UAF BLaST Orientation 2019

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By Amy Topkok


The BLaST Program held their annual “BLaST-Off” Fall Orientation on August 24, 2019, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF’s) Botanical Gardens. Fifty-four undergraduates, faculty, staff, and their families attended the event on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Special guests included Evon Peter, Vice Chancellor for Rural Community and Native Education at UAF, and Elder Luke Titus, a 78-year-old Athabascan Elder originally from Minto, Alaska (pictured right). The Pavva Inupiaq Dancers of Fairbanks shared a short cultural performance to help welcome everyone, especially newcomers from outside Fairbanks (pictured below).

Elder Luke Titus shared much of his educational experience growing up in rural Alaska, and he gave encouragement and cultural perspective of research in Alaska to the audience. Evon Peter, who is Gwi’chin from Arctic Village, shared his perspective of research projects by sharing short summaries of research organizations at UAF and around the globe. Peter also highlighted the importance of the hill where UAF is located, Troth Yeddha, an Athabascan landmark from time immemorial in Interior Alaska. Honoring and including aspects of Alaskan culture and traditions, as well highlighting Alaska Native contributions to science and understanding of the environment, is an important aspect of the BLaST program and the One Health paradigm.

BLaST PIs and staff spoke about opportunities the program offers to undergraduates and faculty throughout the year in terms of mentoring experiences, professional development workshops, funding opportunities and more. Staff and faculty shared their perspectives on research and spoke about Alaska and the vast resources and opportunities for research topics throughout the state. Several ongoing BLaST research projects were discussed, as some newer undergrads are trying to find where their research interests lie.

One highlight of the event was recognizing graduating BLaST Scholars. Each graduating scholar was presented their very own BLaST lab coat to use in their labs as they forge ahead in their research journey. Participating in icebreaker activities helped the new students get to know those who are returning. After the festivities, everyone was treated to a BBQ consisting of hamburgers, hotdogs and plenty of sides!

Nine graduating Scholars receiving BLaST lab coats from left to right: Angela Bagoyo, Jennie Humphrey, Noah Khalsa, Shelby McCahon, Casey McMillan, Ava Parrish, Jonilee Polanco, Kristian Rivera, and Shelly Thao. Photo credit: JR Ancheta, UAF photographer.

Top photos, left to right: BLaST Senior Director Michael Castellini (l), Department of Veterinary Medicine Research Professional Maggie Castellini (m), and new Research Advising and Mentoring Professional (RAMP) Andrew Cyr (r). Cyr was previously a BLaST Graduate Mentoring Research Assistant for four years; Scholars David Harvey (l) and Anthony Thompson (r)

Bottom photos, left to right: Scholars Kristian Rivera and Noah Khalsa; BLaST Scholars Garrett Taylor (l), Daphne Mueller (m), and Anastacia Dorvall (r)

Right photo: Scholars Michelle Quillin (l) and Cheyenna Schafer (r)

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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