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University names Usibelli award winners

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: 907-474-7902


Photo caption below.
Photo courtesy of UAF School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences
John Fox
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Cooperative Extension Service photo by Jeff Fay
Rich Seifert
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Photo by Todd Paris, UAF Marketing and Communications
John Walsh
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The University of Alaska Fairbanks has announced recipients of the 2009 Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards.

John Fox, associate professor of land resources management, will receive the teaching award; John Walsh, President's Professor of climate change and director of the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research at the International Arctic Research Center, will receive the research award; and Rich Seifert, a Cooperative Extension Service professor and energy and housing specialist, will receive the service award. All three will be honored at a May 8 reception.

Fox's career as a professor at UAF has spanned more than 35 years. His colleagues in the forest sciences department unanimously nominated him for this year's teaching award, citing his educational philosophy and dedication to students. He is known for developing and offering pioneering courses that offer students a holistic view of natural resources management.

"His classes have traversed a breathtaking variety of disciplines," they note in his nomination letter. "Underlying their diversity is a common theme of managing natural resources wisely for human benefit through a rational, science- and ethics-based approach. In short, 'he was interdisciplinary before interdisciplinary was cool.'"

Fox cites educator and author Parker Palmer as inspiration for his teaching practices: "To teach is to create a space in which obedience to the truth is practiced." Fox says he tries to create that "space" in his classes.

"If the university is to be more than an extension of high school, more than a technical training center, we must foster wisdom and not just knowledge," he said.

Outside the classroom, Fox serves as a faculty representative to the National Collegiate Athletics Association, was co-founder of UAF's annual Forest Sports Festival, has led efforts to get and maintain accreditation for his department and shares his expertise with the public. Fox holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Trinity College and a master's degree in forest resources and a doctorate in forest hydrology from the University of Washington.

Walsh came to UAF in 2001, after spending nearly 30 years with the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois. He is recognized internationally as an expert on climate change in the Arctic. He was a lead author of the second volume of the Fourth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a lead author of 2005's Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

"(Walsh) is internationally respected and frequently honored as the authority in arctic climate dynamics and climate change," IARC director Larry Hinzman wrote in a nomination letter. "He is a prolific researcher, teacher, writer and wise scientific leader."

In addition to his research work, Walsh is a known expert for journalists covering climate change for print and broadcast outlets around the globe. Through those activities, as well as presentations at a variety of public gatherings, he helps expand public understanding of arctic climate science and climate change.

"In a research area that is often torn between hyped claims of impending disasters and the need for public awareness of genuine environmental threats, factual information and improved communication of scientific findings are increasingly important missions," Walsh said.

Walsh is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Meteorological Society. He holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science from Dartmouth College and a doctorate in meteorology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Seifert has served as a Cooperative Extension Service statewide energy and housing specialist at UAF for nearly three decades. His work has touched thousands of people throughout the state via workshops and instructional publications.

"Richard has spent 27 years learning, teaching and sharing his vast knowledge of energy (with) Alaska residents," says Sara Burley, who nominated Seifert for the award. "He deeply cares about improving Alaskans' quality of life. He is willing to teach and train wherever people need his skills and knowledge."

Former Cooperative Extension Service interim director Pete Pinney says Seifert exemplifies the engagement mission of a land-grant university. In addition to his workshops and publications, he partners with community organizations like the Cold Climate Housing Research Center and writes columns for local and statewide newspapers. He actively seeks grant funding, which allows his workshops to be offered, either in person or electronically, throughout the state.

In addition to his role in Extension, Seifert serves the UAF community through his work on a variety of faculty committees and as faculty advisor for a student group, the Sustainable Campus Task Force. Outside the university, he is a member of the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital Foundation board.

Seifert holds a bachelor's degree in physics from West Chester State College and a master's degree in engineering physics from UAF.

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.

CONTACT: Marmian Grimes, UAF public information officer, at 907-474-7902 or via e-mail at marmian.grimes@uaf.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Journalists interested in attending the reception for winners should contact Grimes.