UAF announces 2020 Usibelli award winners

December 20, 2019

Jeff Richardson

Diane McEachern
Diane McEachern

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced the winners of the 2020 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Service Awards.

The Distinguished Teaching Award will go to Diane McEachern, an associate professor at UAF’s Kuskokwim Campus. The Distinguished Research Award will be presented to Katrin Iken, a marine biology professor at the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Jaunelle Celaire, professor of voice at the Department of Music, will receive the Distinguished Service Award.

McEachern, who has taught in Bethel since 2004, is applauded for her culturally sensitive approach to teaching and learning. She has taught 32 different courses from the certificate to graduate level at the Kuskokwim Campus, covering disciplines that include sociology, psychology, social work and rural human services. McEachern is noted for her cross-cultural understanding and her application of that skill to her teaching.

"Dr. McEachern maintains a 'reflective practice' as a teacher in which she remains open to developing skill as a teacher and learner. … She takes time with Elders, sharing the curriculum with them and soliciting their advice and stories," wrote Linda Curda, acting director of the Kuskokwim Campus, in her nomination letter.

Katrin Iken
Katrin Iken

Iken, who has taught at UAF since 2002, has earned a reputation as a committed researcher and a strong supporter of students. Her extensive, externally supported research program on Alaska’s ocean ecosystems in a changing climate has contributed to her publication record of more 100 peer-reviewed articles. Nominating letters also consistently mentioned her work guiding graduate students and helping them gain research experience.

“Papers and research results are important, but our future depends on how well we train our students,” wrote Michael Castellini, interim dean of UAF’s Graduate School. “In this case, Dr. Iken has done both the hard research and the setup to train future generations of scientists.”

Celaire, professor of voice and chair of the music department, has taught at UAF since 2003. She has made her mark in the Fairbanks community as a teacher, performer and volunteer. Her many roles include work as conductor of the Choir of the North, artistic director and voice teacher for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Opera Program and UAF Summer Music Academy, and performances in numerous national and international productions.

Jaunelle Celaire
Jaunelle Celaire

“In many ways, it is quite difficult to separate her teaching from her service, as they are so intertwined,” wrote Todd Sherman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, in his nomination letter. “Public, university and professional service activities revolve around her substantial abilities as a musician and teacher.”

The Usibelli Awards are among the university’s most prestigious awards. They are funded annually from an endowment of more than $750,000 that Usibelli Coal Mine established in 1992.

Each year, a committee that includes members from the faculty, the student body and the UA Foundation board evaluates the nominees. Each winner receives a cash award of $10,000.

The 2020 Usibelli Award recipients will be honored at UAF’s Blue and Gold celebration on Feb. 8. The ceremony will also honor the 2019 winners: Charles Mason, photography professor and chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism; Katey Walter Anthony, research professor at UAF’s Water and Environmental Research Center; and Michael West, research professor and director of the Alaska Earthquake Center. Tickets and more information are available at