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March 1, 2023

Dear UAF community,

We celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day each year in March. Activities this month provide us an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the distinguished contributions of women at UAF.

Throughout our history, women faculty, staff and students at UAF have made lasting contributions to our state and the world. Even during our fledgling years as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, when only a small fraction of women pursued college degrees across the nation, UAF alumna were making their mark on history.

I’d like to highlight four of them here. 

Margaret Murie was the second graduate in UAF’s history, earning a business administration degree in 1924. Her career as a naturalist and author spanned decades and earned her numerous awards and recognitions as one of the founders of the conservation movement in the United States. Murie was instrumental in the passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In 1998, President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. She is also the recipient of the Audubon Medal, the John Muir Award, the Robert Marshall Conservation Award and the National Wildlife Federation's J.N. Ding Darling Conservationist of the Year Award.

Genevieve Parker in 1928 was the first woman to earn a mining degree from UAF (then the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines). After graduating and working for the Fairbanks Exploration Co., she moved to Boston to work in the headquarters of the F.E.’s parent company, U.S. Smelting, Refining and Mining. At the time, she was the only professional female mining engineer in the nation. 

Flora Harper enrolled in UAF in 1931. At the age of 25, she became the first Alaska Native student to graduate from the college, earning a bachelor's degree in home economics in 1935. For more than three decades, she provided educational opportunities for Alaskans, first as a classroom teacher and then as a public librarian in Anchorage.

Helen Atkinson graduated from UAF in 1936 and was the university’s first woman to earn a civil engineering degree. Following graduation, she worked for many businesses and organizations, including the Fairbanks Exploration Co., Boeing Co. in Seattle and the City of Fairbanks. She began writing about the oil industry in the 1950s and covered construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline as a reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 

Several events this month will help us to celebrate Women’s History Month. The Nanook Diversity and Action Center is hosting an International Women's Day Tabling in the Wood Center Multi-level Lounge on March 8 from noon to 2 p.m. NDAC will also host a three-day conference in the Wood Center from March 29-31 that will include panels with women in the trades, business, and media, a leadership lunch, and various other activities. Check the UAF events page for more information on these events.

Let’s continue to build a culture of diversity, inclusion and caring at UAF, and make our working and learning spaces a place of belonging for all.

Thank you for choosing UAF.

Dan White, chancellor


UAF is an AA/EO employer and educational institution and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual: www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination/.