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On Topic

Author: University of Alaska

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"On Topic” is a 10-episode series of conversations with experts and authors on important issues that face Alaska. It is produced in collaboration with the University of Alaska and the University of Alaska Press and is hosted by University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen. President Johnsen is a lifelong learner and naturally curious. He’s interested in getting to know the people behind topics that are of interest in Alaska.
7 Episodes
This week’s guest is Princess Daazhraii Johnson, creative producer for the new PBS KIDS show "Molly of Denali." This episode explores her role in making the animated children’s program a reality and discusses the representation of Alaska Native peoples and cultures in film. “When WGBH first reached out about the project MOLLY OF DENALI, I was so excited,” said Johnson. “I immediately thought of myself as a little girl and what a show like this would have meant to me.” Johnson is Neets’aii Gwich’in and her family is from Arctic Village, Alaska. Princess received a B.A. in International Relations from The George Washington University and a Masters in Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage with a focus on Environmental and Science Education. "Molly of Denali" is the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature a Native American lead character, Molly Mabray, a feisty and resourceful 10-year-old Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan girl. The episodes weave together literacy skills with Alaska Native values, such as respecting others, sharing what you have and honoring your elders, while showcasing contemporary aspects of rural life. WGBH Boston developed "Molly of Denali" with a group of Alaska Native advisors, including Elders, who advise on many aspects of the show, including culture and languages. The UA College Savings Plan is a major sponsor of the new series and its educational mission.
This episode’s guest is Michael West, Alaska’s State Seismologist, a UAF Research Associate Professor, and Director of the Alaska Earthquake Center. Mike received his PhD at Columbia University in 2001, and has an undergraduate degree in physics from Colorado College. His professional service focuses on advocacy for earthquake and tsunami preparedness, with an emphasis on Alaska and the Arctic.
Linda Schandelmeier grew up on a family homestead six miles south of Anchorage in the 1950s and 60s. She moved north in 1967 to attend the University of Alaska. Her collection of poems, Coming Out of Nowhere is part memoir and part historical document. The poems celebrate the unique and nurturing aspects of homestead life, but do not shy away from unpleasant family details. Linda has one other collection, Listening Hard Among the Birches. Her poetry has been awarded numerous prizes and distinctions, including an Artist-in-Residence at Denali National Park in 2012, a Rasmuson Individual Artist Project Award in 2006, and an Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the Alaska State Council on the Arts in 1984. She is the winner of the Midnight Sun, Fejés, and Anchorage Daily News-UAA prizes for poetry. Linda’s poems have been set to music in three song cycles, one of which, Poem Against the Cold, by British composer Corey Field, was performed at Carnegie Hall. A retired biologist and elementary school teacher, and an active master gardener and political activist, Linda lives near Fairbanks, Alaska.
This episode’s guest is Paula Mathieu, English professor in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences at Boston College, and Director of the First-Year Writing Program, and Founder of the Writing Fellows Program there. Paul is the author of the ground-breaking book “Tactics of Hope: The Public Turn in English Composition”, a book that is especially important in these times of communication that happens in 140 characters or less, and communication that often incites immediate controversy. She’s worked to expand her ideas about what it takes to practice the kind of social justice that a university should foster. She’s on the editorial boards of College Composition and Communication, and the prominent book series, “Writing and Rhetoric."
We hear a lot about climate change and the massive swings in our weather patterns these days. This episode’s guest is John Walsh, the Chief Scientist at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He’s focused his long and distinguished academic career on Arctic climate weather variability. John was a convening lead author for the third U.S. National Climate Assessment completed in 2014 and the author of many important articles, books and reports on climate change, weather and sea ice prediction. Before joining the University of Alaska, John spent thirty years on the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he taught courses on weather and climate.
This episode’s guest is Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of the Law School at the University of California, Berkeley. Dean Chemerinsky is the author of 10 books, including the timely and influential “Free Speech On Campus” with his colleague Howard Gilman. Chemerinsky writes a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee, a monthly column for the American Bar Association Journal, frequent opinion pieces that are published in newspapers across the country, and he still argues appellate cases, including cases before the United States Supreme Court. In 2017, National Jurist Magazine again named him the most influential person in legal education in the United States. 
This episode guest is Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google. In his work at Google, Jaime focuses the powers of technology and the web on pursuit of promoting inquiry-driven learning models. Jaime collaborates with school systems, educational organizations, and leaders to build innovation into our education policies and practices. Jaime is also an author and serves on a number of boards for organizations focused on education, innovation and equity. He teaches a 10th grade communication class at the Phoenix Coding Academy, and is an adjunct professor at Arizona State University, where he teaches classes on policy, innovation and leadership.
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