URSA announces 2023-2024 Student Belonging and Community Award recipients

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity congratulates the following recipients who each received a 2023-2024 Student Belonging and Community Award this semester. URSA's Student Belonging and Community Awards support project proposals focused on cultivating a culture of respect, connection, belonging, and community for undergraduate students at UAF and UAF-affiliated campuses. Priority for these awards is given to proposals that align with UAF-wide initiatives for improving the experience for undergraduate students, promoting student success, and fostering a sense of belonging and community while advocating for fair treatment of students.


Amara Juneau and Julia Aikman
Amara Juneau and Julia Aikman

Julia Aikman
Prevention and Wellness Coordinator, Nanook Diversity and Action Center
Project Title: SoBear Lounge
Student: Amara Juneau, Music and Sports Management

Hosted by the Nanook Diversity and Action Center, The SoBear Lounge is an alcohol- free setting that is safe, inviting, and fun for all UAF affiliates. NDAC values student engagement and thrives on providing programming that promotes student health and well-being. Our goal is to establish a fun, lively, and supportive experience for students to enjoy themselves in an alcohol-free setting.



Retchenda George-Bettisworth and Charles Stark
Retchenda George-Bettisworth and Charles Stark

Dr. Retchenda George-Bettisworth
Clinical Professor and Statewide Coordinator for the UAF Department of Social Work Cohort, Department of Social Work
Project Title: Student Belonging through an Online Program Orientation
Student: Charles Stark, Social Work

This project will create a new social work program orientation Canvas course, that will introduce and orient new and transferring students to UAF Social Work faculty, program, and the larger UAF community. This seeks to cultivate a strong sense of student belonging and connection among online social work students. Additionally, there is a dearth of knowledge around the impacts of online student orientation to student belonging and persistence. The project will also create a pre-orientation survey, and collect and analyze results of social work students sense of belonging and persistence in this first year, which will be help in continuing research in a second year.


Justine Schmidt and Shannon Williams with Geo Learning Community students.
Justine Schmidt and Shannon Williams with Geo Learning Community students.

Justine Schmidt
Program Coordinator, GeoFORCE
Project Title: Geo Learning Community
Student: Shannon Williams, Geoscience

The Geo Learning Community provides support for geoscience majors who are from typically underrepresented groups in STEM education. We support these students through tutoring, contact with faculty and opportunities at UAF, and social activities.