Current Doctoral Students

Arctic logoACNS Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program



Alec Bennett

Entered program: 2020

Primary interest: Future Climate Based Risk

Adviser: Brandon Boylan

Hometown: Palmer, Alaska

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Master of Security & Disaster Management, 2018

University of Alaska Southeast
B.S. Information Systems, 2005


Research interests: Climate Change, Scenario Planning, Computational Modeling, Natural Disasters, Human Security, Resilient Infrastructure, Science Communication, Science Informed Policy & Decision Making



Angela Linn

Entered program: 2014

Primary interest: Museology

Adviser: Mary Ehrlander 

Hometown: Solon, Iowa

George Washington University 
Distance Delivery Pilot Graduate Certificate Museum Studies, 2006

University of Alaska Fairbanks
M.A. Anthropology, 1999

University of Iowa
B.A. Anthropology 1994


Research interests: Museology, Decolonization of Museums, Democratization of Museums, Ethnography, Alaska History, Material Culture, Historical Archeology, Ethnohistory

My research examines the historical context from which Alaska's three largest museums (the Alaska State Museums, the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and the Anchorage Museum) were established and how this history helped to shape contemporary museums in Alaska today. I will use an interdisciplinary framework of museology, ethnohistory, and oral history to better reveal the past, present, and future of Alaska's museums.


Michael Letzring

Entered Program: 2017

Primary Interest: Historical Geography

Adviser: Mary Ehrlander

Hometown: Greenville, North Carolina

East Carolina University
M.S. Geography, 2017

University of Alaska Fairbanks
M.A. Northern Studies / Northern History, 2012

Brooks Institute
B.A. Film, 1986


Research Interests: Historical Cartography, Historical Geography, Eighteenth Century Exploration History, Colonial South American History, Geographic Information Science, Remote Sensing.

My goal is to continue writing about and teaching regional history of Alaska and the Arctic through research on the development of geographic knowledge and cartography. The resources and mentorship available at the University of Alaska and in the Arctic and Northern Studies program provide a unique opportunity to pursue my research interests within a Doctoral program with an interdisciplinary structure. 


Maureen Long

Entered program: 2018

Primary interest: Literature of the Canadian North and Alaska

Adviser: Eric Heyne

Hometown: Whitehorse, Yukon

University of Alaska Fairbanks
M.A. Northern Studies, 2003

University of Saskatchewan
Bachelor of Education, 1992

University of Saskatchewan
B.A. Honours English, 1991


Research interests: Margaret Atwood and the Canadian North, North and Canadian Identity, Animal Studies and Ecocriticism, Literature of Alaska and the Yukon, Environmental History of Northern North America


Nick Parlato

Entered program: 2020

Primary interest: Political Geography

Adviser: Amy Lovecraft

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

University of Northern British Columbia
M.A. Interdisciplinary Studies, 2019  

Oberlin College
B.A. Russian and East European Studies, 2012   


Research interests: Peace and conflict studies, decolonial theory, post-Soviet Russia, Indigenous legal orders, Arctic politics, centre-periphery relations



Jody Simpson

Entered program: INDS Program, Spring 2019; ACNS Program, Fall, 2020

Primary interest: Social Capital in Alaska

Adviser: Dr. Amy Lovecraft

Big Lake, Alaska

University od Alaska Anchorage
B.A. English Literature,1985

University of Alaska Southeast
Masters of Public Administration, 2016


Research interests: Social capital, economic and community development; subjective well-being; circumpolar issues; Alaskan policy issues.

My dissertation involves an exploratory study of Alaska's social capacity.

My research examines how Alaska might move beyond a needs-based approach to community development to a framework that also considers social capacity  ̶  the collective strengths, skills, assets, leadership structure, and relationships of individuals, citizens’ associations, and institutions.  Dwindling financial support for communities, due to changes in the state's financial and political environments, will require civic organizations, non-profit organizations, institutions, and local governments to adapt to better meet the needs of residents. 

Much of the peer-reviewed data on Circumpolar social capital pertains predominantly to health, climate change, and environmental sustainability.  Beyond a discussion of the social milieu in Kodiak, Alaska, and a pair of papers examining collective trauma in Cordova, Alaska, following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, I was not able to locate asset-based assessments or analyses of associational life in Alaska. Through a bounded case study of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and social network analysis, my research will help fill that gap.


Kristine Swain

Entered Program: 2021

Primary Interest: History of Canadian-American military cooperation in Alaska through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) 

Adviser: Dr. Philip Wight

Hometown: Eagle River, Alaska


University of Kansas

M.A. Soviet and East European Studies, 1992

United States Air Force Academy

B.S. Russian History, 1991


Research Interests: History of Canadian-American military relations in Alaska, US and Canadian Arctic security strategy and policy, environmental, economic, societal and political impact of military operations in Alaska, Cold War History, Russian and Soviet History


Alex Taitt

Entered program: 2021

Primary interest:  Digital Heritage Preservation

Advisers: Brandon Boylan & Medeia Csoba DeHass

Hometown: Anchorage, AK | Dena’ina Ełnena


University of Alaska Anchorage
M.A. Anthropology, 2017

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
B.A. Anthropology, 2015

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
B.A. Computer Science, 2015


Research interests:
Digital heritage preservation, 3D cultural heritage preservation, 3D modeling of Arctic and sub-Arctic cultural heritage, ethics and practice of 3D modeling, co-production of knowledge with Indigenous communities, decolonizing museums, STEAM education

 Leanna Williams

Leanna Williams

Entered program: 2020

Primary interest: Northern History

Advisers: Brandon Boylan & Mary Ehrlander

Hometown: Fairbanks, Alaska

University of Alaska Fairbanks
M.A. Northern Studies/Northern History, 

Linfield College
B.A. Mass Communication, 2004


Research Interests: Arctic & Polar Aviation History, Infrastructure Development, Soviet Aviation, Alaska History, Northern Identity and Literature, Museum Studies


Russell Vanderlugt

Entered Program: 2017

Primary Interest: Arctic history, strategy and policy

Adviser: Mary Ehrlander

Hometown: Fairbanks, Alaska

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
M.S. Management, 2012

University of Alaska Fairbanks
M.A. Northern Studies / Historical Geography, 2010

Wheaton College
B.M. Music and Historical Theology, 2000


Research Interests: North American West and the Alaska-Yukon, Historical Geography, Nineteenth Century Exploration History, Environmental History,  Arctic Strategic Planning and Policy, Indigenous-Military Relationships

My immediate goal is to research and write a dissertation on trans-Alaska Allen Expedition of 1885, examining primary sources and incorporating as many perspectives as possible. The Arctic and Northern Studies Program at the University of Alaska provides a unique opportunity for pursuing this goal.