Department of Alaska Native Studies & Rural Development

Fairbanks office:

3rd floor Brooks Building

PO Box 756500

Fairbanks, AK 99775


Phone: (907) 474-6528

Toll free: 1-888-574-6528

Fax: (907) 474-6325


Anchorage office:

2221 E. Northern Lights Blvd. Room 200

Anchorage, AK 99508


Phone: (907) 279-2700

Toll free: 1-800-770-9531

Fax: (907) 279-2716

Hours: M-F 8AM-5PM

Aimee Kniaziowski, BA RDEV ‘97 

The City of Kodiak has a seasoned professional at the helm in her new role as City Manager.   Aimee Kniaziowski accepted and began her position as City Manager in April of this year and loves her new community of Kodiak.   Having spent eighteen years in the city of Unalaska, eight of which she served as Assistant City Manager, Aimee is no stranger to the needs of our rural communities.   Aimee and her husband have raised five children in Alaska and were intimately involved in “growing” the community of Unalaska through their civic volunteering and active participation in their children’s schools.   One of the biggest changes is moving from a 15 mile road system to 100+ miles of roads in different directions on Kodiak Island.   Her work has taken on a “whole new level” from being the assistant to now, City Manager.   The City of Kodiak projects have a slightly different focus as well in that not only are there new capital projects (which Unalaska had seen a lot of over the past twenty years)   but also projects to replace and improve existing, older facilities and   partnering with the Kodiak Island Borough.   The service area becomes larger when you factor in these partnerships.   Kodiak has been very welcoming to the Kniaziowski family and Aimee attributes the community’s friendliness to Kodiak’s long history of new residents with the active fisheries, tourism and Coast Guard contingent on the island.  

Alan Sorum MA RDEV ‘04

Director of Training for Prince William Sound Community College is a natural fit for Alan Sorum.   Although he started his new position with PWSCC this past February he was no stranger to the community or the field of professional training.   Alan has a full career history in marine safety, harbor and port facility management, maritime security and public service.   He has worked in Wrangell, Skagway, Whittier and Valdez (twice, having recently returned to start this position) and has facilitated development plans and training activities for communities around Alaska from Eyak to Barrow.  

Alan was the first RD student to take advantage of the partnership between the UAF Rural Development M.A. program and the M.P.A. program at University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) where students can take classes in each and count towards the RD M.A. or M.P.A.   Alan ended up doing both degrees simultaneously while working full-time as the Valdez Harbormaster.   His M.A. project “Northern Harbors and Small Ports:   Operation and Maintenance” was published by the Alaska Sea Grant Program and can be purchased online at .

As Director of Training for PWSCC Alan can be responsive to industry and corporate training needs quickly.    PWSCC is the only independently accredited community college in Alaska and so can create courses and fee structures to fit specific training requests.   His position includes teaching, development of curriculum and programs for PWSCC and outreach to outside entities to offer these training options for Alaskan communities and organizations.   As Alan says on his personal website “Boating is a way of life here in coastal Alaska…A person can never have too many boats here!”

April Laktonen Counceller M.A. RDEV ‘06

April Laktonen Councellar entered the Rural Development M.A. program after graduating from Brown University in 2002.   Her masters project “Kodiak Alutiiq Language Conversational Phrasebook (with audio CD)” was published by the Alutiiq Museum.   She is currently the Alutiiq Language Manager at the Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, Alaska and pursuing an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. researching the cultural significance of the Alutiiq Language New Words Council on Kodiak Island.   She will advance to candidacy this summer, and plans to complete her dissertation and graduate in 2010.   She is receiving funding support through the UAF Linguistics program's SLATE grant from the Dept. of Education, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Dissertation Completion Fellowship.

Beverly Melovidov   BA RDEV ’04   MA RDEV ‘07

Beverly began her career with the federal government while in college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.   She works for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in their Wildland Fire   and Alaska BLM Aviation unit.   Beverly started out with BLM as an administrative assistant and over the course of time through her work experience combined with her education she has been promoted to her current position as a Budget Analyst.   The financial oversight includes big ticket responsibilities such as aircraft payments and coordinating the government charge card system.   She likes the direction her career is moving; as her fiscal duties have become more advanced she can now see how budgets are formulated and looks forward to more “big picture” budget planning responsibilities.   Her years of federal government experience also strengthen her background for her newest accomplishment of having been elected for the first time to the Tanadgusix Corporation (TDX) Board, her village corporation.  

Beverly ran for an open Board seat for TDX and won her seat with a solid vote margin which gave her confidence in the community’s faith in her to serve the shareholders well. Her new board responsibilities are exhilarating and daunting.     (The volumes of reading in preparation for meetings remind her of Rural Development graduate classes.)   As one of nine board members Beverly also serves on subcommittees for the village corporation and their Bering Sea Group of subsidiary companies.    Projects range anywhere from environmental clean-up in Hawaii to fisheries related projects on her home island of St Paul.   Some of TDX’s newer ventures include exploring alternative power generation.  

Being the youngest board member is not a problem.   Beverly values the leadership of her peers on the board and appreciates their wise council when evaluating TDX investments.   The board is making the most of modern technology and streamlining their meetings by providing electronic laptops for board notebooks and moving away from the printed binders of material.   The laptops allow for more efficient use of electronic documents, easier and more accurate note-taking and quicker access to pre-meeting materials.   Sounds like TDX is in great hands and will benefit from the sound counsel that their new and seasoned board members bring to the table.

Dawn M. Salesky   B.A. RDEV ’93, M.A. RDEV ‘05

Dawn M. Salesky has committed her career toward increasing the employability skills of Alaska Native youth and adults. As Vice President of Kawerak, Inc.’s Education, Employment and Training (EET) Division, she is an active program partner, working with organizations such as the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, University of Alaska’s Northwest Campus, the Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Center, the tribes of the Bering Strait Region, and the Norton Sound Regional Health Corporation.

After many years on her employment and training career path, Dawn has concluded that one of the biggest barriers to employment success among youth and adults is easily preventable. That barrier is the lack of basic math skills (such as fractions and measurements), and geometry and algebra.   She would like to encourage all parents, leaders, friends and college alumni to help our children and young adults focus on MATH SKILLS, especially in preparation for Alaska’s future skilled workforce.

Every workforce category today demands mathematics skills.   Math skills are no longer a requirement for degree-seeking students only. All apprenticeships and training programs require math proficiency, which is most often the one factor that eliminates applicants from these valuable career paths.   Even when specific math skills aren’t apparent for a job, the analytical thinking and logic skills that the math curriculum utilizes are very valuable in today’s work environments…analyzing a problem, pacing workflow, and incorporating self-discipline, to name a few.   Dawn’s advice on how to help get the message out:

Make sure students take math every year in high school (ALL four years of high school). Parents should check each year to see that their child is scheduled for a math class.

Offer to help at least one youth regularly with their math so they don’t get frustrated and quit.

Help students take a college math class if their school can’t offer the next level.

Pass the word to everyone that math skills are required for every job and every college and training program, from art and music to engineering.

When Dawn helps to coordinate job fairs, she asks presenters to show students how math is used in their profession.   In Nome, one presenter started outlining on the white board all of the computations carpentry laborers use, and the students were surprised.   Hands-on demonstrations help students see the relevance of taking math.

Dawn’s commitment to serving the workforce of rural Alaska has resulted in her participation with several statewide advocacy groups.   Dawn serves on the Alaska Native Coalition on Employment and Training (ANCET), of which she currently serves as Chair. ANCET is comprised of representatives from Alaska Native employment and training services from every region in Alaska. She was selected to serve on the Denali Commission’s Training Advisory Committee, and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s Section 29 Alaska Native Hire Program Advisory Board.

Diana (Riedel) Burton, BA RDEV ‘03

Diana’s name has changed since graduating with her RD degree (she has since married James and they have a four year old daughter Kiley) but she is still growing the same family business she has shared with her mother since she finished apprenticing the art of skin sewing with her through high school.   Dineega Specialty Furs is an Alaskan Native owned family business that specializes in seal and sea otter products that are created by Diana and her mother.   Diana received an Alaska Market Place Competition grant in October 2007 and was able to further develop the business.   She markets her products on their website and at the Ilanka Cultural Center in Cordova.

Diana spent the past few years in Sitka where she was close to a local tannery and Southeast Alaskan cultural activities but is now back home in Cordova where she can operate her fur business and also start commercial fishing with her husband James.   They are geared up to seine salmon on their F/V Keta this summer.   While in Sitka Diana served as Vice Chair for the Sitka Marine Mammal Commission and will continue working on marine mammal management and issues in Prince William Sound.   For now, Diana says “just getting settled back home and playing with my daughter, fishing, sewing, and enjoying this nice spring we just got.”  

Fred Smith, NANA    BA RDEV ‘00

96 miles per hour across the smoothest, fresh ice ever seen between Elim and White Mountain…and witnessing Alaska as few can ever hope to imagine.   In what little “free time” Fred gets from his career in operations management with NANA, his Regional Corporation, he has taken up the sport of long distance snow machine racing.   This past year he ran the Iron Dog in the Trail Class with his brother and they are eagerly anticipating their first run in the Pro Class next season.   Growing up in Noorvik, Alaska Fred has been intimately tied to his culture and region and carries that intrinsic knowledge into his management style.   Officially, he is Operation Manager for NANA and President of NANA Oilfield Services.   His dual appointment allows him to contribute to several of the 35 subsidiaries under NANA including those based in Kotzebue.  

The primary focus in operation management, for Fred, is trying to define a direction based on the values important to the company.   For NANA that means generating revenue income that supports building businesses for the NANA region’s future 25 years from now and the multi-faceted projects funded from NANA’s Aqqaluk Trust, a foundation that sponsors Elders programs, awards education scholarships, provides youth with a summer cultural camp (Camp Sivu) and language revitalization.    Fred is proud of NANA’s ability to be successful in a business environment where most competitors look only for the bottom line.   NANA has a profitable net income and still able to implement shareholder hire priorities and business choices that reflect or enhance regional values.   We understand the environment that we work in, according to Fred, and always communicate our values to our operation.   “I’m a NANA shareholder so I can carry that expectation out in our workplace and communicate that to our shareholders.”

NANA Oilfield Services is small (in relation to other Prudhoe Bay operators) but well regarded.   Its 35 years on the “slope” is a long history and is the oldest of the NANA companies.   Fred states that “dollar for dollar we still bring in solid net income to the NANA family.   Revenue and growth are good.”   NANA operations account for 400+ jobs in their home region and shareholder hire takes place as far away as Alexandria, VA and Boulder, CO.    NANA is able to recruit shareholders by Zip Code so all of their subsidiaries can focus on shareholder hire efforts.  

Traveling for the job is a positive as it allows Fred more trips “home”, keeps him grounded to the needs of the shareholders and region, and makes him realize what the financial needs are for families.   In his recent trip to Noorvik he spent $350 on gasoline for his snow machine which made him rethink how far he went out into the countryside.   The work week is more often seven days rather than five and ten to twelve hours a day rather than eight but for Fred this is, again, a positive.   He finds it allows more intense, focus on the project at hand without distraction or interrupted thought.   He also stated that “we have folks working these long days on the slope so it reminds me of what they are putting into the job and I want them to see me as doing the same.”  

Linda Joule B.A. RDEV ’95, M.A. RDEV ‘07

Linda Joule is the Executive Director for the Native Village of Kotzebue which provides social services, education, tribal enrollment, cultural preservation and environmental protection for the 2000+ tribally enrolled members.   She and her husband Reggie make their home in Kotzebue.   Her husband Reggie Joule is the District 40 State Representative for Alaska and he met with the DANRD students this past February as they visited Juneau for the RD F492 leadership seminar.   Linda and Reggie have contributed regularly to the DANRD program by teaching at our various seminars and always guest lecturing for our faculty in their distance classes.