Arth Brown III, President
I dropped out of college the first time and joined the Carpenter Joint Apprenticeship. During my apprenticeship, I quickly realized that the more knowledge gained, the more opportunities opened. Rising through the ranks, I went from the field to the office as an estimator and project manager. The office required a new set of skills and I needed more credentials. I returned to community college some ten years after the first time. Nervous but determined, I registered for a full load. My employer said, no raises until I earned a degree. Working full time, family and children at home, I was determined not to fail. After three years of evenings, online, and Saturday classes, I did it! My AAS was now transferrable to the next step. After three years without a raise, I was faced with, “That’s not a real degree.” Now even more determined, I pushed forward. I completed my bachelor degree in four consecutive semesters, again working full time. A career shift and using my new degree, received an Alaska Type M Teaching certificate for vocational education. My new found peers were quick to remind me, that I was “not a real teacher” since I did not have a teaching degree. Challenge accepted. Attending UAS, I completed the MA in Teaching program. After a few not-so-stellar educational leaders, it was time for additional skills and education. In twelve months, I completed my MA in Educational Leadership. All of this has lead up to my current position at Ilisagvik College. I have a strong desire to give back to those who started in the same shoes. Everyone deserves an opportunity to thrive in life. At Ilisagvik College we say: More education, More options, More out of life.
Dr. Pearl Kiyawn Brower, Vice President - Immediate Past President
B.A. Anthropology and B.A. Alaska Native Studies from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2004. Masters in Alaska Native and Rural Development from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2010. Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies, with an emphasis in Indigenous Leadership from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, May 2016. Dr. Brower is currently the President of Iḷisaġvik College, Alaska’s only Tribal College. She has been with the College since 2007 working in External Relations, Institutional Advancement, Student Services, and Marketing. She has served as President since 2012. Prior to working for the College Dr. Brower managed an education and culture grant for the North Slope Borough for three years and worked as the Museum Curator of the Iñupiat Heritage Center. Dr. Brower grew up in both Barrow, Alaska and in northern California practicing a subsistence lifestyle in both areas. She and her husband, Jesse Darling, have two daughters, Isla and Sindri. Brower was named one of Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2015, and the First Alaskans Institute Young Alaska Native Leader in 2019. Brower is active in her community in Barrow, on the North Slope and statewide. She serves on the Wells Fargo Community Advisory Board, serves as the Alaska Native representative on the Alaska Postsecondary Access and Completion Network, serves on the Alaska Airlines Community Advisory Board, on the Foraker Group’s Operations Board, as a Commissioner for the State of Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, and is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Tribal College Journal.
Whitney Brown, Vice President - President Elect
Whitney Brown, a strategist fueled by data-driven decision making, connecting with diverse perspectives, and a passion for education, currently serves as the Director of Career Services at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She brings ten years of progressive leadership in higher education administration with experience developing, managing, and supervising a wide range of educational programs and strategic initiatives designed to promote the successful transition and holistic development of diverse students. Whitney has in-depth experience with strategic planning, assessment, research, admissions marketing and communication, recruitment strategy, enrollment management, staff development programming, and curriculum development. Whitney has served the past six years on the Board for the National Association for Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and is eager to deepen her engagement with the Network and contribute to leadership conversations around access to and attainment of higher education in Alaska. Whitney holds a Master of Public Administration and Education Policy and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University at Albany.
Monica Wiehl, Treasurer
Monica Wiehl is currently the manager of Arctic Education Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization committed to providing support and assistance to students pursuing higher education. She works very closely with her staff in designing programs to empower Iñupiat students and promoting personal success within themselves and their communities. Monica shares “I believe it is never too early to get our young people excited about education. My goal is to continue outreach to our North Slope communities to get our young people familiar with who AEF is and encourage them to follow their dreams! Whether that be through a professional certification program or a degree program – we what them to know we are here for support.” Born in Ketchikan and raised in Utqiaġvik, Monica shares a cultural background of Inupiaq, Haida and Tsimshian, and is the granddaughter of Wilma Wallace of Ketchikan and Charles Etok Edwardsen of Utqiaġvik.
Janelle Vanasse, Secretary
Janelle Vanasse has served in Alaska education for over 25 years. Currently the Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Janelle has focused much of her career in secondary education and helping under-served and low income populations successfully prepare for post-secondary transitions. Prior to Mt. Edgecumbe, Janelle worked in the Lower Kuskokwim School district for 20 years, 10 years as an administrator at Bethel Regional High School. While at Bethel Regional High School, Janelle led school improvement efforts around drop out prevention and building a college-going culture. During her tenure, the graduation rate improved over 15% and the college-going rate reached 70% as measured by National Clearinghouse. Much of the college-going culture work Janelle engages in is aligned with the Redefining Ready research and includes multiple pathways through high school courses, building student goal-setting and accuracy in self-assessment, providing scaffold ways for students to reach highly rigorous college-prep course work, and early integration of college-navigation skills particularly targeting first generation students. Janelle believes both an understanding of cultural relevance and a deep look at current data is essential to meeting the 65 by 2025 goal.
Josh Bicchinella is the campus president for Charter College, a private, independent institution located in Anchorage, Alaska. Josh also serves on the Alaska Commission on Post-Secondary Education filling the proprietary education seat. Josh holds a MS in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University and is actively pursuing a Doctorate in Public Administration. As the campus president, Josh is responsible for direct and indirect leadership and operational management of the Anchorage campuses admissions, financial aid, education, student success, and career service departments. As an appointed commissioner for the state of Alaska, Josh is responsible for working with the commission to advocate and support post-secondary participation and education in Alaska. Born and raised in Alaska, Josh is an avid Alaskan embracing all things outdoors. When not actively engaged in work, community activities, or public service, Josh enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, and of course hiking.
My name is Tiffany Caudle and I have been living in Alaska since I was 2 years old besides attending college out of state at the University of Idaho. I love the outdoors, my three rescue dogs, and my beautiful family. With my background in education, I have always had a passion for educating youth about postsecondary opportunities including apprenticeship. I have been working for a non-profit called Alaska Works Partnership that offers free construction training to youth and adults in our community for 11 years. As the program manager, I also do case management and I enjoy working with our community members to help them gain skills that lead to better jobs and careers. It is very rewarding to work with youth and adults, and offer educational and career guidance that can help to better their lives, and in turn better our great community. If I am given a board seat, I will serve our board and community to the best of my ability. I have a great, positive attitude and will be a member who contributes in creative and innovative ways.
My name is Darla Graham, and I am a lifelong Alaskan resident who is passionate about education. My sophomore year of high school, I made choices which led to withdrawal failing all my classes at Bartlett High School. Faced with decisions that would impact my life forever, I went on to attend Benny Benson and ended up graduating a year early from high school, obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, and am currently working towards my Executive MBA in Strategic Leadership from Alaska Pacific University. I have firsthand experience with how challenging education can be, working full time and being a mother while attending school. I am Alaska Native and a CIRI shareholder and have worked for CIRI since 2014 designing and implementing programs which uplift our youth and expose them to opportunities available to them. Life can be full of obstacles, and instilling resiliency in youth is essential, in my opinion, to uplift and support their success. The next generation will lead our communities one day, and education is critical to ensure the success of our communities. I’m very passionate about continuous learning and connecting people with opportunities. I love contributing my knowledge and experiences to help fellow Alaskans reach their full potential, for themselves, and for our community.
Kate Hillenbrand is a longtime supporter of postsecondary education and access, and has been a Network member since its inception in in 2015. Growing up in Massachusetts, Kate moved to Alaska in 2005 and has been grateful and fortunate to call this beautiful land her home ever since. After moving to Alaska, Kate held positions at public and private postsecondary institutions, with responsibilities and oversight in admissions, recruiting, marketing, strategic planning, and change management. Currently, Kate serves as the Director of Communications & Outreach for ACPE and was appointed to the State Agency seat on the Network Board of Directors in early 2020. Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Southeast, Kate is committed to the mission of the Network in building and strengthening partnerships to increase the percentage of Alaskans completing postsecondary education.
Born in Kodiak and raised in Anchorage, Tara Knight moved to Fairbanks in 2009 to pursue her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. After completing her undergraduate program, Tara went directly into the Master of Arts program in English at UAF and began her career in higher education by working as a graduate writing instructor. After completing her master’s degree, Tara completed a Graduate Certificate in Academic Advising from Kansas State University while working as an Administrative Assistant in the Office of Disability Services and teaching writing courses as an adjunct at UAF. She is currently working on a second Bachelor of Arts degree in Foreign Languages while working as the UAF Admissions Counselor for UA Scholars and for the Anchorage, Mat-Su, and Kenai regions. Tara has worked with a diverse population of students throughout the various positions she has held at the university and within the community, giving her insight into the varying educational needs of Alaska’s population. In addition to Tara’s professional experience in Disability Services, she is also personally close to individuals with disabilities as her oldest brother has Down syndrome. Because of her professional and personal connection to individuals with disabilities, Tara wants to see credentialing and professional development opportunities become more accessible to this population. Tara also volunteers in the women’s holding facility at the Fairbanks Correctional Center as a writing instructor and believes attention needs to be given to making higher education accessible to those who are incarcerated or are reentering society after incarceration.
Suzanne comes from the Copper Basin region where she spent 20 years serving as the director of the Copper Basin campus of the University of Alaska, focusing on creative ways to bring education to remote communities and villages. In 2013 she became the statewide director for the Alaska Laborers Training School, providing vocational education and career pathways into commercial and heavy construction. She has a MS degree in Natural Resources Management, a BS degree in Geology and 35 years of experience in education and workforce development. She is passionate about empowering others and helping to provide opportunities through education that will help individuals to prosper while developing a strong, skilled workforce for the State of Alaska. She oversees three registered apprenticeship programs in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Southeast Alaska, which provides opportunities for those with little or no construction experience a pathway into a solid, high-wage career that includes full benefits. Registered apprenticeship is considered the other four-year degree, which can help Alaskans gain post-secondary credentials while earning a living wage: earn while you learn without educational debt.
I grew up in Florida and joined the U.S. Air Force at the age of 18. For 20 years I traveled throughout the world as an Air Weapons Control Technician. Realizing how important education was and the fact that I would need a degree once I left the Air Force, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology while still on active duty. After leaving the military, I eventually moved my family to Alaska to work as the Youth Instructional Program Specialist on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER). In that position, I researched and obtained the Darden “Recipe for Success” College-Going Experience Grant for the youth program which funded Career Nights and local College Campus Tours. I went on to accept a position with the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE), first as the Community Liaison and then as the Community Partnership Manager. In my last position with ACPE, I worked closely with the Network Board of Directors on the different projects they had to increase the percentage of Alaskans who complete postsecondary education. In my current position, as the Mat-Su Reentry Coalition Coordinator, I work with the coalition in identifying and implementing strategies that increase former prisoners’ well-being within the community and reduce the likelihood of them recidivating. One of these strategies is providing educational opportunities to inmates prior to and after their release from prison. I believe I would bring a unique perspective to the Board regarding an Alaska population that sometimes gets overlooked.
I like helping students figure out what’s holding them back and how to get past it to reach their goals. I have a strong academic background (BBA, The George Washington University; MBA, UNC-Chapel Hill) and it opened doors for me. I travelled the world in my first job with the US Government and my long career with Johnson and Johnson was challenging and rewarding; both jobs were gained directly through academic achievement. What I enjoy about my career now, as both an assistant professor and workforce development instructor at Iḷisaġvik College, however, are the opportunities to explore what held me back and why things that seemed easy for others were so hard for me. I’ve been exploring these areas for 10 years, initially when I was a first-time business teacher in front of 200 Chinese students in Changchun, Jilin and now with much smaller classes in Utqiaġvik, Alaska. In both situations I’ve been working with students who struggled academically at some point and their lack of confidence and frustration with education is still preventing them from reaching their goals. I enjoy teaching classes that are not so much about what you know but about how to use that information more effectively, to work better with others, to communicate ideas more clearly and to overcome the obstacles we put in our own way.
Stephanie Sanderlin is an enrolled member of the Curyung Tribal Council and Bristol Bay Native Corporation shareholder originally from Dillingham, Alaska. Her parents, Jim and Jeanie Timmerman, raised Stephanie along with her three younger siblings in a subsistence and commercial fishing family with an appreciation for traditional values and a high priority on learning. Stephanie was taught that education is a tool for helping others and improving self; both vital parts of building stronger and healthier communities. After graduating from Dillingham High School, Stephanie attended Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa and received her B.A. in English Teaching. She spent a career in secondary education before moving to the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) School of Nursing to work for Recruitment and Retention of Alaska Natives into Nursing (RRANN), a support program housed in the UAA School of Nursing. As a secondary education teacher for the Anchorage School District (ASD), Stephanie managed a successful classroom through a balance of engagement, challenge, and constructive discipline, and served as a cross-country running coach. She also created two novel study curriculums for use District wide, hosted multiple student teachers who got teaching jobs of their own in desired school districts, served as a Mentor Teacher through the ASD Teacher Mentor Program, and served as a delegate for the Alaska Teacher Delegate Assembly. In her work at RRANN, Stephanie has participated in the Associates of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing Science Admissions Committee, the Della Keats Program (a bridge program for high school students interested in healthcare career pathways) Selection Committee, and was a presenter at the Pathways into Health National Conference on the effectiveness of infusing traditional Alaska Native and American Indian values into student support initiatives. Most importantly, she works every day with students determined to become nurses, helping students discern their challenges and strengths and determine how to address those challenges and maximize strengths.
Felicia Swanson is the main contact for federal Carl Perkins related data questions at the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development. She has been part of the department for 21 years with the majority of her time spent on the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Team; she has extensive historical knowledge of CTE at the Department and a breadth of experience in navigating the federal supports and requirements of federal CTE funding. Felicia also serves as the Statewide Coordinator for the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS).