2021 Usibelli award winners


Dr. Denise Thorsen

Dr. Denise Thorsen

2021 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching Award

WHEREAS Dr. Denise Thorsen has served the University of Alaska Fairbanks with distinction since 2001; and, as a teacher of electrical engineering, she draws superb reviews from students, who appreciate her focus on real-world applications, her incorporation of peer mentoring and her informal encouragement of their individual successes; and

WHEREAS Dr. Thorsen started her career in the aerospace industry before earning her graduate degrees and spending several years as a research scientist; and, as a UAF professor, she has been highly successful in using an innovative “flipped” teaching method where classes focus on problem-solving; and

WHEREAS Dr. Thorsen directs the Space Systems Engineering Program, through which she has helped students create small satellites, develop communication technologies and create ideas for future space missions; and her students in the program have gone on to great career successes;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the University of Alaska Fairbanks takes great pride in the achievements and contributions of its faculty, and extends its sincere appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Denise Thorsen; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the University, in recognizing the extraordinary excellence in teaching demonstrated by Dr. Denise Thorsen, bestows upon her the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching Award on this day of February 27, 2021.


Dr. Donald Walker

Dr. Donald “Skip” Walker

2021 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Research Award

WHEREAS Dr. Donald “Skip” Walker has served the University of Alaska Fairbanks with distinction since 1999; and his voluminous and much-cited research has made him the world’s leading expert on Arctic vegetation and its role in ecosystems; and

WHEREAS Dr. Walker came to Alaska as a oil field roustabout in 1969, began his graduate research on the North Slope in 1972 and has studied Arctic vegetation ever since; and, after coming to UAF, he established the Alaska Geobotany Center, which researches and maps Arctic vegetation and its relationships with geophysical processes; and

WHEREAS Dr. Walker’s highly collaborative research has helped illuminate how Arctic vegetation interacts with permafrost, snow, sea ice and disturbances such as roads and petroleum development; and he has helped create international systems to monitor and map vegetation and soils across the circumpolar Arctic;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the University of Alaska Fairbanks takes great pride in the achievements and contributions of its faculty, and extends its sincere appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Donald “Skip” Walker; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the University, in recognizing the extraordinary excellence in research demonstrated by Dr. Donald “Skip” Walker, bestows upon him the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Research Award on this day of February 27, 2021.


Dr. Eduard Zilberkant

Dr. Eduard Zilberkant

2021 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Service Award

WHEREAS Dr. Eduard Zilberkant has served the University of Alaska Fairbanks with distinction since 1997; and, through his multiple roles, he has sustained the presentation of exceptional musical performances in Fairbanks and across Alaska; and

WHEREAS Dr. Zilberkant, whose family completed a risky emigration from Russia to the United States in the 1970s, earned his doctorate in piano performance and taught at a number of universities before joining UAF’s faculty; and, in addition to teaching, he not only serves as music director and conductor of the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and Arctic Chamber Orchestra but also performs internationally; and

WHEREAS Dr. Zilberkant enthusiastically nurtures local musicians and attracts prestigious guest artists, sustaining the symphony and ensuring its status as one of the nation’s top all-volunteer ensembles; and he has twice brought an international e-piano competition to Fairbanks;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the University of Alaska Fairbanks takes great pride in the achievements and contributions of its faculty, and extends its sincere appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Eduard Zilberkant; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the University, in recognizing the extraordinary excellence in service demonstrated by Dr. Eduard Zilberkant, bestows upon him the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Service Award on this day of February 27, 2021.