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UAF announces 2017 Usibelli Award winners


The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced recipients of the 2017 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards.

Sarah Fowell, associate professor of geology and director of the GeoFORCE Alaska program, received the teaching award; Eugenie Euskirchen, research associate professor of terrestrial ecology, received the research award; and Erin Pettit, associate professor of geophysics, received the service award. All three will be honored at a reception on Monday, May 1.

Fowell, recipient of the teaching award, gets high marks from her students.

“She consistently receives teaching evaluations in the 'very good' to 'excellent' range, with the majority of students ranking her classes as ‘excellent,’" wrote Paul McCarthy, chair of the Department of Geosciences.

In nomination letters for the award, Fowell’s colleagues noted her efforts to incorporate a variety of learning methods in classes and her work mentoring other science educators. In addition to this year’s Usibelli teaching award, she has also been recognized with the 2007 College of Natural Science and Mathematics Outstanding Teaching Award and the 2014 Rural Student Services Dennis Demmert Award.

Fowell is also program director for GeoFORCE Alaska, a four-year, field-based summer geoscience program for high school students from the North Slope and Northwest Arctic school districts.

Fowell earned a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and two master’s degrees and a Ph.D., also in geology, from Columbia University. She has taught at UAF since 1997.

The research award went to Eugenie Euskirchen for her work in Arctic science, especially in identifying the effects of climate change on Arctic and boreal ecosystems using observations and modeling scenarios. She led the Integrated Ecosystem Modeling program at UAF, which combines fire and permafrost models and has applications in Alaska and other cold regions.

“She has become the ‘go to’ person for modeling of Arctic terrestrial ecosystems, particularly the ecosystem changes that will affect Alaska,” wrote John Walsh, chief scientist at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center and President’s Professor of Global Change, in a nomination letter.

Euskirchen, an associate research professor of terrestrial ecology, also attracted international attention when she collaborated with an economist and a social scientist to analyze the economic impact of climate change in the Arctic. Their estimate ran in the trillions of dollars.

Euskirchen has a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Marymount College, a master’s in mathematical sciences from Johns Hopkins University and a doctoral degree in forest science and ecology from Michigan Technological University. She has been affiliated with UAF since 2004.

Erin Pettit won the service award for her education outreach efforts, which encourage girls and young women to study science fields. Pettit, an associate professor of geophysics and glaciology, established the popular Girls on Ice program, an annual summer field school for high school girls that combines glacier studies, art, and outdoor and leadership skills. The field schools are staffed in part by undergraduate and graduate students who are mentored by Pettit to improve their own science teaching abilities. Girls on Ice has programs in Alaska, Washington and Switzerland.

“Erin has worked tirelessly to raise money for the program — and it has remained free to participants for many years as a result. Thus, this program has real potential to broaden participation in science among those who most need encouragement and support to consider a career (in the sciences),” wrote Laura Conner, a research assistant professor of science education at UAF, in support of Pettit’s nomination for the award.

Pettit has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Brown University and a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Washington. She has been at UAF since 2008.

The Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards are considered among 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 the UA Foundation board evaluates the nominees. Each winner receives a cash award of $10,000.


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