Pathfinder Award

Pathfinder Award

A student or UAF staff nominated award for an outstanding UAF employee that serves our Alaska Native and rural student population. The selected award recipient will receive a $500 cash award. 

Submit your nomination by Feb. 15, 2024


Nomination Process and Qualifications

A nomination may be submitted by any UAF staff or student, though student nominations are given greater weight. Even if you know this person has already been nominated, you can nominate them again. Multiple nominations will be factored into the committee's decision.  The selection committee will base its decision primarily on the following criteria (10 points each for a total of 40 points):

  1. The nominee serves as an advocate for Alaska Native/rural students
  2. The nominee assisted Alaska Native/rural students to overcome personal and academic challenges
  3. The nominee demonstrates a high level of commitment to the mission of Alaska Native/rural student success
  4. The nominee engages effectively with leadership, students and/or region to advance educational opportunities for Alaska Native/rural students.


The Pathfinder Award is an annual award established in 2012 to honor one outstanding University of Alaska Fairbanks staff member who possesses a high degree of ethical standards, compassion and dedication to the academic success of Alaska Native and rural students. This award is open to all staff employed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, including UAF’s branch campuses. 


Please contact with any questions.


This award honors Kay Thomas, a soft-spoken lady who gave over twenty years of herself to ensure Alaska Native student retention and success in their university studies and experience. Kay is blessed with the gift of humility, grace, and compassion, a person who does not seek praise or accolades. Through her compassionate and highly effective guidance and academic advising skills, Kay impacted the lives of over 2,000 students at the University of Alaska. Kay retired from the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development (DANSRD) in January 2012.

The years of dedication to students also translates to the success of key functions that Kay was accountable for.  Her astute awareness of the university community and how it functions allowed her to integrate her knowledge into effective program development at both the Rural Student Services and the Department of Alaska Natives Studies and Rural Development.  Kay took her responsibilities seriously and unselfishly gave her time and energy for the betterment of the University and the successful retention of students.

In today’s world, it is difficult to find a person who holds herself to the highest degree of ethical standards and remains truly grounded to the fundamental belief that all people are created equal.  Kay is such a person.  She facilitated success through her dedication and sense of responsibility to the University and the students she advised.  Through her actions, Kay illuminated a pathway for students to create their own success stories, stories that will be handed down through generations and re-told as alumni share stories of their university years.

To recognize Kay, who guided many Alaska Native and rural students to succeed through her compassion and selfless dedication to the personal and academic challenges they faced, DANSRD has established the Kay L. Thomas Pathfinder Award. In Fall 2016, at Kay’s request, the award name has been revised to the Pathfinder Award.

Past Award Recipients

2022- Kathy Commack: Academic Advisor, NW Campus, Nome

2021 - Due to COVID 19 pandemic, none awarded

2020- Janet Kaiser: Academic & Career Advisor, Kuskokwim - Bethel

2019 - Robin Brooks, Student Success Coordinator, Interior Alaska Campus

2018- Angela Rutman, Tribal Management Program Coordinator, Interior Alaska Campus

2017 - Olga Skinner, Adviser for Rural Student Services, Troth Yeddha' Campus

2016 - Sarah Andrew, Manager, Adult Learning Programs, Bristol Bay

2015 - Kacey Miller, Student Services Manager, NW Campus Nome

2014 - Agnes McIntyre, Emerging Scholars Coordinator, KuC

2013 - Gabrielle Russell, Adviser for Rural Student Services, Troth Yeddha' Campus

2012 - Kay Thomas, DANSRD