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UAS celebrates the class of 2020

Although traditional ceremonies are not taking place in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, each campus has created a “virtual commencement” in which students can be celebrated.

Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Alaska

Date of Press Release: April 27, 2020

On the first weekend in May, the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) will celebrate student achievement and success at commencement activities on its three campuses in Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau, with 460 graduates. Although traditional ceremonies are not taking place in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, each campus has created a “virtual commencement” in which students can be celebrated. Students from the UAS Juneau campus will be offered the chance to walk in a future ceremony, hopefully in 2021. All three community ceremonies, along with the Alaska Native Graduation celebration, can be accessed at May 1 is the release date for Sitka commencement and Alaska Native Graduation, and May 2 for Juneau and Ketchikan. As the ceremonies are pre-recorded, viewers can tune in at a time that is convenient for them.

About the Juneau Celebration

The 49th UAS Juneau Campus Commencement is being observed with a dedicated web page where as many elements of a traditional ceremony as possible have been preserved. Video messages will be recorded in advance by Chancellor Rick Caulfield and UA President Jim Johnsen.

UAS graduate Emily Edenshaw will deliver the Juneau Commencement Address. Ms. Edenshaw is the Executive Director of the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. She is originally from Emmonak, Alaska, and has previously lived in Southeast Alaska, working for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

The student speaker will be Khrystl Brouillette, editor of the student newspaper The Whalesong. Ms. Brouillette is graduating this weekend with a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Environmental Resources, cum laude.

Juneau’s Outstanding Student Academic Awards for 2020 are also recognized during the commencement ceremony:

  • Kathryn Bakker, B.A. Special Education
  • Jessica Smyke, M.A.T. Secondary Education
  • Amanda Friendshuh, B.A. Elementary Education
  • Verna Miller, Graduate Certificate, Elementary Education
  • Sarah Novell-Lane, B.S. Environmental Science
  • Abigail Query, B.A. Biology
  • Aaron Lambert, B.S. Biology
  • Khrystl Brouillette-Janes, B.S. Geography and Environmental Resources, Outstanding Student in Geography
  • Robyn Branson, B.A. Social Science
  • Claire Helgeson, B.L.A. Alaska Native Languages and Studies
  • Kelsey Walsh, B.A. English
  • Mercedes Marie Sarandria, M.P.A., Ernest Gruening Award for Outstanding Graduate in Public Administration
  • Chad Beckley, B.B.A. Management, Bob Ellis Award for Outstanding Graduate in Management
  • Carlos Meda Frias, B.B.A. Human Resource Management
  • Tyrone Casteel, B.B.A. Accounting
  • Eric McDonald, A.A.S. Business Administration
  • Jacob Eberhardt, B.S. Marine Biology

Several community members will be honored this year in Juneau. Attorney and former state legislator Clark Gruening will be recognized with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws. Meritorious Service Awards will be presented to community volunteer Sharon Gaiptman and composer William Todd Hunt.

About the Sitka Celebration

The UAS Sitka Campus plans to post a virtual commencement video presentation that will be shared on our social media pages and our campus webpage. The video will open with remarks from Campus Director Math Trafton. The commencement address will then be given by Rachel Roy, the executive director of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce. UAS Sitka adjunct science faculty Lauren Wild will deliver the faculty reflection, and UAS Sitka Health Information Management graduate Victoria Wallace will deliver the student reflection. Other notable speakers will be Chancellor Caulfield, President Johnsen, and Regent Buretta.

Sitka campus Student Success Center manager David Felts will read the names of graduates, and Alaska Languages adjunct faculty Roby Littlefield will read heritage names. A slideshow presentation will present photos of graduates along with a list of those whom they would like to thank for helping them achieve their educational goals.

The video presentation will also recognize graduating students of distinction in the fields of Fisheries Technology, Health Information Management, Medical Assisting, and General Associate of Arts. These students are chosen by their grade point average, their volunteerism, and willingness to go above and beyond. This year’s Students of Distinction are:

  • Fisheries Technology Graduate Student of Distinction: Wesley Shipley
  • Health Information Graduate Student of Distinction: Mykela Carroll
  • Associates of Arts Graduate Student of Distinction: Abigayle Erickson

About the Ketchikan Celebration

The Ketchikan campus will be celebrating our graduates with a virtual ceremony posted on Saturday, May 2, 2020. Twenty-two students will be recognized and awarded degrees during the ceremony.

This year’s commencement speaker is Elizabeth Nelson, Executive Artistic Director of First City Players. The student speaker will be Dawn Rauwolf. Dawn is graduating with a Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education. Video messages from Director Priscilla Schulte, Chancellor Richard Caulfield, Board of Regent Sheri Buretta, and President Jim Johnsen will also be included. Turning of the Tassels will be presented by Director Priscilla Schulte.

A slideshow will present graduate photos, along with their respective degrees and honors, and a few words of wisdom and thanks to those that helped them along their journey.

Chancellor Rick Caulfield notes, “while the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for our society, it cannot take away from the exceptional accomplishments of our students in reaching their educational goals. I’m incredibly proud of our graduates--many of whom are non-traditional students who have family obligations or who work while also going to school. They and their families and friends should be very proud of their accomplishments.”

About Native Graduation

Available May 1, the annual UAS Native Graduation Celebration normally takes place on the Juneau campus the morning of the traditional commencement ceremony. This year, for the first time, the event will honor graduates from all three UAS campuses: Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka. Organized by the Native and Rural Student Center and the student club Wooch.een, this year’s event will feature an elder’s blessing by Della Cheney, comments from Chancellor Rick Caulfield and Ronalda Cadiente Brown, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Alaska Native Programs and director of the PITAAS program (Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska’s Schools). The UAS Yuraq dance group will also perform.

Additional Resources

Press Release Contact

Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
(907) 796-6509