Alumni Spotlight: Serena Nesteby

by Chynna Lockett  |   

Serena Nesteby
School of Social Work alumna Serena Nesteby is a 2023 recipient of Alaska's top 40 under 40. (Photo by Emily Gueco)

School of Social Work  alumni Serena Nesteby was recognized with Alaska's 2023 40 under 40 award. She shared her journey in higher education and finding a career that sparks passion.

Name: Serena Nesteby

Hometown: Utqiaġvik - Barrow

Educational background: 

2008 | Barrow High School | Diploma

2012 | University of Alaska Anchorage | Bachelors of Social Work

2018 | Western New Mexico University | Masters of Social Work

Current location: Anchorage

Place of employment: Iḷisaġvik College

Job title: Advancement Officer

Tell us about your job.

In my role, I develop and implement the individual giving and fund development strategic plans for Ilisagvik College and Ilisagvik College Foundation. I manage our donor platform and administer the operations and coordination of the Foundation's board meetings.

What do you love about your job?

I love working behind the scenes to make sure that our Tribal college is sustainable and that people have the opportunity and resources to thrive through their academic journey. I also love my coworkers and our leadership. In 2022 Ilisagvik was voted one of the Best Workplaces in Alaska by the Alaska Journal of Commerce. This award was given in part due to the College’s strong sense of collaboration, healthy work environment, and prioritization of wellness initiatives.

What motivated you to pursue a career in healthcare, and how did your experience at UAA College of Health help shape your goals?

I’ve always wanted to be in a profession that helps others. I knew during the Introduction to Social Work course, that it was the right field for me. I was drawn to working with individuals, families, and communities and appreciated how broad the field was. I had an amazing cohort and staff support within the social work program. My classmates became some of my best friends. We did so much as group: we were in classes together, we joined clubs together, volunteered in the community, and always had study groups. I think that having such a tight-knit cohort made school fun and motivated me throughout my undergrad journey.

Why did you choose to attend UAA?

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Serena Nesteby graduating from the School of Social Work at UAA in 2012. (Photo by Chad Nesteby)

Attending UAA allowed me to be close to my family and friends. As a first-generation college student, the idea of college seemed a bit overwhelming. UAA seemed like a smart and cost-effective option for me to work toward my goals.

Describe UAA in three words.

Social. Humbling. Life-changing.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Below are a few recommendations that may help you feel successful as you’re going through your courses:

1. Download Grammarly. It's a useful app to help you with spelling and grammar. It has helped me during school with academic papers, and scholarship applications, at work with emails, grants, and narratives. You name it. It's helped me to feel more confident with my written communication.

2. Write out your schedule. During my undergraduate and graduate programs, I worked full-time and had a growing family. The struggle was real and I understand feeling overwhelmed. Having a schedule kept me sane. Remember to include self-care activities throughout the week.

3. Make connections. Join as many groups on campus as you can, and participate in campus events. Finding supportive people on campus will make a world of difference.

Nominate an alumni!

  • Do you know a College of Health alumni that would be great to feature in our spotlight series? Nominate them by filling out our faculty spotlight questionnaire!