Friday, April 18, 2014

Renaissance Person

Renaissance Person

How Model UN has helped me to be a more well-rounded person

Last week, I was in New York City at the National Model United Nations conference. I am a civil engineering student, and at a conference full of International Relations and Political Science students, that made me something of an odd duck. I think that one of the purposes of education is to generate well rounded citizens, and that part of that process is trying new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone. One of the awesome things UAF offers is the opportunity to do just that, and I’d encourage you to give it a try.

There's plenty of opportunities to try something new, but I thought I'd tell you some about my experiences with UAF’s Model United Nations (MUN). MUN is a student organization comprised of students from a range of majors across the University. It is one of the oldest student organizations at UAF and is committed to educating students about policy making, and international affairs and organizations.

My assigned committee was the United Nations Environmental Programme, where I represented the Republic of Chad (also spelled Tchad). The committee addressed topics related to sustainable green transportation, hazardous waste management, and South to South cooperative agreements related to the environment. As a civil engineering student, I was familiar with the technical challenges of those topics, but had never approached the policy questions. I was barely familiar with Chad, and hadn't considered environmental topics from the perspective of a developing nation before. The club challenged me to research and consider those topics in a structured environment.

I joined for the opportunity to explore the policy decisions made on an international level, particularly in relation to rural development, here and abroad. I have an interest in rural development as a future career. My research into environmental topics in Chad gave me a lot of information on resources and areas for further study in my university career I would never have otherwise considered. I also believe a better understanding of the underlying abilities and motivations of political bodies such as the United Nations will help to equip me to advocate for the changes I wish to see in the world in the future. The skill building aspects also appealed to my desire to be an independent, well rounded individual. I think that the skills in research, persuasion and oration developed and honed through activities like Model United Nations help to develop skills I find valuable, regardless of my future career path. The travel possibility was also a strong motivator for me.

I sponsored two working papers, one of which went on to become a passed resolution by the committee. Sponsoring a paper includes brainstorming ideas, negotiating with other sponsors, writing, rewriting, editing, and merging the working papers, and doing extensive outreach and advocacy to garner the necessary votes for the working papers to become resolutions. I worked into the night, during caucuses (informal sessions that allowed me to talk to other delegations), and through meals over two days with my coalition (comprised of African and Middle Eastern nations, led by myself, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and Uganda) to be able to complete our working papers in time to bring it to a vote. I also was a signatory to three other working papers, meaning I formally lent my support to efforts to bring the proposals to a vote, and all of the proposals I signed became resolutions. I spoke three times in the speaking roster. A picture of one of these times is on the left. I had three motions passed (for adjournment, for a caucus, and for a vote by acclamation), and one fail (to reduce speaking time to 45 seconds). I spoke twice for 15 seconds to defend reducing speaking time to 45 and 50 seconds, respectively. During voting, I also spoke for one resolution (to which I was a signatory), and against another (which advocated biofuel mandates I did not believe Chad would agree with, and additionally had measures that seemed to conflict with the underlying Rio principles of common but differentiated responsibilities). I volunteered as a page on the afternoon session of the second day. I even did a poster for research day about the conference.  Overall, I had an unusual, educational experience that, even though the focus was on a different degree, still taught me things that I think will be useful in my own discipline.  It's a great feeling, to know you stepped outside of your area of expertise and still excelled.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to explore New York, too. My favorite thing was the variety of exotic restaurants and entertainment opportunities that New York has to offer. The day or so at the end for exploration was an awesome experience. Over the course of the conference, I visited the 9/11 memorial, Chinatown, Freedom Tower, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty (pictured below), Central Park, Time Square, Coney Island (pictured above), and saw Cinderella on Broadway.

The worst part of the trip was the lines. Lines everywhere! Lines in the elevator, lines for the elevator, lines at the airport, lines for the restaurants, lines for information, lines to go into the UN building…lines. You can see a picture of one of the longer lines (for Closing Ceremonies at the actual United Nations complex) below. Lines were a huge time waste, and very annoying. Pretty much unavoidable though, in a city of that size.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Majestic Ice Arch

by Valerie

Charles Bunnell enjoys winter with a snowy friend. Photo by Valerie Schleich

One thing everyone talks about when referencing UAF is the weather. We live in Fairbanks, Alaska, so it makes sense that such an extreme part of our lives are always also on the tip of our tongue. Whether a seasoned Alaskan or a recent transplant experiencing 40 below for the first time, the extreme weather provides a ton of fun and unique opportunities at UAF.

Sorry about the finger in the picture, but this is the 2014 Ice Arch in all its glory. Photo by Valerie Schleich
 One of the coolest winter things that happen on campus is the annual construction of the UAF Ice Arch. Every year, UAF engineering students enter their design to the Ice Arch competition. Each contestant needs to submit calculations on the proposal to show that the ice arch will be stable and buildable. The winning design is chosen and a team works on constructing the design from the ground up! The Ice Arch sits in the circle of flags, in front of the engineering buildings on campus. They're beautiful!
2014 Ice Arch designed by Andy Chamberlain. Photo by Denali Critchett
Because each year is a new competition, with fresh engineers, the ice arches change dramatically from year to year. Engineering students experiment with architecture, building materials, and construction techniques. Here's a photo of the 2012 Ice Arch:

Denali heads to class with the 2012 ice arch in the background. Photo by Marina Critchett
The 2013 Ice Arch was made of Pykrete, a mixture of sawdust and water. The result is a more structurally sound building material. It looks a little different than pure ice!
2013 Ice Arch designed by Ryan Cudo. Photo by Todd Paris
To see more pictures of Ice Arches through the years, you can look at ASCE's website. ASCE sponsors the construction of the Ice Arch each year.

The Ice Arch adds a lot of beauty to the campus, especially in the frigid months. The competition is such a cool, student-run project!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Undergraduate Research: Much More Than A Lab

by Nicole

I'm taking this post to deviate a bit from my usual theme of dorm life. Dorm life provides a good base for exploration for students on campus; having their living quarters so close to their academics allows for residents to branch easily in campus activities while minimizing the horrors of transportation costs (or the frigid weather, in most cases). These activities include athletics, clubs and student organizations, and (the one I am going to develop here today), undergraduate research.

UAF prides itself on a strong hands-on approach to learning both in and out of the classroom. The tough environment and consistent challenges mean that students often have to get creative in order to succeed; a good example of this is a sight we often highlight on our campus tours: the steel drivers displayed in the Duckering building, home to the College of Engineering and Mines. These drivers represent the struggle to reconcile the will of man and the tenacity of the Alaskan landscape, especially the tundra. In attempt to drill into permafrost, these once gargantuan towers of steel became malleable as paper cups. The drivers crushed into themselves, unable to pierce the permafrost surface. It would have appeared that the tundra had won; far from the libraries and laboratories that had once served as resources, these researchers had to find a solution on their own. Eventually they did, by changing their methods to allow the tips of the drivers to freeze into the permafrost before proceeding. This mindset characterizes what UAF hopes to inspire in its students: the idea that the unconventional and the creative solutions can often be what jettisons progress. Innovation is both a tradition and a necessity to this campus.

This is the section where I hoped to convey all the different projects being developed on campus, but even as I write this I know, were I to list every single one, the compiled list would be an absolute tome. Projects are in constant development, being mulled, being planned, or are currently in progress. The extensive facilities and limitless projects allow for innumerable research topics to be explored. These locations include:

  • the agricultural farm just off campus, testing various crops and methods for Alaskan conditions
  • the viral laboratory examining pathogens
  • the bottom floor of the campus museum—this floor is lined with laboratories continually in action, including archeology, ornithology, entomology, and paleontology (just to name a few)
  • Reichardt chemistry, geology, and physics laboratories
  • pathology, wildlife, botany, and fisheries labs in O'Neill and Arctic Health Research Center
  • and more!

I've dipped my own toe into these waters, and now have the quirkiest, dirtiest, and helpful memories that I've gathered from my college career. I've spliced hundreds upon hundreds of seedlings to incur their growth; I've mixed chemicals like ingredients in a recipe; I've measured and identified fish samples taken straight from the mouths of puffins (for the record—they don't smell any better fourteen years later); I've scrubbed an ancient skull (from a dinosaur whose name I still can't seem to pronounce) with a toothbrush until it gleamed. Most of the time I've stumbled into these opportunities, and they've given me valuable experience that have prepared me for my career after graduation.
A frilled-dinosaur nose bone, scrubbed clean with a toothbrush and Vinac-ed until it shines!

This is what a squid looks like after being frozen for 14 years. He's still lookin' beautiful!

 I would recommend anyone with the drive or purely the curiosity to investigate this opportunity to themselves. There's a niche for anyone willing to try and eager to learn, no matter the level of experience or class ranking. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Arctic Winter Games College Fair

The Arctic Winter Games are in full swing in Fairbanks this week, and as a community sponsor, UAF is rolling out the red carpet to athletes and spectators. During the games, UAF and UArctic, along with the Arctic Winter Games, will host the first ever Arctic Winter Games College Fair in Fairbanks.

Athletes, their parents, and community members can learn about higher education opportunities in the circumpolar North. The college fair will take place from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19th, in the Great Hall on the Fairbanks campus. Door prizes and refreshments will be provided during the fair including an iPad giveaway.

Schools from all around the circumpolar North will be attending, including the Arctic University of Norway, University of Saskatchewan, Ilisimatusarfik - University of Greenland, Ilisagnk College, Alaska Pacific University, The Northern Arctic Federal University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Southeast.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Inside Out is coming SOON!!!

by Valerie

The decision of where to go to college is a tough one, and the road leading to that decision is full of questions. Luckily, UAF gives prospective students the opportunity to see college from the INSIDE OUT, ask questions about everything from research to roommates, and get a first-hand view of what going to college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is really like. 

Inside Out is happening on March 14th! It's free, but you need to register in advance. Registration closes March 10 (that's next week!) so click on this link to register!

If you already know you want to apply to UAF, take advantage of the Inside Out On-The-Spot Admissions! UAF will waive the application fee if you apply and get your transcripts in more than 2 days before the date! (click here for more details) 

If you aren't sure you want to apply, Inside Out is still a great way to experience a college campus--you can see how it measures up to your other options!

Students from Inside Out last year on their way to mock classes. Photo by JR Ancheta

The schedule for the day is going to be filled with fun! Here's what the schedule looks like! (for more details, you can look here)

7:45 a.m.Check-In and Registration 
  • A casual social atmosphere to start your morning right with coffee or tea.
8:40 a.m. Welcome 
  • Learn what it means to be a Nanook!
For these students, being a Nanook means being involved in the Aerial Silks Club! Photo by Todd Paris

9:15 a.m. Mock Classes
  • Find out more about the schools and colleges within UAF which interests you most.
10:15 a.m. Walking Tours
  •  Get acquainted with the layout of UAF.
11:45 a.m. -1:45 p.m. Choose your own Schedule
  •  Individually choose sessions on what you want to learn more about!
 2:00 p.m. UAF Student Panel
  • Ask current students your burning questions and get their honest answers.  Send parents to the the "Taking Care of Business Panel" to let them ask the serious questions.
Mathew peeks into a tent during hunger and homelessness awareness week. Photo by Todd Paris.

 3:00 p.m. Grand Finale! (a bundle of surprises we can't tell you about yet. Hint: it involves cookies!)

This is really a great chance to see what it's like to be in college. Whether you are have your heart set on coming to UAF or you've barely started to think about going to college at all, Inside Out gives you a chance to experience college, for real. It's also fun! We can't wait to meet you, and hope to see you there! 
Nanook wants YOU to come to Inside Out! Photo by Todd Paris

Monday, March 3, 2014

Are You a fan of The Olympics?

This year, Fairbanks is the host society for the Arctic Winter Games – the world’s largest multi-sport and cultural event for youth in the circumpolar north. Fairbanks hosted the Arctic Winter Games in 1982, 1988, and now in spring of 2014. Twenty sports will be played at the 2014 Games – everything from Arctic Sports to Wrestling.

In 1970, the first Arctic Winter Games had 500 participants. Today that number has grown to over 2,000. Team Alaska sends approximately 400 athletes to the games. With that many participants, it takes over 2,000 volunteers to support the Games.

UAF will be hosting several sports on campus including snowboarding, soccer, hockey, and basketball. During the games, UAF and UArctic, along with the Arctic Winter Games, will host the first Arctic Winter Games College Fair in Fairbanks. Athletes participating in the games can learn about higher education opportunities in the circumpolar North. The college fair will take place from 9a.m. – 12p.m. and 4p.m. – 7p.m. on Wednesday, March 19th, in the Great Hall on the Fairbanks campus.

All athletes, their parents and community members are welcome to attend. In addition to the universities in attendance, there will be refreshments and door prizes – including two iPads. Schools from all around the circumpolar North will be attending including The Arctic University of Norway, University of Saskatchewan, Ilisimatusarfik – University of Greenland, Ilisagnk College, Alaska Pacific University, The Northern Arctic Federal University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Southeast. Come check it out!

- Blog post courtesy of Teal Rogers

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Art of Speaking

by Kaz

Something we can all expect to be asked to do in the future is communicate effectively.The University of Alaska Fairbanks requires that all students take a 100 level Communications class in order to graduate from any of its programs. 

There is some flexibility though, so don't freak out yet!

You can take Fundamentals of Oral Communication in the Group Context or in the Individual Context. This all boils down to whether you want to learn how to communicate effectively in a group or on your own. I will not lie to you; group is hard. While the focus of the class is on group communication, you have to first learn how to communicate effectively as an individual. 

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. ~ Tony Robbins

I enrolled in a Group Comm class during the fall semester of 2009 because I wanted to take a class with my best friend. I tried to convince her that we should sit apart from each other the first few classes so our teacher didn't know we were friends and we could sneak into the same group. It didn't work! Save yourselves the work and sit by your friend. The teachers know, through some uncanny ability, who is friends with who.

Before you get a group, you put together and deliver a few individual speeches to your class. You do a few interesting activities and then jump right into the group building games the preclude your final, group project.

Here are a few things I took from my group class that I hope can help you with speeches in general:

Here are a few things that I think will help with groups:
  • Be honest about expectations from the start.
  • When making a group contract, keep it specific.
  • Include punishments for slacking and other no-nos that can be implemented before your group-mate gets kicked out of the group. 
  • Make sure that everyone agrees on the contract.
  • Follow the contract, even if someone has to retake the course. 
  • Be nice to each other.
  • Everyone should put in an equal amount of effort.
"Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it." ~ Robert Frost
You might be wondering: "Why do I need a class on communication to improve my communication?" No matter what your future career, at some point, you will have at least a blurb of information that you will need to deliver to one or more people in order to perform you job. 

 As a future teacher, I must be able to communicate concepts effectively to 20 to 30 students daily and answer questions that dig into the content beyond what I have memorized. A doctor needs to be able to translate the jargon of his/her field into laymen terms for individual patients. An engineer will need to explain their designs, defend them and promote them. 

Speech is more than your memorized blurb. Speech is effectively delivering the information housed in your head. I encourage all of you who have yet to take a 100 level Communications class to take it very seriously and put your best effort in. The skills you pick up will  be needed from you for the rest of your life!