UAF Alumni Association awards more than $13,000 to student groups
By Theresa Bakker
The UAF Alumni Association has awarded $13,350 to 14 student organizations for the 2021-2022 school year as they rebuild after disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The awards will enhance student communities and connections, as well as improve professional training opportunities.
When regular campus activities were canceled last year, many student organizations missed fundraising opportunities. Cindy Wright, UAFAA board president, said the overwhelming response from student organizations requesting assistance showed how alumni could be of service.
“We are proud to be able to represent our alumni in supporting these student organizations,” Wright said. “In a normal year, we might cap our contribution at a few thousand dollars. When we saw the need, we decided to award every proposal so that we could provide students with the support they need to do good work and reach their academic goals.“
One of this year’s grants will polish the UAF Opera Workshop’s performances at local elementary, middle and high schools. The funds will pay for a professional pianist, costume rentals and a small per diem for each UAF student.
UAF Music Department Chair Jaunelle Celaire said the gift creates an opportunity to grow the department, as well as create authentic performing and teaching experiences for undergraduate music students.
“One of our best attributes at UAF Music is the fact that we have so many of our alumni who are teaching in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District,” Celaire said. “The fact that this gift comes from alumni who are invested in this university provides support and inspiration for the current students to do their job as educators.”
Celaire said the project also helps the students learn how to conduct themselves as effective communicators in front of a live audience. UAF’s vocal studio is a prolific participant in the Fairbanks community, providing a rare opportunity for young students to hear live music.
Taylor Hendricks, a vocal studio student at UAF, said performing for local students is a highlight of her year.
“This gift enables us to have the opportunity to reach out to students who may be in our shoes one day,” Hendricks said. “To be able to inspire others to fall in love with music is an honor and an experience that is indescribably beautiful. In our previous outreach activities, we recruited several of our current vocal students. This proves that our outreach works.”
Hendricks said this gift will enhance so many lives — those of the students watching the performances and of the performers themselves.
“The cyclical nature of this fund is beautiful and carries so much meaning,” Hendricks said. “To provide funding for those who have come after you and are following in your footsteps must be a truly rewarding feeling. I hope to contribute to this fund one day myself.”
Other grants provide support for the Organization of Student Social Workers’ care package project, for the Veterinary Business Management Association’s professional speakers series and for revitalization efforts at several other clubs.
The largest grant from the UAF Alumni Association will allow the Student Firefighters Association to purchase a new forcible-entry training prop to practice opening doors during a blaze — a basic skill.
The new prop is a heavy reusable frame in which practice doors can be secured to mimic different real doors.
The SFA’s current prop has been damaged by wear and tear. Lt. Paulo Rodriguez of the University Fire Department said the practice doors in the new model can be easily replaced if damaged, without the need to replace the entire structure.
"Our old door prop has served hundreds of firefighters through thousands of repetitions,” Rodriguez said. “As we looked for alternatives, we found Iowa American Rescue’s forcible-entry prop. I believe this new door will not only serve our firefighters for many years to come but will also give us the opportunity to create more realistic training scenarios.”
The UAF Alumni Association has committed to supporting students each year with its small-grant program. The UAFAA Benefactor Fund was established in 1998 to encourage alumni to participate in an annual giving program that directly supports the university. So far in 2021, UAF alumni have donated almost $10,000 to the UAFAA Benefactor Fund.