Visiting Elder Professor

About the VEP program

Indigenous knowledge provides the context necessary to provide well-grounded and effective academic work as well as innovative solutions to challenges facing the Arctic. For decades, College of Rural and Community Development’s academic programs and rural campuses have integrated Indigenous knowledge bearers into our curriculum and student services. These revered Alaska Native Elders share history, stories, skills, and knowledge that cannot be found in textbooks. Their wisdom and insights enrich curriculum and our students’ academic and personal growth

Each semester, the office of the Vice Chancellor for Rural, Community and Native Education brings a visiting elder professor to the Troth Yeddha’ campus. The Visiting Elder Professor attends classes as a guest speaker, conducts workshops, and meets with students to incorporate Alaska Native knowledge into the student and faculty experience.  The Visiting Elder Professor provides students and faculty cultural, spiritual, social knowledge and guidance as well as imparts important Indigenous knowledge. 

The VEP program hopes to:

  • celebrate Indigenous knowledge,
  • validate Indigenous practices and ways of knowing
  • provide Indigenous knowledge-based guidance to students,
  • provide cultural-based support, advice and assistance for Faculty, Staff and Student groups, and
  • collaborate with faculty on Indigenous knowledge research,
  • guest lecture and present on topics of Indigenous knowledge,
  • raise the awareness of Alaska Native culture with university staff and faculty, and
  • foster relationships between Alaska Native communities and the university.

Faculty and staff can request that Mr. and Mrs. Alexie speak as a guest lecturer from March 18 through March 29, and from April 22 through 26. To arrange Mr. and Mrs. Alexie as a guest lecturer, complete this request form.  If you would like to contact them to discuss a topic for a class or workshop, you can email both visiting professors at and

Once you arrive at a topic, please remember to schedule a date and time using this request form. If you have questions, please contact Sandy Kowalski at or 907-474-7089. They can speak on a variety of topics, including:

  • Spirituality: Yu’pik people’s beliefs and how this affects modern daily life
  • How children were taught and trained up in Yu’pik way
  • Differences in communication between generations and cultures
  • Yu’pik language and culture

About Dr. Trimble Gilbert:

Dr. Trimble Gilbert joined UAF as a visiting Elder professor in the fall 2018 semester.

“Trimble reflects the values, knowledge, and wisdom of Gwich’in people in the way he lives his life,” says Evon Peter, UAF vice chancellor of rural, community and Native education and a former chief of Vashraii K’oo (Arctic Village). “He is widely recognized as an accomplished scholar of Indigenous knowledge, philosophy, skills and cultural practices. Just as important, he graciously shares his knowledge, love and support with the broader Alaska community that surrounds him.”

Gilbert was born in Vashraii K’oo (Arctic Village), a remote Alaska Native community of about 175 people where Gwich’in have thrived for thousands of years. The Episcopal priest and tribal leader was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2016. At UAF, he serves as an elder and mentor in intensive university courses through the College of Rural and Community Development education and Indigenous programs, where his traditional wisdom bridges Western knowledge taught in the classroom with everyday life in rural communities.

Gilbert is an authority on Alaska Native Indigenous ways of knowing. He is the Second Traditional Chief and spiritual leader for Tanana Chiefs Conference and the 52 Athabascan tribes the nonprofit consortium serves. He is an honored guest and wisdom bearer at the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments’ Early Head Start Program’s Elder’s Academy. Gilbert is also a traditional chief and elder advisor for the Alaska Federation of Natives, Tanana Chiefs Conference annual meeting and Doyon annual shareholders meeting.

“I never quit learning,” Gilbert said. “I learned because people needed it. Now I encourage young people to earn their degrees and help make Alaska and our world better for everyone. I want young people to learn the new technologies that are taking over in our world so that they can help our people and learn how to take care of themselves and others.”

UAF News re: Dr. Trimble Gilbert