UAF Staff Recognize the Work of Associate General Counsel O'Brien

Statewide recipient of the Staff Make Students Count award instrumental in campus projects

Associate General Counsel Michael O’Brien is the Statewide recipient of the 2013 Staff Make Students Count Award. He was unable to attend the award ceremony during the June Board of Regents’ meeting in person and met up with President Gamble in July for his portrait and recognition.

In a great showing of cross-MAU support, the nomination and endorsements for O’Brien came from a variety of staffers the University of Alaska Fairbanks. According to the nomination, O’Brien has been an integral part of the UAF Student Services team over the past few years, but in the past year he went above and beyond to enhance UAF students’ educational, academic, recreational and athletic experiences.   

“As UAF continues to enhance the student experience at UAF—I can claim without qualification— that Mike has not made a difference — he has made the difference,” wrote Vice Chancellor Mike Sfraga his the letter of nomination.

O’Brien was closely involved in the creation of both the outdoor climbing/ice wall and the Nanook Terrain Park on the UAF campus. By researching state statutes he determined that UAF could qualify as a State Licensed ski area. He worked diligently to satisfy all of the many requirements for the projects, from ushering them through the state regulatory process to helping staff design warning signs. “Signs that would convey risk without being repellent,” noted Ali Knabe, executive officer in University and Student Advancement, in her letter of endorsement.

O'Brien's also suggested other programming ideas that could benefit the student experience, recently contacting Mark Oldmixon, director of the Department of Recreation, Adventure and Wellness at UAF, suggesting via e-mail that they offer a Fat Bike class, noting that “since UAF is already renting snowbikes, it seems like a natural progression to teach folks how to ride them.”

Outside of his work duties, O’Brien is a booster for the UAF Nordic Ski Team, and led the organization of two “Ski Fests” that together raised four thousand dollars for the Team. This work was an extension of his volunteer position as President of the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks, a 1,000-plus member organization that supports the enjoyment of skiing in the Fairbanks community.

“I believe these instances show that Mike enjoys providing opportunities that will enrich the lives of students in the outdoors. Any lawyer could have said “no” and stopped all these projects in their tracks. Mike said “yes, I am excited to help,” wrote Oldmixon in his letter of endorsement.

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