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Oct. 11, 2022

Welcome to Week 7 of Fall 2022!

As the director of the UAF Student Health and Counseling Center (SHCC), it is my honor to write to you this week. By this point in the semester, I hope you have had a chance to experience the care and support offered through UAF. SHCC is one of many resources on campus committed to supporting you! We offer a full range of services, including medical care and counseling services. Our medical team is staffed by Dr. Kathy Pena, M.D.; Beverly Parrott, physician assistant; and Terri Berrie, lab coordinator/medical assistant. In addition, our counseling team is available and consists of Stacey Schmitt, LCSW, Kiana Carr, LMFT; Sarah Jensen, LCSW; Alicia Hayba, LPC; and Nikki Baird, M.Ed. in clinical mental health counseling. Joining them are three outstanding student clinicians, including Eri Martin, Wyatt Yurkovich, and Kendall Ross. Margaret Kellogg, Julie Smith, and Mary Torok provide front-desk support and will help you schedule an appointment with a medical provider or counselor.

For many of us, it can be challenging to strike a work-life balance conducive to feeling healthy and productive. When that balance isn’t found, many of us will postpone taking care of our medical and mental health needs. We even tell ourselves, “Oh, I will take care of that over winter break or after I defend my thesis proposal.” Or my personal favorite, “Ah, it doesn’t hurt too bad. I can still walk on it.” I’m sure each of us has a personal favorite, but the bottom line is that work-life balance is a way of life that takes a concerted effort to establish. In fact, the earlier in life that we find that balance, the longer we have to live a healthy life. I want to encourage you to actively pursue finding that balance this semester. Make it a priority and schedule family, friend, and personal time with as much commitment as you schedule school and work time. Begin thinking about preventative, routine medical care and health education as a primary defense against illness and many disease processes. If you have questions about your health or medications, please contact us. Our healthcare providers would be happy to provide you with information to assist you with making informed decisions about your health!

Similar to medical care, many of us can put off addressing our mental health needs. I encourage you to think about counseling services as multifaceted. Yes, these services can be helpful for mental health crises, but they can also be helpful in many other ways. For instance, they can help us improve our relationships with others. They can help us develop stronger relationships with ourselves and help us understand our own inner workings in a way that can feel enlightening and invigorating. College is a time of self-discovery, and counseling services can be an important part of understanding ourselves, our relationships, and our motivations. In light of getting as much as you can out of your university experience, consider taking advantage of the incredible resources UAF has to offer, with SHCC being an incredible option aimed at optimizing your physical and mental health!

As many of you may know, SHCC has temporarily relocated medical services to Arctic Health Building, Suite 105 and counseling services to Gruening Building, Suite 215. We can be reached by telephone at (907) 474-7043 to schedule an appointment. Otherwise, an appointment request form can be completed.

In the spirit of preventative care, please consider attending one of our campus flu clinics. The first clinic will be held on Oct. 19, 2022, from noon to 2:00 p.m. in the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building. The second clinic will be held on Oct. 24, 2022, from noon to 2:00 p.m. in the Butrovich Building. Other clinics will be announced in the future and will be held at the Wood Center, CTC, and the MBS-Complex. Faculty, partners of faculty, staff, partners of staff, and students are all welcome!

This semester, we have multiple groups that can enhance your health and well-being. Consider taking care of yourself and establishing habits that lend themselves to an effective work-life balance by signing up for and actively participating in at least one group each week. A full listing of our group offerings can be found at our website. They include such topics as Life After Loss, Nanook Walking Group, Mindfulness, Taking Charge of Your Headspace, and Love Your Body.

We wish you a healthy and productive semester full of new discoveries and joy!


Valerie Gifford, UAF SHCC director


UAF is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer, educational institution and provider and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual: www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination/.