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University to Honor 2010 Usibelli Award Recipients


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 30, 2010

Fairbanks, Alaska—The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced recipients of the 2010 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards.

Rich Boone, professor and biology and wildlife department chairman, will receive the teaching award; Tom Weingartner, professor of marine science in the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, will receive the research award; and Kara Nance, a computer science professor and head of the Advanced System Security Education, Research and Training center, will receive the service award. All three will be honored at a reception Monday, May 3 at 3:30 p.m. at the Wood Center.

Boone joined the UAF faculty in 1995. At that time, his focus was research.

“I felt I had the capability to become a good teacher, but I didn’t know what importance teaching would have for me,” Boone said. “Now, teaching, improving my skills as a teacher and promoting excellence in science teaching at UAF have become a passion.”

His years at UAF have been marked by innovation and excellence as an educator and mentor. He has worked to incorporate interactive, exploratory techniques in the undergraduate courses he teaches and consistently receives high marks from his students. He has mentored several graduate students who have gone on to successful science careers.

Boone’s contributions to science education don’t stop at the classroom door. He was a participant in the National Academies 2007 Summer Institute in Undergraduate Education and has since recruited other faculty members to apply for and attend the program, which aims to improve undergraduate science teaching. He has worked to incorporate more interactive technology into the classroom and has been active in strengthening the curriculum in his department. Boone is also a collaborator on a new National Science Foundation-funded project to train graduate students to be better teachers and to share university science with K-12 students.

“Dr. Boone exemplifies the best in classroom teaching and is a leader in encouraging and supporting the development of innovative, best-practice pedagogy at UAF,” said Tanana Valley Campus associate director Marsha Sousa, who nominated Boone for the award. “(His) leadership in science education and innovative teaching has already created positive changes at UAF.”

Weingartner’s first experience at UAF was as a student, first in a master’s program and then, from 1988 to 1991, as a postdoctoral fellow. He joined the UAF faculty as a research associate in 1991 and in 1993 accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Institute of Marine Science. Weingartner’s work during the last two decades is characterized by both depth and breadth.

“Whereas many physical oceanographers spend entire careers working on one system, Dr. Weingartner is a major contributor to our understanding of physical oceanography in four large marine ecosystems: Gulf of Alaska, eastern Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea,” his colleagues wrote in their nomination letter.

Weingartner’s research focuses on understanding the processes that control ocean circulation and temperature and salinity changes in Alaska’s continental shelves.

“This knowledge is relevant to comprehending marine ecosystems, including fisheries, climate variability and the impacts of offshore industrial development,” he said. “My research funding reflects, and has been relevant to, all three of these concerns.”

In multiple nomination letters, fellow scientists reference Weingartner’s work as foundational to understanding Alaska’s oceans and laud his ability to both conduct solid research and make it accessible to the public. State, national and international agencies and companies, along with scientists in a variety of disciplines, rely on his work to guide their own.

“I wish I had the capability to write a letter that would adequately describe Dr. Weingartner’s significant contributions to the UAF research effort and the ocean science community,” said SFOS dean Denis Wiesenberg. “The research of Dr. Weingartner and his students brings distinction to our program and the university.”

Nance’s association with the university is diverse and stretches back more than three decades. She grew up in Fairbanks and attended UAF, earning associate and bachelor’s degrees in the 1980s. She was a staff member at UAF and in 1993 joined the computer science faculty. Since then, service has been central to her research and teaching work.

Three projects encapsulate that philosophy. The first is a National Science Foundation-funded project known as Teaching Alaskans, Sharing Knowledge, or TASK. The project paired graduate and undergraduate students with K-12 teachers and faculty mentors to bring science expertise into school classrooms and create curricula and materials.

Nance also serves as the leader of the ASSERT center, which provides computer security instruction, research opportunities and technical assistance to a wide swath of the state, nation and world, from in-home users to law enforcement agencies to educational institutions.

Nance’s third major NSF-funded project, “Encouraging Alaska Native Participation in Computing,” includes partnerships with programs such as Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka to improve access to computing resources and increase student interest in computers and in using them securely and safely.

“As the leader and motivating presence behind these important projects, Dr. Nance has demonstrated that her dedication to providing educational opportunities extends far beyond the university classroom, encompassing a much wider community at the local and statewide levels,” said nominator Karina Possenti.

Nance cites her community ties as perhaps the biggest influence on her service-oriented approach. “I live in this community. My family is part of this community. The university is part of this community. Performing university and community service is not a chore. It is an opportunity for me to help my friends and family.”

The Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards are considered one of the university’s most prestigious awards. They represent UAF’s tripartite mission and are funded annually from a $600,000 endowment established by Usibelli Coal Mine in 1992.

Each year, a committee that includes members from the faculty, the student body and a member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees evaluates the nominees. Each of the winners receives a cash award of $10,000.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of the recipients will be available for download at www.uaf.edu/news/ following the reception on May 3.

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