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University names Usibelli award winners

Submitted by Carla Browning
Phone: 907-474-7778


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Photo by Todd Paris, Marketing and Communications
Marsha Sousa
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Gerald Mohatt
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John Kelley
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The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced the recipients of the 2008 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards.

Marsha Sousa, associate professor of allied health, will receive the teaching award; Gerald Mohatt, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Alaska Native Health Research, will receive the research award; and John Kelley, professor of marine science, will receive the service award. All three will be honored at a reception May 5 at 3:30 p.m. in Wood Center Conference Rooms C & D.

Sousa has been teaching for nearly 30 years, 19 of those at UAF. She has coordinated the allied health program at the Tanana Valley Campus since 2005. Sousa is passionate about teaching and improving the quality of instruction at UAF, said Christa Bartlett, a colleague who nominated her. "As a teacher, she's known for her ability to create a supportive classroom community while still providing a rigorous course."

As a research associate with the Institute of Arctic Biology and the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, Sousa has kept her hand in research over the years, but said teaching is her top priority. Her concern for student success is echoed in letters of support from former students, as well as through classroom evaluations.

"The wealth of knowledge that she has and shares with her students gives us all the confidence we need to go out into the health field and know that we have an education that has prepared us for the work force," wrote former student Regina Whitney.

Sousa is Faculty Senate president-elect for the 2008-2009 academic year. She holds bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Colorado State University.

Mohatt established the Center for Alaska Native Health Research in 2001 with funding from the National Institutes of Health. Researchers at CANHR and UAF's Institute of Arctic Biology, have garnered numerous grants at UAF to study Alaska Native health issues.

Mohatt has spearheaded more than two decades of work to develop a nationally recognized biomedical health research program in Alaska, said psychology professor James Allen. "His research is characterized by a commitment to foster Alaska Native health, self-determination and human rights. Dr. Mohatt provides an example to our UAF community of engaged research, and mentorship and support to new researchers attempting to continue in his path-breaking work with our Alaska Native communities."

Mohatt has published more than a dozen articles on Alaska Native health. His research project, "People Awakening: Alaska Native Pathways to Sobriety," received the highest level of award from NIH and has since been described as a landmark study in addictions science.

In addition to successfully competing for millions of dollars in federal funds, Mohatt also laid the foundation for a joint Ph.D. program in clinical psychology between UAF and the University of Alaska Anchorage. The program was approved in 2005 and helps meet the high demand for mental health professionals in Alaska.

Mohatt has served as dean of the former College of Rural Alaska and the College of Human and Rural Development. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from St. Louis University and a doctorate from Harvard University.

Kelley joined the UAF faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor with the Institute of Marine Science. Since then, he has served in a variety of research and service roles, including four years as the director of the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory in Barrow, where he gained the trust of the communities in the North Slope Borough. Kelley has continued to serve the region as chairman of the NSB Science Advisory Committee since 1981.

Kelley also served as director of the National Science Foundation's Polar Ice Coring Office at UAF, commissioner on the Fairbanks North Star Borough's Mombetsu (Japan) Sister City Commission and member of the Planning Committee for the National Academies of Science, International Polar Year. Kelley holds a bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate from University of Nagoya in Japan.

Kelley has mentored junior faculty and students, keeping the "best of the university and its associated community in mind," said Debasmita Misra, associate professor in UAF's College of Engineering and Mines, who nominated him. "Despite all the important service activities that John has performed, his humility and compassion has always left others seeking his support time and again."

Kelley is credited for working with UAF's Rural Student Services and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to develop a program to encourage Alaska Native undergraduates to pursue careers in science. The NEWNET/ORION program, created in 1997 with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, was designed to involve Alaska Native college students in monitoring atmospheric radioactivity in Alaska.

The Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards are considered one of the university's most prestigious awards. They represent UAF's tripartite mission and are funded annually from a $600,000 endowment established by Usibelli Coal Mine in 1992.

Each year, a committee that includes members from the faculty, the student body and a member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees evaluates the nominees. Each of the winners receives a cash award of $10,000.