including creating the agenda, inviting and coordinating the speakers, preparing demonstrations in ADSAL, marketing materials, including flyers, posters, and posting on social media, honorarium for the keynote speakers where appropriate, equipment rentals, and preparing videos to add communication material.

Success Metrics: Our success metrics include attendee numbers of 300 or more based on previous showcase attendance numbers, collaborative follow-up projects, positive survey feedback of 90% satisfaction with the event, additional integration of AI into the curriculum, and new community partnerships.

The event will catalyze innovation, celebrate academic achievements, and spark new partnerships to propel educational excellence, student success, and community development in Alaska. The “Innovate Together” showcase's goals align with UA's mission – "The University of Alaska inspires learning and advances and disseminates knowledge through teaching, research, and public service, emphasizing the North and its diverse peoples.

Awarded: $10,000

PI: Lead Principal Investigator: Heather Burge (UAS) Co-PI: Andrea Dewees (UAS)


Alaska Native and Spanish language faculty at the University of Alaska Southeast request faculty initiative funds for the establishment of a learning network to support Alaska Native and heritage language learners. We will strengthen University of Alaska’s ties to community organizations that support language learning opportunities for Alaska Native and heritage languages in the initial communities of Anchorage and Juneau. Our project will focus on 1) identifying existing community supports for Alaska Native and heritage language learners (community-led classes, school district-supported language learning, multilingual public library holdings, etc.), 2) creating outreach materials to publicize these resources, and, 3) developing intermediate and advanced-level curriculum activities in interpretation and translation to help speakers develop academic and advanced-level language skills that are needed in the workforce. We anticipate that this community-based collaboration will continue and so, as an outcome of this grant, we plan to pursue external funding and support from organizations such as the National Heritage Language Resource Center and The National Less Commonly Taught Language Resources Center.

This project aims to develop one of Alaska’s unique strengths–its language diversity–and improve access to intermediate and advanced-level language development at all levels. Celebrating the language accomplishments of our students and communities, in turn, is an important component of educational access for students whose communities and languages may be underrepresented within the curriculum at the University of Alaska. Thus, our application meets the goals of the Faculty Initiative Fund and the University of Alaska mission by strengthening our collaboration with community and inter-university partners, developing high impact pedagogical practices in translation and interpretation, and providing professional development opportunities for bipartite and junior faculty. Our information outreach focuses on opportunities for college credit through demonstrated language proficiency (through both new and existing pathways like CLEP and AP exams, the Seal of Biliteracy, etc.), and high school to college articulation, and both could be incorporated into future recruiting strategies for our language study and research programs.

Awarded: $5886.00

PI: Anja Kade (PI) Associate Professor, Department of Biology & Wildlife, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, UAF

Co PI: Latrice Bowman, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, UAF, Mareca Guthrie Professor, Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts, UAF, Jennifer Moss Instructional Designer, Center for Teaching & Learning, UAF, Hishinlai’ Peter (Co-PI) Assistant Professor, Alaska Native Language Center, College of Rural & Community Development, UAF


Academic achievement in higher education hinges crucially on equitable opportunities and student engagement. We propose to enhance student engagement and success by creating an interdisciplinary and multicultural place-based open educational resource (OER) that investigates local environmental and vegetation changes in the face of high-latitude warming through multifocal lenses. Through an intercollege effort at UAF, we will integrate biology, math, Indigenous language arts and visual arts and build a pilot module of free content activities. Each discipline’s module component will include a set of engaging student-centered content and activities based on research-based best practices of teaching. We will create a public repository of OERs in Canvas Commons where we will share our interdisciplinary pilot module and associated teaching resources with UA faculty. This work will address UA’s commitment to high-impact pedagogy and accessibility for all Alaskans and UAF’s aim to modernize the student experience and increase equity and inclusion through OERs.

Awarded: $9993

PI: Tyler Kirk

Co PI: Philip Wight, UAF, Leanna Williams, UAA, Ian Hartman, UAA


This initiative aims to increase collaboration among UA campuses and community partnerships in support of historical education for Alaska’s secondary school students by building capacity for the Alaska History Day program, Alaska’s statewide affiliate for National History Day®. By supporting a part-time position housed at UAF’s history department, this funding will facilitate additional collaborative outreach in the form of lectures, webinars, and informational sessions encouraging project-based study of Alaska (and broader) history. Further, this funding will support administration of the Alaska History Day contest by compensating the program coordinator for their time.

Awarded: $10,000

PI: Sarah Niecko DHSc MSPAC, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Health Sciences, University of Alaska Southeast

Co PI: Brian Barth PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Alaska Southeast Jennifer Brown PhD candidate, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Alaska Southeast

Forest Haven PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Alaska Southeast Ali Ziegler PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Alaska Southeast


Behavioral health problems, such as mental health and substance use disorders, are the result of interconnected dimensions between biological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and spiritual factors. The theories and practice of integrated behavioral health considers these dynamic relationships and seeks to holistically restore, nourish, and protect wellbeing – body, mind, and spirit. As a result, the current paradigms of symptom-oriented treatments are being replaced with novel approaches that include whole systems science and recovery-oriented healing practices. These approaches have afforded new opportunities for deepening understanding, providing meaningful interventions, and establishing transformative and responsive communities. Therefore, pedagogical methods in integrative behavioral health must include interdisciplinary collaboration between psychology, sociology, anthropology, humanities, and natural sciences. Through interdisciplinary and regional collaboration among Juneau and Ketchikan faculty, the goal of this proposal is to develop a novel Bachelor of Integrative Behavioral Health Science (BIBHS) degree at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). Funds awarded will be directly applied toward curriculum development, the creation of a new degree proposal, and faculty overload compensation during an in-person retreat for the Behavioral Health Regional Planning Committee, a multidisciplinary workgroup from Ketchikan and Juneau.

Awarded: $9455.00

PI: Sarah Rice, UAF

Co PI: UAA Faculty and Staff


The University of Alaska (UA) is an international leader in hibernation research with a strong history of hibernation-focused faculty and staff (at UAF and UAA) training graduate and undergraduate students, engaging in local public outreach, publishing in high-impact journals, and gaining media interest. I am a post-doctoral hibernation researcher with a goal of becoming Research Faculty at UAF and creating a program focused on training undergraduates in the biochemistry of hibernation. The Tier II project proposed here will 1) supplement mentorship for undergraduates to gain new skills beyond our current support, and 2) gather preliminary data for competitive proposals to the NIH and NSF focused on bear hibernation, and 3) contribute to UAfocused innovative research in hibernating bears. The results will contribute essential preliminary data for a collaborative NSF proposal with UAF and UAA faculty on bear hibernation, as well as an NIH proposal (a K99/R00) to support my transition to becoming Research Faculty. Both proposals will also utilize the bear facilities supported by a recent $340,000 NIH R24 infrastructure grant awarded to UAF (with Dr. Øivind Tøien). Overall, this proposal issupporting UAF’s goal of becoming a Tier 1 research university by strengthening our ability to obtain research funding, train students, form collaborations and continue high-quality and high-impact research.

Awarded: $9917.00

PI: Zhi Tao, UAA


 To reduce DFW and improve students’ performance in a big size class, this research project aims to develop a special control chart, a locally weighted scatterplot (loess) based control chart to monitor students’ academic progress. Data was collected when I taught a big size class of business analytics open for all college students in a research university. The research project uses loess model and builds loess based control chart. Compared with regular control chart, which is mean based, loess control chart, which is median based, identifies additional outliers. For the research result, we expect to identify all out-of control points: outperformers and underperformers, whose scores are outliers of the loess control chart. Using this loess-based control chart, we can keep monitoring students’ performance in such a big size class. For underfarmers, the out-of-control points of loess control chart, faculty and student’s adviser can take steps to work with the students at risk to improve their performance. The loess-based control chart provides a quantitative tool for the early warning systems universities can adopt to intervene students’ performance early and increase student retention.

Awarded: $9717.00

PI: Dr. Ping Lan, UAF

Co PI: Dr. Yong Cao, UAA


This Tier II Faculty Initiative Fund proposal aims to empower students’ creation through promoting innovation-oriented research and publication across the University of Alaska system. Specifically, it intends to engage and assist students at different levels in transforming their intellectual efforts into scholarly journal articles centered on innovation. The execution of the project will provide new opportunities for enhancing students' intellectual output and strengthening the culture of innovation within the university system. The key project measures include: (1) Reforming coursework designs to encourage creation in students' coursework and other intellectual endeavors. (2) Engaging students in business majors to explore various aspects of innovation in a broad context and encouraging non-business major students to use innovation as a lens to analyze their fields. (3) Assisting students in converting their intellectual efforts into publishable papers for innovation-focused scholarly journals. (4) Exploring potential collaborations with other units within UA, such as the Graduate School, USRA, Honors College, and Center Ice, to strengthen institutional support. The project aligns directly with the university's mission to inspire learning, disseminate new knowledge, and integrate teaching, research, and service. It will positively impact many students interested in developing their intellectual capabilities within the UA system. The proposed project serves as a concrete measure to cultivate an innovation culture within the UA system, which directly contributes to provide high-quality higher education in a rapidly changing world.

Awarded: $10,000

PI: Forest Wagner, UAS Outdoor Studies


Outdoor recreation in Alaska is an emergent economy and an important part of many Alaskans health and wellness. With this in mind, “Experiential Learning, Experiential Teaching: The Alaska Developing Outdoor Leaders Conference (ADOLC)” is a grant proposalfocused on supporting the growth of the ADOLC. The goals of the proposal are to alleviate cost related barriers to expand outdoor opportunities for students to attend the ADOLC, increase the profile of the ADOLC to advance the growth of the outdoor recreation economy in Alaska, and create a fiscally sustainable high-impact platform for Alaska students and outdoor professionals to learn outdoor recreation knowledge from each other.

Awarded: $10,000