Celebrating a century of student achievement

One hundred years after the university awarded its first (and that year, only) degree, Nanook Nation gathered as a community to celebrate the second Class of ’23. 

The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ 2023 commencement ceremony on May 6 was opened by the Troth Yeddha’ Dancers and punctuated by a joyous stadium wave led by Chancellor Dan White. In a show of unity, the wave traveled twice around the Carlson Center arena, passed from university leaders to graduates to faculty to family and friends and back again.

The 1923 commencement honored a single graduate with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. This time around, more than 1,000 graduates received nearly 1,100 degrees from the university’s nine colleges and schools. These included occupational endorsements, certificates, and associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in a broad array of subjects — from accounting to Inupiaq Eskimo and from petroleum engineering to wildlife biology and conservation.

In addition, this year’s commencement included ceremonial commissioning for six ROTC cadets to mark more than 100 years of military partnership at UAF.

Students in 1923 and the Class of 2023 share a defining experience: Both groups faced and overcame the challenges of a global pandemic, developing strength and resilience along the way.

Speaker Tasina Luta Win (Marsha Jean Thomason-Oss), a nontraditional student, made resilience her theme. She recounted her story of overcoming hardships and addiction, aided by family, elders and teachers. Earning her associate and bachelor’s degrees in interdisciplinary studies at the age of 61 represents the culmination of a 31-year journey of self-discovery.

Oss encouraged her fellow graduates to “be authentic, be honest, take risks, get up when you stumble, or lay there and cry for a while. Admit mistakes. Be accountable for your actions. You are building the foundation for your own pillars of resilience.”