Friday Focus: Celebrating Women's History Month

Smiling woman in a vest and beaded necklace
Photo by Rachel Saylor, Tanana Chiefs Conference
Charlene Stern

March 10, 2022

— By Charlene Stern, vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education

Across Alaska the signs of spring are upon us. The sun is shining more brightly. The temperatures are warming. Dog races are in full gear. March is a special time that marks the change in seasons but it is also special in that it is designated as Women’s History Month. It represents a time to reflect upon and honor the contributions of women to our history and society as well as to our own lives.

Coming from a matriarchal culture, women have always been at the center of my world. I was born into a family of strong women who helped to raise me in their roles as mothers, aunties, grandmothers, and cousins. They not only taught me how to be a human being but also a contributing member of our family and extended community. I grew up watching the women in my village visit together, sew together, laugh and cook together. I also watched them put their skills to work on behalf of our community as elected leaders, health aides, teachers, cultural experts, language bearers, and more. Women have and continue to play a foundational role in my community’s ability to remain functionally strong from one generation to the next.  

Today, I have the honor and privilege of serving the UAF community as one of several female vice chancellors and executive members of the Chancellor’s Core Cabinet. When I first began my career at UAF in 2013, I was a young mother, full-time doctoral student and adjunct instructor. I was fortunate then to have witnessed examples of strong female academic leaders, such as the late Dr. Bernice Joseph and the late Mary Pete, who had paved the way for others like myself to follow. As I have progressed in my own journey in academia, I’ve worked with many amazing women who have helped to shape me to be a better faculty member, a department co-chair, a researcher and co-principal investigator, and now as an administrator.

I hope you will join me this month and every month in honoring the women past and present who have helped to make a positive impact in your life and in the world.

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