Story last updated at 4/8/2011 - 2:04 pm
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles about students recognized as 'Outstanding Graduates' in the 2011 University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) class. The UAS 2011 Commencement will be held May 1 at 2 p.m. at the UAS Recreation Center.
Stephen Ellison: 2011 Outstanding Graduate in Mathematics
Stephen Ellison will be graduating as the 2011 Outstanding Graduate for the Arts and Science's Mathematics Department at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS).
Ellison came to UAS due to the close proximity to his hometown of Klawock and his desire to be a pilot.
"UAS is so close I can still hunt and fish during the summers when I'm not in school," Ellison said.
"I got my professional pilot's license and my captain's license a year after I graduated from high school. I thought I wanted to be a bush pilot. Then I wanted to be a pilot in the military, but that requires a college degree. So I came to UAS."
After starting his undergraduate studies at UAS, Ellison realized his career plans were up for another change.
"I started out as a biology major and halfway into the year I decided I liked math," he said. "It felt so rewarding when I figured a problem out. Math just seemed more suited (to me). Then I had a kid and she's two years old now. I realized that being a military pilot probably was not the best career choice for me anymore."
Now, after completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and minor in Spanish, Ellison has plans to attend graduate school for mathematics of statistics at University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA).
"I want to be a biometrician, which is basically a biological statistician," he said. "Biologists are always doing statistics and a biometrician tries to put that information together.
"It's an infinite world. Math is like a ladder and as you move up a rung you need to know something from the previous step to figure it out."
Yoko Kugo: 2011 Outstanding Graduate in Social Sciences
Kugo came to Southeast Alaska from Tokyo, Japan drawn by the unique cultures and traditions of the region.
"I like different cultures," said Kugo, who has lived and traveled in Australia, Minnesota and many other places in the United States. “I like learning about how cultures are different but similar, like how people treat and respect others.”
Kugo plans to attend graduate school either at UAA or University of Alaska Fairbanks in the field of anthropology, where she will take what she has learned at UAS about Southeast Alaska Native culture and basketry and apply it to her graduate studies.
Kugo’s interest in basketry led to many different research opportunities. She has recently presented research papers at various conferences, most recently in Seattle, Wash., on the traditional use of trees by Native Alaskans in Southeast Alaska and how environmental and economic changes affect these traditions.
“It is so interesting,” Kugo said. “I started with weaving baskets and how it started to change. Now I’m more interested in possible ecological, economic and political changes.”
UAS Assistant Professor of Library Science and Public Services Librarian at UAS Wendy Girven has worked with Kugo and believes she is an amazing student.
“[Yoko] is very adventurous and very hard working,” Girven said. “She is really interested in understanding the culture of Alaska and has embraced the Alaskan lifestyle. She does a lot of research for an undergraduate, especially for a student who isn’t doing research in the hard sciences. I think it shows what an exemplary student she is.”