Teacher of the Month Archive
Here are our previously featured teachers!
My father was awarded a sabbatical when I was seven and when he asked if I’d like to spend a year in Europe my response was “Sounds great! What’s that?”
Living in Budapest, Hungary and traveling to a dozen countries as a child was pivotal in developing my interest in travel, language and cultural experiences and it inspired me to spend extended periods abroad as a student and professionally in France, Germany and Russia. My educational journey includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in Modern Languages and Literatures from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I’ve continued my professional development in education, language, intercultural communication and leadership throughout my career in higher education.
I joined UAF as a faculty member in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 1994 and the Office of International Programs in 1998. As Senior Associate Director I was responsible for the development of international partnerships and academic exchanges and in June of 2011 I was offered the opportunity to lead UAF internationalization efforts as Director of the newly renamed Office of International Programs and Initiatives. My work in OIPI has been extremely rewarding in providing opportunities to streamline international academic partnerships, develop strategy for international services and student recruitment and expand opportunities for students, faculty and staff to participate in research and study worldwide.
I’m extremely pleased to serve as a member of the Honors Faculty Advisory Committee to support the innovative and creative ways Honors Students incorporate international study, research and internships into their UAF academic experience. I look forward to meeting you!
Director, Office of International Programs and Initiatives
February 4, 2013
Dr. Derick Burleson
Featured March 2012
I began painting and writing poetry in my sophomore year of high school, and pursued both with equal passion. When I got to the university, I began to take drawing courses. My first semester was wonderful, but in the second, I ran into a teacher who convinced me that I had zero talent and should give it up. And I did, to my long-term regret, and focused my energies on the poetry.
Enjoy some of my artwork in the movie below!
Dr. Vincent Cee
Featured May 2012
Vincent Cee teaches undergraduate courses in music education, jazz, music technology and the core curriculum. He holds music education degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (B.M.), Arizona State University (M.M.) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Ph.D.).
Prior to doctoral studies, Vincent taught general music, elementary orchestra and high school orchestra in Mesa, Arizona. In addition to teaching, he served as a clinician, adjudicator, presenter and guest conductor for various community and statewide musical events. Since moving to Alaska, Vincent regularly guest conducts honor ensembles, adjudicates at the region and state level, and conducts the Fairbanks Youth Orchestras String Orchestra. Strongly committed to outreach, Vincent offers numerous clinics and sessions in Alaska public schools every year.
While working as a graduate teaching assistant, Vincent taught arts and music courses in the University of Massachusetts Amherst General Education curriculum. Additionally, he designed and developed online platforms for web-based arts courses. V incent received a University of Massachusetts Amherst Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008.
Vincent’s research interests range from examining musical activity within institutions to issues in policy,curriculum and philosophy. Vincent’s research since his return to UAF has been accepted for presentation in the following forums:
- International Society for Improvised Music (ISIM)
- The National Association for Music Education (NAfME)
- American String Teachers Association (ASTA)
- Alaska Music Educators Association (AMEA)
Additionally Vincent contributes to American String Teacher and the Music Educator’s Journal. His work has been published in the MIT Press publication, theLeonardo Music Journal. In addition to research and teaching, Vincent maintains an active performance schedule with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, The Arctic Chamber Orchestra and The Juneau Symphony. He continues to teach at the UAF Summer Music Academy, The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and begins work this summer with the Fairbanks Suzuki Institute.
Vincent joined the faculty of the UAF Alaska Summer Research Academy (ASRA) in the College of Natural Sciences and Math in 2009. He continues to co-teach the Sounds of Science module, which includes circuit bending, basic electronics, physics, acoustics and fun-based inquiry into how the world works through the phenomenon of sound. Students involved in the ASRASounds of Science create their own compositions featuring circuit bent instruments and other sound collections using the KORG KP3 Kaoss Pad Dynamic Effect/Sampler and numerous other innovations in music and recording technology.
As a former Academic Decathlon Coach (Mesa, AZ) Vincent still finds himself reading and learning as much as possible in his spare time. He enjoys winter biking on his Specialized 29er and can be found making his way up Ester Dome road as often as possible.
Dr. Margaret Darrow
Featured June 2012
I am originally from Seattle, Washington, where I developed a fondness for rocks, dirt, glaciers, and tromping about in the mountains. There, I attended the University of Washington, majoring in geology. I came to Fairbanks in 1993 to work on an M.S. in geology at UAF; shortly after arriving, I met my husband, Dan, at the Howling Dog Saloon (a technique in relationship building that I do not necessarily recommend…). Although he is not geologically inclined (for example, threatening to throw my rock collection into the Tanana River), we have continued to get along splendidly.
Dr. Alexandra Fitts
I joined the faculty of UAF in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 1995 following several phone interviews- I had never even been to Alaska! It was my first job after graduate school and I thought that Fairbanks sounded like an interesting place to spend a couple of years. Obviously, those “couple of years” have stretched to many, as I have discovered my love for the people and places of Alaska.
My path to becoming a professor was not a clear one. I majored in Political Science as an undergraduate (Furman University- go Purple Palladins!), and decided to study in Spain during my senior year because I was done with my degree requirements and it sounded like fun. My fun “couple of months” in Spain ended up sort of like my adventure in Alaska, as I never really left. Living and studying in another culture and language opened my eyes to new worlds of possibility and I decided to pursue a Master’s degree that would allow me to study in Spain (Bowling Green State University). By then it was clear to me that I would continue focusing on Spanish and Latin American literature. I went on for my Ph.D at Duke University in a program that allowed me to mesh literature, culture, and gender theory. I also was able to study in Spain and do dissertation research in Argentina.
My field of research is women writers of Spain and Latin America, and I focus on the intersections of language, gender, and power. I teach everything from first semester Spanish language to the Senior capstone course. I have been Program Coordinator for the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages, Interim Dean of General Studies, and as of a couple of days ago, Vice Provost. I have discovered that working in administration rewards me with new challenges and opportunities to impact students’ experiences. I look forward to continuing to work with the Honors Program in the years to come.
Dr. Chris Hartman
Featured May 2012
Dr. Chris Hartman was born and raised here in Fairbanks, Alaska, back when the hospital was in what is now the Denali State Bank building. He spent his childhood canoeing, rafting, camping, and generally playing in the woods, and like many born in Alaska, couldn’t imagine leaving the state.
He attended Woodriver Elementary, Ryan Jr. High, and West Valley High School, where he met Heather Strandberg, who would eventually become his wife. In 1988 he entered UAF, where he was active in the honors program. In 1991 he graduated from UAF with degrees in mathematics and computer science, and was honored with the Joel Wiegert award for outstanding graduating senior male.
After graduating from UAF he and Heather got married and went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There he attended graduate school in mathematics, concentrating on combinatorics and graph theory. He was also active in computer graphics, participating in the development of some of the first Virtual Reality theatres known as the CAVE and the ImmersaDesk.
In 1997 he received his Ph.D. from UIUC and immediately came home to Fairbanks, accepting a position as an assistant professor in Computer Science with a 50% research appointment at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center. In 2002 he moved to full time in the Computer Science department, and was granted tenure and promotion to Associate Professor.
Dr. Hartman has now been a member of the Honors Faculty Advisory Committee for six years. He teaches every level of CS classes, from beginning programming courses to graduate theory. His research is still mostly mathematical in nature, covering several topics in graph theory, but he does also do a lot of programming in C++.
In his spare time, Dr. Hartman still enjoys the wilderness of Alaska, hiking and staying at his cabin on the Chena. He’s also an active runner, having finished the Equinox Marathon in 2009 and 2010. He hopes to cut 7 minutes off of his time to finish the 2012 race in under four hours.
Dr. Kara Hoover
Featured June 2012
I received my PhD from Southern Illinois University in Anthropology (with a specialization in biological anthropology) working with Dr. Robert Corruccini, an internationally recognized expert in dental anthropology. My dissertation research focused on the interaction of dental stress markers using human remains from the largest and most significant port city of the late Roman Empire, Portus. I received my MA from Florida State University with Glen Doran. I worked on the Archaic Period Windover collection with a focus on the sexual dimorphism of carpal and tarsal elements for the purposes of sex identification in forensic and archaeological settings. I held faculty posts at Georgia State and Emory University both in Atlanta followed by a few years at Temple University in Philadelphia before coming to UAF in Fall of 2008.
I have enjoyed experiencing Alaska after having spent so much time in cities. Some highlights are: learning to cross country ski, watching the aurora, having my water delivered to my cabin, seeing moose while skiing, Denali, enjoying summers on decks on the Chena River and eating fresh produce from the Farmer’s Market, weathering the extreme temperatures and light, and the Fairbanks Ballroom Dance and salsa communities.
My research has two foci: human health and disease in the bioarchaeological record (human remains in an archaeological setting) and anthropological genetics. My bioarchaeological research has been mainly conducted in Japan where I have active collaborations in a variety of projects. The most recent project focused on the health of hunter-gatherer populations on the island of Kyushu after the arrival of wet-rice agriculturalists. I have a new project starting in the Czech Republic that bears much promise for shedding light on central Europe during the early medieval period (the pic of me is admiring Prague from the Vltava River on my first research trip to the Czech Republic). I have also worked in North America on various non-affiliated Native American remains. My genetics research also has a bioarchaeological component: ancient DNA. My main genetics research, however, focuses on variation in the human sense of smell. All work is conducted in two anthropology labs which I manage: a dry lab for bone and teeth preparation and a molecular lab with standard and real-time PCR.
I joined the Honors Faculty in Fall of 2011 and am delighted to be part of a vibrant and growing program. One aspect of being a member of a university faculty is mentoring students one-on-one. I have been fortunate to engage with talented undergraduates and provide them foundational capstone projects. I currently have several projects underway in my lab with opportunities for student research. The first is a project on medieval Moravian ancient DNA: we are interested in identifying the molecular sex of juvenile remains (for which sex cannot otherwise be determined) and the origins of the population via mtDNA. The second project is on olfactory variation across human populations: looking at differences in the human sense of smell.
Some courses I offer at UAF are Bioarchaeology, Anthropology and Race, Human Growth and Development, Human Medical Genetics, Evolutionary Genetics, and Evolutionary Biology.
For more information about my research and our lab facilities in Anthropology (and possible student projects), please visit my website athttps://sites.google.com/a/alaska.edu/kara-c-hoover/
Featured December 2012 & January 2013
My parents were introduced to each other while taking an evening ceramics class at UAF. My father taught in the Biology Department at UAF and I spent much of my childhood exploring the mysterious basement rooms and freezers full of frozen specimens on West Ridge. I received my undergraduate degree in Studio Art from Carleton College in 2003 where I benefitted from passionate teachers who were able to provide education model that was simultaneously rigorous and creative and seemed to effortlessly integrate the arts and sciences, something I aspire to in my own teaching. I went on to get my graduate degree at the ever exciting CalArts in Los Angeles in 2007.
I am grateful to have found a faculty position in my home town of Fairbanks which combines my four great loves: teaching, museums, studio art, and art history. I have a joint appointment with the UA Museum of the North as Curator of Fine Arts and with the UAF Art Department where I teach two courses each year. I am currently teaching ART200x for the Honors Program, where I am excited to be integrating hands-on assignments such as drawing and bookbinding with the traditional lecture based content. My other upper level and graduate courses focus on the history of pigments and dyes and the economics of being an artist. Other topics I am interested in include the observational skills that can be acquired through drawing, the non-linear and non-verbal creative processes that are involved in most studio arts, and incorporating hands-on elements and the artists own voice into museum exhibitions. And although I have less time for it now, my own artwork which includes paintings, animations and films, has been exhibited in Munich, Los Angeles and New York.
Dr. Barbara Taylor
Featured March 2012
Dr. Barbara Taylor was born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is worth mentioning because, like all Saskatonians, she derives sadistic pleasure from watching, hearing or imagining people trying to pronounce the name of her home town.
Dr. Karen Taylor
Dr. Karen Taylor studies science communication. She is particularly interested in how the organizational contexts in which science happens can impact how new knowledge gets created, used, and disseminated. That’s a pretty big range of “particular interests,” so it’s probably easier to start with an example of a nice concrete research project, and then talk about how that links to more general theories about knowledge. A fun little currently-ongoing research project provides theoretical new insights and, conveniently, gives an excuse to watch some great videos on YouTube, like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j50ZssEojtM&list=FL3J4tCw-NC08xO0ZM3ygLKQ&feature=mh_lolz.
Try this: use a search term drawn from science—we used only the most general categories and limited ourselves to “core” sciences like biology, chemistry and physics. If you do a search for a more specific term, you’re going to (probably) find that the videos are generally “better” in the sense of having greater information content. What do you notice about the videos? You might find it easier to “notice” interesting commonalities if you have a more systematic coding scheme—we used a typology of narratives developed by previous researchers (LaFollette 1990, and then further developed by Haynes 1994) and then adapted it (one of the additional joys of this type of research is the fun debates as we argued whether a video “counts” in one way or another). We limited the videos we considered pretty sharply—for example, if you search “biology” on YouTube, you’ll discover that there’s a band with that name, and you’ll discover that the music videos are far more popular than any of the science videos that come up under that search term. We ignored everything that was not clearly an example of science videos in the standard YouTube format (ie, we also ignored a couple of instances where a professor had just uploaded their entire class lecture), and then selected the top-ten most popular under each of our three search terms. We did that search on the same date for three years running. We’re still working on the analysis and the write-up, but one of the interesting things we found was that YouTube videos are increasingly developing a norm of highlighting the organizational context in which they were created. This means that in terms of our narrative typology, we’re increasingly coding the videos as presenting science-as-business; the “narrative” told across these videos is suggesting that this is a human endeavor that takes place in institutional settings, it is intellectual property that has a “genesis” and potential rights associated with it. The implications of that increasing emphasis are not necessarily obvious… but it is both fascinating and probably important to think about.
From the perspective of public understanding of science, television and other visually-oriented media have been a challenge for science communication. Much of science is pretty abstract intellectual effort, and not at all easily converted to the primarily narrative format essential for television to “hook” viewers. Yes, of course there are examples of specific instances where this has been done well, but the best examples historically tended to be longer-format shows and series. YouTube is a fascinating new organizational context and a bit of a challenge; because it’s so visual-dependent, because it can’t draw on the relationship elements that a series like “Cosmos” used, and because the short format means you can’t spend time to provide background-knowledge if the audience doesn’t already have it. At the same time, this new organization (and yes, YouTube is an organization, even though the membership is highly diffuse) offers some compelling new opportunities for science communication. Like many of the new “social media” technologies, the strength of YouTube is that it is easily linked to, shared, and searched. There are no outside editors that could “muddy” the science message being sent, and there are no significant overhead costs to limit production to a select elite. So any interested scientist and any interested “public” can connect like never before.
This is only one of many examples of current research projects engaging Dr. Taylor. If you’re interested in learning more about it or want to argue/share/explore, or would like to talk about pretty much anything that might be thought of as an issue relating to science communication, she’s available via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can stop by her office in 503C Gruening and introduce yourself!
Dr. Gordon Williams
I mostly grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and have many fond memories of camping on the Kenai and hiking in the Chugach Mountains. For high school, I went to Stellar Alternative Secondary in Anchorage, and after graduating I spent a year as an exchange student living in Kumamoto, Japan. After returning to the states I immediately packed up again and went off to college at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. One of many people inspired by Carl Sagan, I initially wanted to study physics, but it wasn't long before I realized that the part of the physics courses I took that really interested me was the part where they taught you the math you would need to understand the physics.
After a brief stint working in industry in Anchorage and then getting my masters degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I had the great joy of getting to work on my Ph.D. at the University of Washington in Seattle. I got to take part in a very dynamic community of people working in discrete geometry, and did my thesis work under the inspiring Branko Grünbaum. The problem I was working on is still largely open, and fairly easy to describe. Imagine a polyhedron (good examples are the cube, or the dice used for playing games like Dungeons and Dragons). Now imagine taking a walk along the edges of the polyhedron, and every time you come to a corner you turn right or left, alternating at each corner. On a very nice shape like the cube, you end up with a simple closed walk: if you balance the cube on one of the corners, this bent path forms a sort of equator for the cube. On other polyhedra you can get something much more complicated, with retraced edges or crossed vertices, instead of a simple loop. The polygonal walks obtained in this way are called Petrie polygons, named after John Flinders Petrie, and they have been used in a variety of ways to study polyhedra and their higher dimensional analogs, polytopes. The question I was trying to solve is deceptively simple: which polyhedra have only nice Petrie polygons (simple closed walks), and which don't? Better yet, why?
This problem is a nice encapsulation of one of the reasons I really like discrete geometry. Often, the problems of discrete geometry aren't too hard to state, and involve interesting puzzles about geometric structure, combinatorial properties, and in many cases, a certain amount of symmetry, but the solutions are often quite tricky. Moreover, one never knows when starting to work on a problem of this type what kinds of mathematics one might need to appeal to solve the problem.
My research continues to focus mostly on problems connected to understanding the role of symmetry and combinatorial structure in polyhedra and polytopes. In particular, the primary focus of my research these last few years has been investigating the way in which some highly symmetric structures (called regular abstract polytopes) can be used to study their less symmetric cousins. One of the best things about developing this kind of a research program is the way it introduces you to collaborators from all of the world. Currently I'm working with colleagues on projects connected to this research in Morelia, Mexico, Fredericton and Toronto, Canada and Aveiro, Portugal.
The other great thing that happened while I was at UW was I got to meet and marry Leah Berman, who joined the UAF mathematics department at the same time I did.
After graduation we both got jobs at small liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania, and after three years of really long commutes to Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA I joined her on the faculty at Ursinus College outside Philadelphia. The whole time I'd been away at school and working I really wanted to go back to Alaska, and while we both really enjoyed the teaching we were doing in the small liberal arts college environment, we were also both interested in growing our respective research programs, so when two positions opened at UAF we leaped at the opportunity. Coming back to Alaska has been a dream come true, and since joining the Department of Mathematics and Statistics we've had a lot of fun settling into life in Fairbanks. We spend our summers berry picking and gardening, and my wife and two daughters are enjoying learning to cross-country ski.