Friday Focus: Celebrate our accomplishments

Portrait of Samara Taber, executive director of university advancement
UAF photo by Eric Engman
Samara Taber, executive director of university advancement

May 12, 2023

— By Samara Taber, executive director of university advancement

At UAF, we have a lot to celebrate. Last week we celebrated the accomplishments of our graduating class at UAF’s 101st commencement ceremony. The evening before, we conferred honorary doctorates, meritorious service awards and emeritus status to retiring faculty and staff in a ceremony at the Davis Concert Hall.

To top off an exciting week, last night we held our signature fundraiser — the Chancellor's Blue and Gold Celebration in the UAF Troth Yeddha’ campus student union. Our community came together to recognize the Emil Usibelli Teaching, Research and Service awardees and raise funds to support student scholarships. That evening, donors gave over $435,000 to student scholarships, including a generous gift of $350,000 from Kinross Alaska!

Last week was filled with meaningful exchanges, recognition and celebration. These events reminded me of the importance of celebrating each other.

In April, staff participated in a core values leadership workshop for Staff Recognition and Development Day.  I was reminded that one value always rises to the top for me: joy. That might sound a little corny, but finding joy in my work is important to my values and is why I am drawn to a position that affords me the opportunity to experience joy in celebrating others. 

Our university is full of incredible students, committed and brilliant faculty, and tenacious and resilient staff.  Celebrating each other is not just about recognizing our accomplishments. It is also about creating a sense of community and fostering a culture of support and encouragement. When we take the time to celebrate one another, we build stronger relationships and create a more vibrant community.

Last week at commencement, we celebrated the accomplishments of our graduating class. These students have worked hard for years to achieve their goals, and it was an honor to be able to celebrate with them, their families and friends. But it was not just a celebration of their individual accomplishments. It was a celebration of the community that supported them along the way. From the faculty who mentored and taught them to the staff who provided them with the resources they needed, we all played a role in their success. I know many of you celebrated students you nurtured and supported throughout their college journey at commencement.  And I know it meant a lot to those students to see you there cheering them on. 

Last night at the Blue and Gold Celebration, we celebrated the generosity of our donors and the impact their support has had on our university. But we also celebrated the hard work of our advancement team, who work to build relationships and secure philanthropic support for our university. 

Telling our story is not just about attracting support from the outside. It is also about creating a sense of pride and ownership within our community. When we share our accomplishments with each other, we inspire each other to do even greater things. We create a culture of excellence and a commitment to continuous improvement.

I challenge each and every one of you to take the time to celebrate one another.  Celebrate the accomplishments of your colleagues and classmates. Share your own successes and the successes of your department or team. Let the world know about the incredible things that are happening at UAF and what it means to you to be a part of it.

Last year for convocation, I asked you to send in your kudos for your colleagues. We played these kudos on a running slideshow in the Great Hall during our ice cream social. I ask again, please send in your kudos from now until September 15 to be shown at 2023 Convocation.

Thank you for all that you do to make our university great. I look forward to continuing to celebrate one another and telling our story together.

Friday Focus is written by a different member of UAF’s leadership team every week.