Faculty and Staff
Charleen Fisher, Ph.D.
Department Co-chair and Assistant Professor
Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development
Dr. Charleen Fisher is a member of the Gwich’in, Koyukon, and Dena'ina community from
Beaver, Alaska. She currently teaches at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as an
She has many years of experience as a K-12 certified teacher and principal in the Yukon Flats and Fairbanks North Star Borough School Districts. She has held the positions of Executive Director, Native American Career and Technical Education Program Director, and Education Director with the Council of Athabascan Tribal Government, and has served as the Chief of Beaver Village Council.
She has a B.A. in Political Science, M.Ed. in Language and Literacy, a Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Tia Tidwell is an Assistant Professor of DANSRD. She belongs to the Nunamiut people
of Anaktuvuk Pass and currently resides in Fairbanks. Tia holds a Bachelor of Arts
and Master of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Her research focuses on the intersection of settler colonial studies, Arctic literature, and Indigenous counter-narratives. Tia is especially interested in adapting settler colonial theoretical frameworks borrowed from New Zealand, Australia, and the continental United States to account for alternative land claim resolutions and creative resurgent responses from Indigenous communities of Alaska and Northern Canada.
Dr. Jessica Black (she/her) is Gwich’in from the villages of Gwichyaa Zhee (Ft. Yukon)
and Toghotthele (Nenana), Alaska. Dr. Black currently serves as an Associate Professor
in the Department of Alaska Native Studies, Rural Development and Tribal Governance
at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Black received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) at UAF and her master’s degree and PhD in Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Her dissertation and current research examine the relationship between governance and well-being among Alaska Native peoples, especially as it pertains to Tribal Stewardship and Cultural Connectivity.
She resides in Fairbanks, Alaska with her family, however, she frequently returns home to Gwichyaa Zhee to hunt, fish, gather and engage in other, important cultural practices.
Cathy Brooks is an associate professor in the Department of Alaska Native Studies
and Rural Development (DANSRD) at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF). She teaches
Rural Development courses tied to rural and community development, communication,
entrepreneurship, business planning and management.
Prior to serving DANSRD in her current position, Brooks was the instructor/program manager for the Festival of Native Arts and adjunct instructor for UAF’s Interior-Aleutians Campus and UAF’s Developmental Education Department. Brooks also served as the 4-H Youth Development Specialist in the mid-90s. As she left academia for the “real” world and then returned, she has owned a small business and worked in a variety of offices and labs.
She and her family call Fairbanks home but spend most of the summer on the Yukon River at her husband’s family camp (Kai Yuh) passing on important traditional skills and cultural practices to the next generation.
Professor Carroll has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UAF and primarily specializes in
oral history and women's issues. She previously taught at the Interior-Aleutians Campus
and worked on projects building cohorts of rural and Alaska Native students in the
sciences and integrating Alaska Native knowledge and Western knowledge in educational
settings. Professor Carroll is married to James Carroll of Fort Yukon and they have
two daughters. Her hobbies include quilting and other fiber arts and she has far more
fabric, yarn, and wool than she needs.
Professor Carroll has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UAF and primarily specializes in oral history and women's issues. She previously taught at the Interior-Aleutians Campus and worked on projects building cohorts of rural and Alaska Native students in the sciences and integrating Alaska Native knowledge and Western knowledge in educational settings. Professor Carroll is married to James Carroll of Fort Yukon and they have two daughters. Her hobbies include quilting and other fiber arts and she has far more fabric, yarn, and wool than she needs.
Christine Davenport is an alumna of the rural development Master of Arts program and has served as an Alaska Native Studies instructor since graduation. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Indigenous studies, with a research focus on culturally relevant strategies for promoting wellness in Alaska Native and rural communities. She earned her B.A. in social sciences through UAS Ketchikan. She resides on the unceded territories of Sheetkʼá Ḵwáan on Lingít Aaní, also known as Sitka in the Land of Tlingit. She enjoys capturing images of her surroundings, swimming in the ocean and exploring the old-growth forests.
Sonta Hamilton Roach
Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development
Ade' Yuxudz (Hello Everyone)! Sonta Hamilton Roach is Deg Hit'an from the village
of Shageluk, Alaska, where she lives and works as Assistant Professor in the Department
of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Professor Roach received her bachelor's degree in Rural Development at UAF and her master's degree in Elementary Education from UAS. Her research interests are in the areas of community and strategic planning, rural economic and business development, and education in rural/tribal areas of Alaska. She has served on the Board of Directors for Doyon, Limited, for nine years, along with Doyon Foundation, an educational non-profit organization supporting Doyon shareholders through scholarships and language learning opportunities.
She enjoys living in Shageluk where she continues to live a traditional and subsistence lifestyle connected closely to the land. If she is not in the office, she is out on the river or in the woods.
Debbie Mekiana is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Alaska Native Studies
and Rural Development. She was raised in Anaktuvuk Pass and graduated from Nunamiut
School. Her father was David Mekiana of Anaktuvuk Pass and her mother is Mary Mekiana
of Anaktuvuk Pass by way of teaching from St. Paul, Minnesota.
Debbie graduated from UAF over a period of a decade with a Bachelor of Psychology, Bachelor of Iñupiaq, a Teaching Certificate in Secondary Education, and Masters in Community Psychology. She loves working with the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI) in the summers.
Debbie currently sits on the Board of Directors for Nunamiut Corporation, the Alaska Center for Children and Adults and advisory committee chair for UAF Rural Student Services (RSS). She currently lives in Fairbanks on the homeland of the Lower Tanana people with her three children.
Dr. Josephine-Mary “Josie” Sam grew up in Cape Coast, Ghana. She is Akan; her mother
is an Asante from Effiduase and her father a Fante from Cape Coast.
Dr. Sam has a bachelor’s degree (BA Hons) in English and History from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, as well as a master’s degree in Natural Resources Management and Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Sustainability from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is currently an
Assistant Professor in the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development and the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
She has worked extensively in the areas of rural and community development, including assisting villages in Ghana to build sustainable water supply systems and helping Alaskan communities address climate change impacts. She most recently served as the coordinator for the Food Security Working Group of the Arctic Observing Summit, and is the program director for the Nyarkoa Foundation, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization she co-founded in 2007 to support community-based projects in Ghana.
Her teaching and research focus on equity in climate change adaptation and natural resources management, and addressing barriers to long-term success in rural and community development
She enjoys reading humorous mysteries, listening to music, and spending time on the beach – when she can get to one!
An alumna of the Rural Alaska Honors Institute and Dot Lake High School, Fitzgerald
earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences at UAF and most recently
graduated from the Doyon Leadership Training program.
Fitzgerald has worked the last 15 years in the Office of Human Resources, Biology and Wildlife Department, College of Natural Science and Mathematics Division of Research, and most recently in the Signers' Business Office. Before UAF, she worked for Tanana Chiefs Conference for seven years.
She enjoys outdoor activities such as: hiking, skiing, floating and boating. She also enjoys traditional activities: picking berries and wild rhubarb, fishing, hunting, beading, singing Athabascan songs and attending potlatches.