The University of Alaska Foundation announced the winner of this year’s Edith R. Bullock Prize is Dr. Dana Thomas.
The Edith R. Bullock Prize was established by its namesake who served the University of Alaska for 30 years as a member of the UA Board of Regents and the foundation’s Board of Trustees. The title includes a cash award and is the single largest award presented by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees each year.
UA System vice president for Academic Affairs and Research Dana Thomas has been a member of the University of Alaska Fairbanks faculty for 30 years. He served six years as chair of UAF’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics and in 2005 received the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Teaching Award.
Thomas earned his bachelor’s in biology from UA and his masters and PhD from Oregon State University. He then returned to Alaska where he became a professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks. As the vice president for Academic Affairs and Research, Thomas led the Shaping Alaska’s Future initiative. He worked with faculty and Fairbanks North Star Borough High School teachers to align high school students with college courses-- in the hopes of preparing them for college.
However, Thomas says his biggest accomplishment was bringing money to the state’s advisory system.
“I helped lead the effort to get state funding for increased student advising across the system and that increase in student advising has resulted in increased retention and graduation rates across the system. And just a better student experience. Students are getting good guidance on the courses they need to take to complete in a timely fashion and are getting good advice on workforce preparation and aligning their interests with both an academic background and the real world. Jobs, life and all of that.”
Thomas says he worries about Alaska’s future generations going to college in state. He says 2/3 of the population of Alaska will need a post-secondary degree by 2025 and the state has one of the lowest college attendance rate in the country. His advising programs is meant to fight against this problem.
Currently Thomas is working with high schools and universities to encourage students to take advance placement classes. He’s also working on projects to create Alaskan educators that stay in the state-- thus solving the issue of teacher retention and teachers leaving Alaska.