UAA celebrates fall Class of 2021 Sunday, Dec. 12

by Green & Gold News  |   

For the first time in nearly two years, the University of Alaska Anchorage will host in-person ceremonies to honor the accomplishments of nearly 700 certificate, undergraduate and graduate students from the Anchorage campus. After celebrating entirely online in spring and fall 2020 as well as spring 2021, this semester’s graduates will be recognized  at the Alaska Airlines Center on Sunday, Dec. 12. [The ceremonies will also be streamed on Facebook Live.]

The celebration will be split into two separate ceremonies, one at 11 a.m. and one at 6 p.m., to accommodate social distancing and allow time for the facility to be thoroughly cleaned. Masks are required for all attendees, and each graduate has the option to bring up to four guests. Graduates and their families and friends can also participate virtually. The university expects roughly 250 students to participate in the in-person ceremonies. 

The morning ceremony will celebrate graduates from the College of Business & Public Policy, the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Education. The afternoon session will feature graduates from the Community & Technical College, the College of Engineering and the College of Health.

“We are proud to celebrate these persistent, resilient students who leaned into their education during such trying times,” said UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. “Much like our graduates last spring, the fall Class of 2021 has navigated unprecedented obstacles to reach their goal of graduation. I am very proud of these graduates for what they have overcome and accomplished and am pleased to welcome them to our engaged community of nearly 65,000 alumni. This is undoubtedly a class that will persistently and courageously create bright futures for themselves, their families and our communities.”

Tanya Charoonsophonsak is this fall’s student commencement speaker. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory science and a minor in nutrition. A first-generation Alaskan, Charoonsophonsak was born in California after her parents emigrated from Thailand to the U.S. and moved her and her older brother to the North Slope, where she spent her childhood until middle school. Growing up in rural and urban environments, she witnessed firsthand the positive impact health professionals have on a community. In addition to pursuing a rigorous degree program, participating in undergraduate research and finishing up her clinical rotations, Charoonsophonsak has been a highly engaged student. She  participated in the sorority Alpha Sigma Alpha on campus, Alpha Phi Omega, the Union of Students at UAA and the student medical laboratory science club.

Civil engineering and project management alumnus Cody Kapotak will serve as student speaker for the fall 2021 graduate degree hooding ceremony before starting his Ph.D. in geotechnical engineering at UAF. Kapotak currently works for the USDA Forest Service as a full-time civil engineer assigned to the Chugach National Forest. Born in Dillingham and raised between Portage Creek Village and Reno, Nevada, Kapotak originally enrolled at UAA before joining the U.S. Marines and completing two tours in Afghanistan as a lance corporal in communication maintenance management. After serving, he re-enrolled at UAA. He credits much of his success to his involvement in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at UAA. He hopes to use his education and skillset to mitigate the effects of climate change in rural Alaska.

The commencement program also showcases the biographies of Ann Fienup-Riordan and Elizabeth Ripley, who are being awarded honorary degrees, as well as Meritorious Service Award recipients John Havelock, Thomas Hennessy, Ronald Swartz and Timothy Edwards. The awardees were honored for their achievements at a separate ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 1. 

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

Stream the ceremonies

Join UAA's fall Class of 2021 to celebrate their hard work and academic success at fall commencement on Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Alaska Airlines Center (graduates and invited guests only) and on Facebook Live.

Morning commencement at 11 a.m. will celebrate College of Business and Public Policy, College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education graduates.

Afternoon commencement at 6 p.m. will celebrate Community & Technical College, College of Engineering and College of Health graduates.

  • ASL interpretation details

    We ask that only participants needing ASL interpretation join this Zoom room:

    Please keep your cameras off, and your sound on mute. If you are attending in person, please bring a smartphone or tablet to stream the interpreters at your seat. The link is the same for the 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. graduations. We will not be re-streaming the event in this meeting. There will be no sound and you will only see an interpreter signing the spoken English. To watch the event itself from home, please open the Facebook watch page. You can then have a split screen with interpreters and the event. The Facebook watch stream also provides captions.

Learn more at

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