Alumni Emerging Leader

Alumni Emerging Leader AwardThe Alumni Emerging Leader Award honors an alumni who has made a positive impact in their community, industry or profession and has received their degree within the past ten years. There is an expectation that the nominee is in the beginning or middle of what will be a long-term distinguished career or role.

Previous Winners

Amie Collins

Amie Collins — 2023-24 Emerging Leader
B.A. Political Science '13, M.B.A. General Management '17
Executive director of Best Beginnings

Growing up an avid reader, Amie Collins works to pass on that passion to future generations of children and parents by developing early literacy and education initiatives in partnership with school districts, Head Start programs and municipal and state departments. The largest of these initiatives is the administration of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a national service that partners with local literacy organizations to mail free books monthly to children from birth to age five. In Alaska, Best Beginnings has offered Imagination Library to more than 14,000 children in 129 communities. In addition to her work with Best Beginnings, Collins sits on the Family Advisory Council for the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail organization. Read more about Amie Collins >>

Marie-Sophie Boggasch

Marie-Sophie Boggasch — 2022 Emerging Leader
B.S. Aviation Technology '16, M.S. Interdisciplinary Studies '20
Women's gymnastics head coach at UAA

Originally from Germany, Marie-Sophie Boggasch came to Anchorage in 2012 when she was recruited to UAA as a student-athlete. After graduating and working in Alaska’s aviation industry, Boggasch returned to UAA as a gymnastics coach. In that time, she helped lead fundraising efforts to save Seawolf gymnastics from elimination, raising more than $900,000. Read more about Marie-Sophie Boggasch >>

Kira Apaachuaq Eckenweiler

Kira Apaachuaq Eckenweiler — 2021 Emerging Leader
B.M. Music Performance '16
Mayor of Unalakleet, Alaska

Since graduating from UAA and receiving her Master of Music from the Berklee College of Music, Kira Apaachuaq Eckenweiler has distinguished herself as a professional singer by performing with the Anchorage Opera, the Boston Conservatory, Intermountain Opera Bozeman and more. After COVID-19 shut down live events worldwide, effectively pausing the performance industry, Kira decided to ride out the pandemic back home in Unalakleet with a new pursuit to stay productive: a seat on the city council, which quickly accelerated into the position of mayor. As mayor, Kira prioritized fixing the city’s aging water system and successfully secured $30 million to finally overhaul Unalakleet’s water system in summer 2022. Read Kira Apaachuaq Eckenweiler's story...

Reem Sheikh

Reem Sheikh — 2020 Emerging Leader
B.S. Biological Sciences '07
Podiatric Surgeon and Attending Faculty, New York College of Podiatric Medicine

As a podiatrist working in New York City, Dr. Reem Sheikh witnessed firsthand how the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) affected health care workers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. After assembling volunteers that she met through parenting Facebook groups, Dr. Sheikh raised more than $18,000 to alleviate PPE shortages for New York City health care workers, and coordinated the donation of thousands of PPE across the countryRead Reem Sheikh's story...

Vanessa Norman

Vanessa Norman — 2019 Emerging Leader
B.B.A. Management and Marketing '04
Attorney with law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Norman, born and raised in Port Graham, gives back to the community by volunteering and working on issues that she is passionate about. As an attorney at the Anchorage office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, her responsibilities include advising businesses both in Alaska and the Lower 48, with special emphasis on guiding Alaska Native corporations on general corporate matters. She also serves as co-chair of the firm’s Attorneys of Color affinity group. Read Vanessa's story...

Jason Hart

Jason Hart — 2018 Emerging Leader
B.B.A. Management ’07, M.B.A. General Management ’10
Clinical practice manager, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

With the passing of his mother at the age of 12, Hart felt compelled to make health care for Alaska Natives better. After serving for seven years in the Air National Guard, he worked to become clinical practice manager at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. In addition, he took on the responsibilities as acting vice president of medical and multi-specialty clinics at the Alaska Native Medical Center, where he oversees more than 20 clinics, including cardiology, neurology, pulmonology, internal medicine and oncology. Read Jason's story...


Michelle Sloper — Emerging Leader 2017
B.A. Psychology ’08
Senior evaluation fellow at the Claremont Evaluation Center

Since earning her Ph.D., Sloper has been making a nationwide difference from her hometown of Haines. As a professional evaluator, Sloper partners with community-based programs across the country to assess and improve their impact. Whether she’s guiding grad students at Claremont or developing a program’s impact elsewhere, Sloper is personally and professionally invested in helping others achieve. Read Michelle's story…

Michael Rose

Michael Rose, Emerging Leader 2016
B.A. Political Science ’09
Associate Attorney, Law Office of Ralph Ertz

Rose, a committed mentor to the Seawolf Debate program, distinguished himself early in his young Alaska law career. He plans to continue connecting the state’s law community and mentoring the next generation of Alaska’s lawyers into the future. Read Michael's story…


Mistee Davis, A.A.S. Human Services '06, B.A. Psychology '12.
Chief of Services, Assets Inc.

10 years ago, while studying at UAA, Mistee joined Assets, Inc. as an employment coach. A decade later, she is now the agency's chief of services, guiding all community-based services at the 64th largest private employer in the state. Assets, Inc. provides services for Anchorage residents who experience developmental disabilities and serious mental illnesses—two populations with inarguably high rates 
of unemployment. Mistee and her staff work to boost the independence and self-worth of the city's marginalized neighbors, placing people in homes that work and jobs that matter. It's a seriously demanding role with high employee turnover, but Mistee has found her calling as an employment cheerleader. For the past decade, she has thrived in a demanding and significant field and helped place Alaska among the leaders in disability services nationwide. Read Mistee's story..

082614 virginia Groeschel 001


Virginia Groeschel, B.S. Civil Engineering '06
Aviation Design Engineer with State of Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Works

Virginia is a passionate engineer with a strong focus on assisting UAA engineering students. As a student,Virginia balanced several jobs during her early semesters and even took several years away from school before earning her undergraduate degree in 2006. With a perspective on the challenges facing students, she's committed to helping aspiring engineers navigate their way to graduation day. She's served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers chapters at both the Anchorage and statewide levels and sat on the College of Engineering advisory board. Virginia is exceptionally dedicated to her role as President of the College of Engineering alumni chapter at UAA, which she also co-founded. As chapter president, she works to connect aspiring engineers to the supportive alumni network throughout Alaska and provide mentorship, support, advice and opportunities for current engineering students at UAA. Read Virginia's story...



Stephen Trimble, B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies '08,Project Manager at URS Corporation in Alaska

A lifelong Alaskan, Stephen Trimble serves as a project manager and mining business lead for URS Corporation and sits on several boards, two of which are at UAA. As a young leader himself, Stephen recognizes the importance of building the next generation of Alaska leaders. Toward this end, Stephen teaches geology to students in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program's (ANSEP) Summer Middle School Program at UAA. Stephen has demonstrated the qualities of a natural, ethical leader who has earned the respect of his peers and the community. Earlier this year, Stephen was recognized as one of Alaska Journal of Commerce's Top Forty Under 40, an award that recognizes young professionals who display both professional excellence and a commitment to the community. Read Stephen's story...



Candice McDonald, B.B.A. Business Management '05, M.S. Global Supply Chain Management '08, Owner, Salmon Berry Tours

Entrepreneurship is in the blood of the McDonald family. Candice McDonald’s father, Harry, owns Carlile Transportation Systems, and two of her three siblings also own their own business. Candice started Salmon Berry Tours, a travel tour business in Anchorage, in 2005 with one employee—herself. Now, she has eight seasonal employees and four full-time employees who stay on year-round. The business has shown substantial growth since its inception, including several partnerships in the business community that help give tourists the vacation they’re looking for, from Talkeetna to Seward to just about anywhere in Alaska. Read Candice's story...

Dan Bigley


Dan Bigley,M.S.W. '09
Director of Therapeutic Foster Care Services, Denali Family Services

A grizzly bear mauled Dan Bigley in the summer of 2003 on the shores of Alaska's Russian River and left him for dead. The odds were against him, but Dan survived, and after many surgeries and rehabilitative efforts he was able to pick up where he left off several years ago. With the support of UAA's Disability Support Services, Dan earned his M.S.W. in '09 from UAA with a 4.0 GPA. He now works with youth and families facing trauma, sexual abuse, substance abuse, behavioral disorders or mental illnesses. Dan is currently writing a book about the bear that nearly killed him and left him blinded. Read Dan's story...



Linda Leary, M.S. ’04
President, Carlile Transportation Systems

Linda Leary is the president of Carlile Transportation Systems, a company she’s been with since the mid-1980s. Founded in 1980, Carlile has grown from two tractors to one of Alaska's largest trucking companies. Today, Carlile's wholly owned terminals serve Alaska from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai, Kodiak, Prudhoe Bay and Seward, as well as Seattle, WA, Houston, TX, Blaine, MN, and Edmonton, AB. Linda has a firm grip on the marketing side of Carlile, and has recently added several value-added aspects, such as logistics services for its customers, and additional shipping and forwarding service to Hawaii. She received her M.S. in Global Supply Chain Management from UAA in 2004.