Alaska Fellows Retrospective - Kevin Huo

May 4, 2022

By Kevin Huo

Alaska Fellows
Kevin Huo (center) pictured with the Fairbanks-based Alaska Fellows cohort. Photo courtesy of Kevin Huo.

At the start of my Alaska Fellowship program in September of 2021, I was elated to join a cast of movers and shakers at Alaska Center ICE. I had just completed my undergraduate degree at UAF studying Anthropology and Political Science, and my interest in community building, diplomacy, and the examination of culture led me to this unique opportunity to serve as an Innovation Fellow.

Initially, I struggled to define ‘innovation,’ but as I progressed through the year, with great mentors including Peter Webley, Mark Billingsley, David Park, and Evelyn Jacome, I began to discover some synonyms to define serving as the Innovation Fellow. To be an Innovation Fellow is to be relatable, attuned, and enthusiastic.

Relatable as defined by this fellowship relies upon connecting the dots. I speak of such a unique moment that occurred in the UAF T3 Makerspace where a student applying for a mini-grant funded by Alaska Center ICE was interested in connecting with local businesses on agricultural opportunities. Given the resources at Alaska Center ICE, the formally funded businesses we have hosted, and a current network of entrepreneurs, I was able to easily connect with the student to gain guidance and resources for success.

Attuned is staying connected. I recall attending many events across campus and the state either remotely or in-person and name-dropping Alaska Center ICE as a prideful component of my everyday work. Likewise, continuing to promote our successful programming through our internship, funding, and training opportunities, Alaska Center ICE is both academic and community-oriented at the same time. I recall attending the Juneau Innovation Summit on March 16-17, 2022 with my colleague Mori Hays on behalf of the National Science Foundation funded I-Corp program. Our focus was finding stakeholders who may be interested in a ‘grey water bucket sensor.’ Upon mentioning our project to other attendees, an overwhelming number of connections, support, and ideas began to flow through. The excitement and willingness to help we experienced just shows how powerful the Alaska entrepreneurial ecosystem and spirit are.

There is a saying in Alaska that if you know somebody you end up (almost) knowing all of Alaska and that statement has never been more true. As I progressed through my year, I became an Alaska entrepreneur, enthusiastic about meeting and learning from wonderful people motivated to run their businesses, companies, and organizations.

I would like to give a quick thanks to the most enthusiastic community builders, Evan Wilken and Renee Linton over at Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, for their continued partnership as our goals and interests often align, allowing us to collaborate on programs including Startup Week and connecting businesses with innovation opportunities. I would also like to thank Tiana Wang, Matthew Robinson, and my Alaska Fellowship counterparts working in Anchorage on entrepreneurship at UAA's Center for Economic Development and 49th State Angel Fun. Lastly, I wanted to thank the Alaska Fellows team, especieally JR Ancheta, Meredith Redick, and Tina Buxbaum for allowing me to help pioneer the newest Fairbanks cohort for AFP.

To all my Fairbanksian friends and Alaska Center ICE folks, I am glad to announce that coming this fall I will be continuing my adventure here in Alaska pursuing a Master's in Arctic and Northern studies here at UAF! See you around and keep on innovating.