Alumni Humanitarian

Alumni Humanitarian Award logoThe Alumni Humanitarian Award is awarded to an alumnus or alumna who has strived to make a positive and significant impact in the life of others. This may be through voluntary service or a chosen profession. The recipient exhibits integrity and a commitment to service that is long standing.

Previous Winners 

Celeste Hodge Growden

Celeste Hodge Growden — 2023-24 Alumni Humanitarian
A.A. General Program '92, B.S.W. Social Work '96
President and CEO of Alaska Black Caucus

By focusing on the four core areas of justice, education, economics and health, Celeste Hodge Growden works toward enacting racial equity through institutional reform. Since joining the Alaska Black Caucus in 2019, Growden has convinced the Anchorage Police Department to implement mandatory body cameras for officers, get the Anchorage School District to adopt Anti-Racism and Instructional Equity Policies, launch annual Blackout Days to spotlight local Black-owned businesses, and produce Alaska’s first Black health needs assessment. Before her tenure at Alaska Black Caucus, Growden worked as a family service counselor for the Anchorage Health Department before retiring as deputy director for the mayor’s office of equal opportunity. Growden also served as past president of the NAACP Alaska chapter for nearly a decade. Read more about Celeste Hodge Growden >>

Maggie Winston

Maggie Winston — 2022 Alumni Humanitarian
A.A. General Program '13, B.A. Psychology '15
Program director at Independent Living Center

When Maggie Winston was 21, she was diagnosed with idiopathic transverse myelitis, leaving her without the use of her arms and legs. Since then, Winston has become a fierce advocate for expanding services for people with disabilities through her work on various boards, councils, nonprofits, and her current position as director for independent living programs at the Independent Living Center in Kenai. Read more about Maggie Winston >>

Amanda Metivier

Amanda Metivier — 2021 Alumni Humanitarian
B.S.W. '08, M.S.W. '12
Director, Chile Welfare Academy
Co-Founder, Facing Foster Care in Alaska

Amanda Metivier has dedicated her career and personal life to child welfare reform, culminating in her appointment as director of the Child Welfare Academy. A former foster youth herself, she, along with a group of her peers, co-founded the nonprofit Facing Foster Care in Alaska in 2003. Through her advocacy with Facing Foster Care, Metivier has led efforts to expand services and support for foster youth across Alaska while paving the way for them to share lived-expertise to raise awareness and make change. In 2018, Facing Foster Care and the Child Welfare Academy partnered to launch the Office of Youth Empowerment, serving more than 300 current and former foster youth annually across the state to streamline access to higher education and training, develop critical life skills and engage in systems reform. Read Amanda Metivier's story...

Ghazal Ringler

Ghazal Ringler  2020 Alumni Humanitarian
B.S. Biological Sciences '01
Chief Dental Officer, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center

For more than 14 years, Dr. Ghazal Ringler has dedicated her career to providing dental care to children and adults who are uninsured or low-income. In addition to her position as chief dental officer at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, Dr. Ringler donates her time and expertise by serving on the Anchorage Project Access board of directors, where she was critical in establishing the donated dental program and pro bono oral health program. Read Ghazal Ringler's story...

Angelia Trujillo

Angelia Trujillo  2019 Alumni Humanitarian
B.S. Nursing Science '97, M.S. Nursing Science ’04 
Director of strategic communications, HDR Inc.

As a leader in the field of forensic nursing in Alaska, Trujillo works tirelessly in a joint effort between health care and law enforcement that’s as much about advocating and supporting patients as it is about solving crimes. Back at UAA as a community health nurse professor, she runs the Alaska Comprehensive Forensic Training Academy, a program dedicated to enacting community-level change broadening the scope of victimization via education and hard data. Read Angelia's story...

Josie Wilson

Josie Wilson  2018 Alumni Humanitarian
M.B.A. Business Administration ’09 
Director of strategic communications, HDR Inc.

Originally from southern California, Wilson relocated to Anchorage for a year-long work assignment managing UAA’s food and beverage program. She stayed when she fell in love with the university and the community and has been giving back ever since. Her philanthropic efforts are as wide-ranging as her interests, which include playing violin for patients at Alaska Regional Hospital, founding leadership programs for the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, and raising $11 million to expand Alaska’s only family homeless shelter, just to name a few. Read Josie's story...

Cessilye Williams

Cessilye Williams - 2017 Alumni Humanitarian
M.Ed. Educational Leadership ’02
Principal of Clark Middle School, Anchorage School District

As principal of the most diverse middle school in the nation, Williams encourages and inspires nearly 1,000 students each year. Alaska’s principal of the year for 2015-2016, Williams has built unique, purposeful learning pathways—including several UAA-partnered academies—for her Mountain View students. Read Cessilye's story…

Sammye Pokryfki

Sammye Pokryfki, 2016 Alumni Humanitarian
B.S.W. ’98, M.S.W. ’99, B.A. English ’06
Senior Vice President, Rasmuson Foundation

Pokryfki leads Rasmuson Foundation’s grant making initiatives, which invested $28 million in 53 communities just last year. She exemplifies the Foundation’s mission—”To promote a better life for Alaskans”—in her personal volunteering and outreach as well. Read Sammye's story…

Gala15 AOD Georgia DeKeyser


Georgia DeKeyser, B.S. Nursing Science '97, M.S. Nursing Science '99.
Director, UAA Student Health and Counseling Center.

As director of UAA's Student Health and Counseling Center, Georgia oversees a staff of medical experts (including several other UAA alumni) and a system of care specially crafted for college students. She believes health is a major roadblock for many students and the financial, mental and transitional dynamics of college should be part of the health conversation. That belief fuels her passion for student success, and students have a strong advocate in Georgia. It's fitting that her nomination came from the student body as well. Read Georgia's story...



Cristy Hickel, B.Ed. Physical Education '86, M.S. Interdisciplinary Studies '89,
Program Director, SPYDER (Sports Programs for Youth Development, Education &Recreation)

Athletics has always been a large part of Cristy's life. Recruited to join the inaugural ski team at UAA, Cristy made a name for herself as a student athlete and community organizer and, since graduation, has been singularly focused on expanding sports in the city. Cristy founded SPYDER to provide league sports for thousands of youth since the late 1980s. She's organized local fundraisers and wrote grants to expand access to sports throughout Anchorage. In her years of coaching, she's worked with future Olympians and helped dozens of students earn athletic scholarships to college. She's just as dedicated to coaching her elite girl's hockey team in nationwide tournaments as she is organizing backyard youth soccer leagues in Anchorage, and she continues to train, educate and inspire young Alaskans today. Read Cristy's story,,,



Susan LaBelle, B.S.W. '84, M.S.W. '97,
More than 35 years of professional and volunteer service to the Alaska Native and non-Native community

Susan LaBelle has shown steadfast leadership, compassion and dedication for building healthy communities in rural Alaska, for underserved populations and for Alaska Native people over the past 30 years. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work from UAA. She was an influential advocate for establishing the M.S.W. program at UAA, and was a member of the first cohort of graduates from the program. Through her work, Susan has brought a rural Alaska perspective to some of the state's most important discussions and decisions surrounding mental illness, dementia, substance abuse, traumatic brain injury and developmental disabilities. She has created a legacy of advocating for Alaska's children, helping ensure they grow up to be healthy adults. She has worked tirelessly to build connections between tribal corporations, the State of Alaska and professional organizations to expand behavioral health programs and services statewide. Read Susan's story...



Roald Helgesen, B.A. Political Science '94,
Chief Executive Officer, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Alaska is home for Roald Helgesen, a proud UAA alumnus who grew up in Sitka before venturing to Anchorage to pursue his degree in political science with scholarship support from Sealaska Heritage Institute and SitkaTribe of Alaska, where he is an enrolled member. He obtained his master’s degree in health care administration from Trinity University after meeting and marrying his wife while they were both volunteer firefighters in Sitka. Last year, following four years as president and CEO of SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Roald became CEO of the Alaska NativeTribal Health Consortium and moved with his wife and two children to Anchorage.Working in the tribal health system for his home state is always personal and he works hard every day to meet and exceed the expectations of his customer-owners.“This is your family and friends,” he says.“It’s what brings me to work every day...and Saturday...and Sunday.” Read Roald's story...

Joan Fisher


Joan Fisher, M.B.A. '99,
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center

Since earning her M.B.A. from UAA in '99, Joan served as the executive director of Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center (ANHC). Joan, who recently took on the new role of director of strategic initiatives, has been instrumental in raising funds to build a new $28.3M health center in Anchorage--set to open in summer 2012--that will more than double ANHC's capacity to serve the city's health care needs.



Gloria O’Neill, B.A. ’96,
President/CEO, Cook Inlet Tribal Council

Gloria O’Neill is president and CEO of Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), a position she has held since 1998. Under her leadership, CITC’s budget has increased from $8M to $46M, and its staff has expanded from 70 to 300 employees. Today, CITC provides social, educational and employment services to 12,000 Alaska Natives and Native Americans annually, and is widely recognized for its innovative and effective approaches. Beyond her work at CITC, O’Neill has made significant contributions locally, regionally and nationally. She currently serves as Chair of the Anchorage Museum Association Board of Directors, and is a board member of the Anchorage Community Land Trust, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, Chanlyut Inc. and Alaska Federation of Natives. O'Neill is originally from Soldotna, Alaska and is of Yupik and Irish descent. She graduated from UAA in 1996 with a B.A. in Sociology, and a minor in Business Administration, and later earned an MBA from Alaska Pacific University.