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‘Tassels to the Left!’ Northwest Campus Celebrates Commencement

Man at podium stands before crowd of graduates wearing traditional academic robes and mortarboards
Ron Horner Prepares to Lead the Alaska Flag Song at the UAF-NWC Commencement. Photo courtesy of Laura Collins, UAF-NWC.

Graduation season has begun. Last Thursday, May 9, 35 graduates from all walks of life participated in the University of Alaska–Fairbanks Northwest Campus commencement ceremony.


“There are some things you’ll remember in your life, and hearing ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ is probably one of those.”

Kawerak Executive Vice President Mary David addressed the anxious and excited graduates who were seated in Old St. Joseph’s Hall in Nome.

Adorned in mortarboard hats with blue and gold tassels and traditional black robes, the students participating in the UAF Northwest Campus commencement came from all over the region to receive a wide variety of degrees, ranging from G.E.D. to doctorate.

But, as Mary David reminds them, their work isn’t done.

“Learning is a lifelong process. It doesn’t stop just because you come up here and receive your degree. I am proud of each of you and your accomplishments.” 

The students gathered in the crowded hall came from Nome, Brevig Mission, Gambell, Shishmaref, Stebbins, and throughout the state. Through Kawerak’s General Education Program, five students received General Education Diplomas. The large majority of graduates received occupational endorsements in fields ranging from administration to certified nurse’s aide. Norton Sound Health Corporation assists in funding and training for many of those programs. Occupational endorsements and certificates are short programs meant to make graduates immediately employable or able to pursue higher degrees.

Boyd T. Branch and Krysta Kauer finished their Bachelor of Arts in Justice and Social Work, respectively. Amber Otton completed her Teacher certification for Secondary Education and a Master of Education in secondary education. Sandra Martinson received her Master of Arts in Justice Administration.

The highest degree of the night went to Julie Raymond-Yakoubian, earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree. For her dissertation, she worked with the community of Elim, doing socio-cultural anthropological research on identity and cosmology. Raymond-Yakoubian acknowledges that she gains great opportunities with her new degree.

I want to use that access and power, as it may be, to raise up the voices and the concerns of the community of Elim and the rest of the region.”

Paul Nagaruk of the Elim Tribal Council escorted Raymond-Yakoubian to the stage for her degree.

And while the graduates celebrated with family and friends, it was a bittersweet ceremony, too. Thursday was the last commencement for Northwest Campus Director Bob Metcalf, who will be retiring in July after 27 years of service. 

“This is the reason I stayed in higher education for so long. I think some of our graduates are the most impressive people. We have a lot of powerhouse graduates that are going to continue shaking things up, I’m sure.”

According to Metcalf, this year is the largest cohort of graduates yet for UAF Northwest Campus in Nome.

“Now you can move your tassels from the right to the left!”

Image at top: Ron Horner prepares to lead the Alaska Flag Song at the 2019 UAF-NWC Commencement. Photo courtesy of Laura Collins, UAF-NWC.

Correction: an earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Elim Tribal Council member Paul Nagaruk. The error has been corrected.

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