Student Opportunities

Do YOU want to be a CHANGEMAKER?

Our Mission and Purpose: To connect academic programs with community needs through the use of scholarship and action for the mutual benefit of the University and the State, its communities, and its diverse peoples.

Civic Engagement Courses

Whether you are interested in environmental policy, arts, economics, or anything in between, civic engagement courses can help you broaden the reach of your professional and academic goals. 

  Civic Engagement Courses

Assist in Faculty Projects

Community Engaged Student Assistants support students, faculty, and community partners in a variety of ways from developing creative projects to training service-learners for courses. 


  Become a CESA

 Intern in Washingon, DC

The Washington Center's Academic Internship Program allows students to spent a semester or summer interning in DC in an organization that best fits your interests, skills and professional goals

  Apply for an Internship

 Scholarships & Awards

**As of Fall 2020 this award is now administered by the College of Engineering. Please contact them for current application dates or questions about how to apply.**

Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & Civic Engagement Award

This award encourages UAA Engineering undergraduate and graduate students to disseminate engineering knowledge and practice for the benefit of society.  For this $2,500 award, student applicants will initiate a service project that solves engineering and technology-based problems in partnership with local organizations and under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

Why Apply?

  • Have a meaningful experience working with faculty
  • Gain valuable community awareness, particularly in communication with clients
  • Broaden your learning of engineering design within a social context  
Dr. Hills with 2013 recipients Ryan Bergerson & Alma Abaza with faculty advisor Dr. Osama Abaza.
  • About Dr. Alex Hills

    As described in his book Finding Alaska’s Villages: And Connecting Them, Alex Hills spent years living and working in rural Alaska, where he dedicated himself to providing modern telecommunication services to people living in the villages. He lived in Kotzebue, Nome and Bethel but worked in more than a hundred small Alaskan villages.

    Later Alex went to graduate school and became a university professor. He is now Distinguished Service Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Affiliate Distinguished Professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He has also been a distinguished visiting professor in Singapore, New Zealand, and Chile.

    Dr. Hills is well known in the fields of wireless, telecommunication, and networking technology, having lectured widely and published many papers and technical reports. He holds 18 patents, issued and pending. His easy-to-understand articles in Scientific American and IEEE Spectrum have been enjoyed by readers worldwide. Alex led the team that built Carnegie Mellon’s “Wireless Andrew” system, the world’s first large Wi-Fi network. With this work, described in his book, Wi-Fi and the Bad Boys of Radio, he helped to create the vision of what Wi-Fi would later become.

    Professor Hills has lived and worked in many foreign countries.  

    He has mentored Carnegie Mellon students working in Chile, Ghana, Palau, the Philippines, Cook Islands, Rwanda, and Peru, showing them how to apply their technology skills to meet the needs of people living in developing nations. The experiences of these students are detailed in the book, Geeks on a Mission, written by Alex and his students.
    Dr. Hills continues to work on projects in Alaska and lives in Palmer with his wife Meg, now a retired nurse practitioner. The couple has two adult daughters, Drs. Rebecca and Karen Hills.

    Listen to the Podcast from Dr. Hills Oct. 12 UAA lecture "The Dawn of Wi-Fi" OR Watch this interview with Dr. Hills about Wireless Andrew at Carnegie Mellon University:

  • 2020
    2020 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipients: Michael Landon, Mechanical Engineering & Kory Turner, Mechanical Engineering

    Faculty Advisor: Jifeng Peng, Associate Professor & Chair, Mechanical Engineering

    Project: Electric Vehicle Conversion: 15-Passenger Utility Van

    Our project encompasses the conversion of an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) commuter van
    into an Electric Vehicle (EV) used for transporting students located in rural Alaska. The purpose of this project is to fulfill a transportation need where it is less economical to use a traditional gasoline/diesel-powered vehicle and more viable to use an electric alternative instead.

     A white man and a black man stand outdoors in front of a large metal, circular sculpture with snow covering the snow behind them.
  • 2019
    **This page will be updated. Please check back soon**
  • 2018
    2018 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipients: Canyon Lewis, Civil Engineering and Claire Lubke, Biological Sciences

    Faculty Advisor: Todd Petersen, Associate Professor,  Electrical Engineering

    Project: Autonomous Aeroponic Garden

    The focus of this project is the design of an autonomous aeroponic garden system that could potentially be integrated into Alaskan communities to promote local subsistence and decrease dependence upon food that is shipped into Alaska. The prototype will track the nutrients, ph and ppm levels, as well as the root chamber’s humidity, temperature, and oxygen levels, using sensors and a microcontroller. This information will be used to optimize the system’s efficiency relative to nutrient absorption and water consumption during the growth stages of plants.


    Two Dr. Alex Hills Engineering Award winners pose together

  • 2017
    2017 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipients: Kyle Alvarado, Jesse Miller,  James Matthews, Bryan Sooter, Isaac Williams, Julia Mackey

    Faculty Advisor: Osama Abaza, Professor of Civil Engineering

    Project: Arctic Valley Snow Making System

    The group will conduct a project to design a snow making system for the Arctic Valley Ski Area, which will include analyzing and designing options related to water delivery and storage as well as snow gun placement and selection.  The intended impact of the project is to benefit the Anchorage community through recreational and educational opportunities, as well as provide a solution for the community partner Anchorage Ski Club (the non-profit organization that manages the Arctic Valley ski area).


    2017 award recipients pose in front of the college of engineering

  • 2016
    2016 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipient: Isaac Yep

    Faculty Advisor: Jeffrey Hoffman, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

    Project:  Prototype STEM Educational Instrument (Final report)

    Isaac's project will include building a prototype STEM educational instrument. This interactive gear board device will allow a hands-on learning experience for middle and high-school students and an opportunity to demonstrate real-world applications of math and science skills. The prototype also has the potential to be implemented with STEM oriented curriculum and activities in collaboration with local community partners like ANSEP.


    Isaac Yep, 2016 award winner

     Gear pattern on wood with circular saw
     wooden gears laid out on table
     attaching gears to wooden board with pegs
    wooden gears stacked and stained
    wooden gear board constructed
    finished product, gear board "Cooperation" written underneath gears
  • 2015
    2015 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipients: Chris Joren, Josh Heppner, and Tyler Kobelnyk

    Faculty Advisor: Jifeng Peng, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

    Project: Small Wind Turbine for Alaska Villages

    Josh Heppner, Tyler Kobelnyk and Chris Joren, all UAA Mechanical Engineering undergraduate students, have been selected for the award and will be working with faculty advisor Jifeng Peng, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering.

    The students' project included designing and building a prototype of a small wind turbine for remote Alaskan villages. The project aimed to develop a technology that provides a practical approach to tap the wind energy potential in Alaska's rural villages, resulting in an affordable, sustainable and ecologically responsible energy resource.


    2015 award recipients pose in front of their prototype

     wind turbine
    wind turbine
    wind turbine model in front of mountains
  • 2014
    2014 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipients: Jacob Plancich, Nathaniel Cox, Marissa Stewart, Richard Bailey

    Faculty Advisor:  Aaron Dotson, Dept. of Civil Engineering

    Project: Fairview Community Snow Disposal - Final Project Report (pdf) 

    Students in CE A438 Design of Engineering Systems proposed to take on a design project for the construction of a snow cistern in the Fairview community. The goal of the project was to present these four young engineers, all graduating in 2014, with an opportunity to apply the fundamental engineering concepts learned in the classroom and to interact in a professional environment with local community leaders, while providing a much needed professional service for the Municipality and the Fairview neighborhood. The project is anticipated to result in reduction in space required for snow storage, development of a new technology for snow storage, and improvements in safety due to more effective snow removal. 


    Group Photo of 2014 Alex Hills Award Recipients

    Snow removal system construction

  • 2013
    2013 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipients: Alma Abaza & Ryan Bergerson

    Faculty Advisor:

    Project: Porous Concrete Use in Alaska

    Final Project Report - Ryan and Alma Hills Project 2013

    Ryan Bergerson and Alma Abaza, both Civil Engineering majors, researched the use of porous concrete in Alaska. As they explain, “The use of porous concrete in Alaska has many advantages. The infiltration of water through the concrete will greatly decrease runoff, and thus will help with springtime thawing. This will reduce the need for large storm water systems and thus smaller storm water pipes and detention ponds can be used. The use of porous concrete will also decrease the problems associated with impervious surfaces, including the pollution of water, floods, and water table depletion.”  
    Use of porous concrete may also be cost effective to the city of Anchorage. For example, the existing infrastructure relies heavily on storm drains because the water cannot drain through the road bed or sidewalk, making it necessary for the city to build artificial pathways to move water. The research could generate new applications for porous concrete and more opportunities for research to meet these challenges.  Two local companies, Anchorage Sand & Gravel and R&M Consultants provided donations of materials, facilities, and expertise.


     Award Recipients Alma and Ryan pose with Dr. Hills

  • 2012
    2012 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipient: Forest Knutsen

    Faculty Advisor:

    Project: Anchorage Trail System Mobile App

    Forest created a free mobile app for Androids that uses GPS to show your location on the Anchorage trail system.  The app is currently available for download, and Forest plans to continue developing the features including adding bear warning information. 

    Visit Google play to download the free app for Android

    Read Forest's Anchorage Trail System Project Report


    Forest Knutsen HeadshotScreenshot of Trail System App

  • 2011
    2011 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipients: Jarrod Nelson

    Faculty Advisor:

    Project: Rural Guatemala Basic Needs Assessment

    Guatemala Needs Project Report (PDF))  

    In May of 2011, Jarrod Nelson and Kris Homerding (Second Bridge Award winner) traveled to Antigua, Guatemala and conducted a basic needs assessment in several rural communities, using tools and techniques they learned from over five years combined experience in the UAA student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Through a partnership with Antigua-based NGO, Avivará, Kris and Jarrod experienced an intimate view of Guatemalan village life typically not accessible to traditional tourist travel, and they came face-to-face with the hardships and conditions that make even surviving a challenge. Their goal is to raise enough support to make a return trip next summer that could focus on a single community and begin the first steps of implementing a sustainable project.

    "While I had traveled in Mexico and in the Caribbean as well as worked with EWB for a year and a half prior to the trip to Guatemala, I had never had the opportunity to combine both types of experience into a singular exercise. Being chosen for the Dr. Alex Hills Engineering and Civic Engagement Award allowed me to combine two strong desires: travel in Latin America and using my knowledge in a way that benefited others that are less fortunate than I am to have the basic necessities of life. Our trip to Antigua far exceeded my expectations and was a fantastic combination of unique travel and the challenges of a very real project.

    Kris and I spent a fair amount of time prior to the trip trying to pin down our goals as best we could, and communicate these goals to Ann and Gary at Avivará, so that they could suggest the most likely communities for us to visit and assess. I am very thankful that we visited schools in which Avivará has an established presence, since this gave us a great leap forward in trust as well as a more intimate view of the conditions and potential hopes and dreams of the members in these communities.  Even in the poorest village, the people were garbed in brightly colored traditional clothing, were very friendly and welcoming to us, and seemed to find reasons to laugh and smile despite the conditions. I found it absolutely heart-wrenching to see the conditions they are living and learning in, and not be able to help each and every one of them.

    I consider our trip an overwhelming success for several reasons: we were able to forge excellent relationships not only with Avivará, but with community leaders in several rural villages; we met with local material suppliers who were enthusiastic about helping our project; members of other NGO’s and people working in similar fields in the region surrounding Antigua freely offered what help and knowledge they could if we return to develop and implement a project. It seemed like we couldn't go anywhere in Antigua without meeting someone who could either directly help our potential project, or knew somebody that could help us in some way. Between the costs for supplies, the willingness of the Guatemalans to work to help improve conditions, and the in-country relationship with Avivará, I am very excited to see where this project may take us, and what kind of positive change we will be able affect, and that I am able to do it as a student makes it an even more powerful experience that I will carry for the rest of my life."

  • 2009
    2009 Dr. Alex Hills Engineering & 
    Civic Engagement Award Recipient(s)

    Award Recipient: Garrett Yager

    Faculty Advisor:

    Project: Sediment Control Methods in Little Campbell Creek

    Garrett Yager is a Civil Engineering student and developed a project to address the high concentration of suspended sediment in Little Campbell Creek. In 2005, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services in conjunction with the Anchorage Waterways Council, the Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Municipality of Anchorage submitted a report on restoring ecological function and value to aquatic resources in the Little Campbell Creek watershed. One of the recommendations proposed in the report was to improve existing sediment control methods along the creek. Garrett's research project involved assessing the functionality of existing sediment control methods in order to recommend improvements. He worked with Professor Thomas Raven and the Anchorage Waterways Council.

     Garrett Yager and Dr. Hills


Second Bridge Scholarship

The Second Bridge Scholarship encouraged UAA undergraduates enrolled in any degree-seeking program to pursue a structured but non-traditional educational experience that expanded their educational horizons.  Crossing a second bridge required a commitment to either an international or a domestic setting that pushed the boundaries of traditional education and brought the promise of a richer and deeper experience.

This scholarship was awarded to students from AY 2011/2012 to 2019/2020.

Second Bridge Flyer with globe in center and trees in background

Past Second Bridge Scholarship Recipients

  • 2020
    2020 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Lauren Criss-CarboyInternational Studies

    Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Zeynep Kılıç, Professor & Chair of Sociology

    Project: Sustainable Development Service Learning in Beijing, China (original); Culture and Social Movements in Cape Town, South Africa (revised)

    Lauren is an international studies undergraduate student double minoring in sociology and history. She is also earning a Certificate in Civic Engagement alongside her degree, which has allowed her to merge her coursework with her interests in community-engaged social research and advocacy. The Second Bridge Scholarship allowed her to pursue an impactful 6-week study abroad experience in Cape Town, South Africa, where she learned about local political issues, religious diversity, and social movements in a post-Apartheid context. This experience was particularly relevant to her interests in the international non-profit sector, especially those addressing issues of social inequity. She hopes to continue engaging with these topics through a research internship in Philadelphia this summer.

     Women with long dark hair and gray tank top smiling at camera with desert background


  • 2018
    2018 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Cole Murphy, 
    Languages & International Studies

    Faculty Sponsor: Elizabeth Hodges Snyder, Associate Professor, Health Sciences. 

    Project: “Capacity & Services Development at Alaska Seeds of Change”

    Cole is an undergraduate student with a double major in Languages and International Studies. He has travelled to Japan three times: a faculty-led trip, an international exchange student year, and a summer of volunteering at the famed Iwate farm, Ureshipa. There he received three months of training in permaculture design and learned the values of farm life. When he returned to Anchorage he continued to explore organic farming through volunteering at Seeds of Change. This project combines the interest in farming with the mission of empowering and advancing at-risk youth.

    Cole Murphy
  • 2017
    2017 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Amanda Sassi
    , Environment and Society

    Faculty Advisor: E. Jamie Trammell, Assistant Professor, Geography & Environmental Studies

    Project: “Permaculture Design to Further Community Gardens in Girdwood”

    Amanda is an Environment and Society undergraduate student at UAA.  Her project “Permaculture Design to Further Community Gardens in Girdwood” brought together community partners in Girdwood like the Four Valleys Community School to improve sustainable community garden programs.  Amanda traveled to attend a permaculture design course and translate that service learning experience into action by providing community gardening workshops and by expanding and designing sustainable community gardens.

  • 2016
    2016 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Jana Lekanoff, Anthropology

    Faculty Advisor: Medeia Csoba DeHass, Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Alaska Native Studies

    Project:  "Place Names of Unalaska Island"

    Jana's project focuses on the numerous and changing place names for both water and terrestrial features on the landscape of Unalaska Island. The project involves assembling place names from the local Unangan language, Russian, and English and making this information available as a cultural resource online and to the Unangan people. Jana will travel to Unalaska to meet with community partners, collect oral histories, and take photographs of sites of the landscape.


    Jana Lekanoff, 2016 Second Bridge Award Recipient presents her poster with faculty advisor

  •  2015
    2015 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Kyle Worl, Anthropology

    Faculty Advisor: Irasema Ortega, Elementary Education

    Project: Language Revitalization in Chevak, Alaska

    Kyle Demientieff-Worl is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a linguist anthropology focus and a minor in Alaska Native Studies. His project, "Language Revitalization in Chevak, Alaska" was conducted in summer 2015 and involved offering an intensive Cup'ik language summer class for adults. Kyle and Professor Ortega worked in collaboration with the Chevak School Board and the Parent Head Start Association. The project aimed to support recent Cugtun (the indigenous language of Chevak) language revitalization efforts and ultimately bring the Cup'ik language back into families' homes once again in the village.

  •  2014
    2014 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Megan Marquis, Education

    Faculty Advisor: Irasema Ortega, Elementary Education

    Project: The Will of the Ancestors: A framework for culturally responsive science

    Megan traveled to the rural Alaskan village of Chevak with Professor Irasema Ortega during the summer of 2014.  As part of an ongoing partnership with the Kashunamiut School District and curriculum writing initiative project entitled "The Will of the Ancestors," Professor Ortega and Megan visited Chevak to continue this important work.  Specifically, Megan assisted with the creation of the Cup'ik Atlas of Plants and supported the Chevak arts program.  The experience gave Megan a chance to study the Cup'ik culture, developing her own culturally relevant pedagogy and perspective for her future career in education. 


    Megan Marquis photo for website

  •  2012
    2012 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Rachel Wintz, Sociology

    Project: Service and Study Abroad: A Guatemala Experience

    The Second Bridge Scholarship allowed me the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to volunteer with an educational organization called Avivará that is working to increase the level of education for children in rural Guatemalan villages, which is the only way to break the cycle of poverty in that area.


    Rachel Guatemala in front of Aztec pyramid

  •  2011
    2011 Second Bridge Scholarship Recipient
    Kris Homerding, Civil Engineering

    In May of 2011, Kris Homerding and Jarrod Nelson (Alex Hills Award winner) traveled to Antigua, Guatemala and conducted a basic needs assessment in several rural communities, using tools and techniques they learned from over five years combined experience in the UAA student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Through a partnership with Antigua-based NGO, Avivará, Kris and Jarrod experienced an intimate view of Guatemalan village life typically not accessible to traditional tourist travel, and they came face-to-face with the hardships and conditions that make even surviving a challenge. Their goal is to raise enough support to make a return trip next summer that could focus on a single community and begin the first steps of implementing a sustainable project.


    Kris and Jarrod overlooking village


Civic Engagement Certificate

(Please note the Civic Engagement Certificate has been discontinued as of Spring 2020 and is longer accepting applications)

Whether you are interested in environmental policy, arts, economics, or anything in between, a certificate in civic engagement can help you broaden the reach of your professional and academic goals. 


About Civic Engagement Certificate