UAA to graduate more than 1,000 students this spring

by Green & Gold News  |   

UAA's 2019 Fall Commencement at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Similar to the spring and fall 2020 semesters, the University of Alaska Anchorage spring 2021 commencement activities will take place virtually.

UAA is proud to celebrate spring Class of 2021 graduates via video ceremonies for graduate hooding on May 1 and commencement on May 2. The ceremonies will be hosted on UAA’s graduation website and will honor the accomplishments of more than 1,000 certificate, undergraduate and graduate students from the Anchorage campus.

In an effort to ensure public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of courses offered through the Anchorage campus this spring took place online. UAA administration, staff and faculty worked tirelessly to safely accommodate the remaining 30%, roughly 400 courses, students needed to graduate that could only effectively be delivered face-to-face.

“I continue to be impressed by the incredible sense of resiliency demonstrated by our students,” UAA Interim Chancellor Bruce Schultz said. “Much like our 2020 graduates, the spring Class of 2021 navigated unprecedented obstacles on their path to graduation, all while juggling personal commitments and responsibilities. I’m proud of everything they have accomplished and pleased to welcome them to our engaged community of over 60,000 alumni. There is no doubt in my mind these students will be successful in their future endeavors.”

Jessica Reisinger is this spring’s student commencement speaker. Reisinger will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and natural sciences and a minor in psychology. Adopted from South Korea, Reisinger grew up in Gig Harbor, Washington, before moving to Alaska and graduating from Wasilla High School in 2017. Throughout her undergraduate career, Reisinger was involved in Sigma Sigma Sigma and the student chapters of the American Medical Student Association and the American Chemical Society. She also worked as an emergency room scribe at Providence Alaska Medical Center, following ER doctors on their routes, helping them with their notes and charting responsibilities. She was recently accepted into the WWAMI School of Medical Education, which she’ll begin attending in the fall.

Jennifer O’Neal will serve as the speaker for this spring’s graduate hooding ceremony. O’Neal first started attending UAA as a UA Scholars award recipient and went on to receive an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree in human services from UAA. She previously worked for AK Child and Family as an activity therapist and eventually a case manager, and after finishing her bachelor’s degree became a transition-to-independence process supervisor for Denali Family Services. She is completing her Master of Social Work this spring and plans to continue on and pursue a doctorate degree.

The website will also showcase the commencement program featuring the biography of Heather Flynn and Susan Malutin, who are being awarded honorary degrees. Flynn dedicated herself to public service in Anchorage and across the state for more than 50 years, leading many nonprofit and government organizations. Malutin, a master skin sewer, has been at the forefront of revitalizing Alutiiq culture and art in Alaska.

Biographies of Meritorious Service Award recipients Doug Pope, Gary Turner and Lila Vogt will also be featured in the program.

Pope is honored for decades of work fighting in the court of law for the basic rights of Alaskans, including bringing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Turner provided leadership at Kenai Peninsula College for nearly two decades, during which time he ushered in many positive changes, including distance learning initiatives. A business consultant, accountant and tax preparer by trade, Vogt has spent more than 30 years working as a driving force in Alaska’s literary arts scene, fostering a rich and thriving community of Alaska writers.

Due to the ongoing implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has suspended most in-person events in an effort to promote the safety of the UAA community, follow public health guidance and respond to ongoing changes to state and municipal conditions.

The countdown to the graduation ceremony has begun. More information is available at

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