UAF BLaST Celebrates 2021 Graduates

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The University of Alaska Fairbanks campus celebrated their May 2021 graduates in several ways. As the end of the academic year grew closer and closer, it became clear that ideas had to be creative to allow families and friends to celebrate their graduates in safe and inclusive ways. 

“Universities and community campuses across the state have gathered to celebrate graduates over the last few weeks. Graduation is a time for honoring the hard work and dedication our students have shown as they seek to further their education and reach their goals. A global pandemic, social distancing and masks didn’t dampen the spirits this year.

With COVID-19 precautions still in place and the health and safety of students, staff, faculty and family members of paramount importance, universities took a creative approach to celebrations. Gatherings took place outside, virtually, masked, and even in car parades.”

This was no different for BLaST Scholar and URE graduates. They were offered opportunities to join in the outdoor ceremony on May 1st and the car parade that circulated the campus. UAF staff, faculty, and friends were able to sit or stand on the sidelines of the car parade route with hand-made signs and departmental or college signage to congratulate the recent graduates. Many graduations were held in accordance with CDC guidelines, so masks were worn, and distancing observed while attending the ceremonies. BLaST staff and principal investigators (PIs) were able to join in the celebration to view the car parade. Later in the day, a virtual ceremony commenced which included keynote speakers, administrators, and naming of all graduates from each college within UAF. Following the announcement of their name, students shared short videos. This virtual celebration was live streamed on Facebook, allowing for an even bigger audience, and family and friends were able to give shout-outs via comments, making it a more intimate and inclusive event. The BLaST graduates, their degrees and majors are listed at the end of this article.

Other celebrations commenced the weekend of April 24th and 25th. BLAST Scholars David Harvey (graduating Summer 2021) and Casey McMillan were recognized and celebrated at the UAF Lavender Graduation ceremony on Saturday, April 24th. This ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ graduates by presenting a rainbow honor cord and a pride pin. This in-person event was held outside and also live streamed on the UAF media channel. Eleven UAF graduates were recognized. A recording of the event is available at

BLaST Scholars David Harvey (left) and Casey McMillan (right)














BLaST Scholar David Harvey shared, 

“David is a first-generation and non-traditional student graduating with a B.Sc. in geophysics. He is so proud to become the first person in his family to graduate from college. During his undergraduate studies, David has conducted volcanology and One Health research with the Alaska Volcano Observatory and Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program. He will continue studying Alaskan volcanoes at UAF in Fall 2021 working toward an M.Sc. in geology. He would like to thank his friends, chosen family, partner, professors, and mentors for all of their amazing support during the past four years.”

BLaST Scholar Casey McMillan shared,

“Casey is a first-generation college student graduating with her B.S. in psychology, A.A.S. in paralegal studies, and double minoring in paleontology and women, gender, and sexuality studies. She is a 3rd-year BLaST scholar and published author, conducting research on self-grooming in a spontaneous mouse model of OCD and co-authoring a paper on the effects of caffeine on that same mouse model. Casey is a member of the international honors society in psychology, Psi Chi, and was elected treasurer of the UAF chapter for the 2019-2020 academic year. She has also served as treasurer of the UAF GeoScience Club for the past two years. Since 2017, she has been employed as a student assistant for the UAF Department of Equity and Compliance, where she has worked to promote and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion here at UAF. Casey looks forward to attending graduate school in the near future with the goal of earning her Ph.D. in psychology and/or women, gender, and sexuality studies.”

Harvey and McMillan are recognized on the UAF Lavender Graduation website

The second celebration of the busy weekend was held Sunday, April 25, recognizing UAF’s first-generation students in a First-Gen Baccalaureate Cording Ceremony. Hosted by the Nanook Diversity and Action Center and the Student Success Services TRiO program, the event was live streamed and attended via Zoom. Graduates were presented with a teal honor cord which signified the student as being the first in their family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. BLaST Scholars recognized included David Harvey and Casey McMillan and BLaST AY21 Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) Bryant Griffith. McMillan was also a keynote student speaker, and she shared her journey of being a first-generation student and included a very personable perspective of what students went through this past year. A total of 56 first-generation graduates were recognized.

During these celebration events, departments and colleges also shared land acknowledgements, recognizing the Indigenous peoples of Alaska across the many campuses in Alaska. 

“The Nanook Diversity & Action Center and Student Support Services acknowledge the Alaska Native nations upon whose unceded traditional lands we are located. The University of Alaska Fairbanks' main campus is located on Troth Yeddha, a sacred site of the Lower Tanana Dene people. We acknowledge and honor the ancestral and present land stewardship and place-based knowledge of the peoples of these territories. To learn more about the indigenous heritage of the land in which you are currently located, we encourage you to begin by clicking on the link

And finally, UAF celebrated their Ph.D. graduates in an in-person hooding ceremony held Friday, April 30, at the Charles Davis Concert Hall with limited guests. Thirteen of thirty-eight Ph.D. graduates were present to receive their hoods. This event was live streamed on the UAF media channel for events. Three former BLaST Graduate Mentoring and Research Assistants (GMRAs) received their Ph.D. degrees.

Former BLaST Graduate Mentoring and Research Assistants

We at BLaST are very proud of all our graduates!

Academic year 2020-21 Scholar, Hailey Baker, cum laude,
B.S. Biological Sciences: Biomedical Science
Summer 2017 URE and Fourth year Scholar, Brianna Lu,
B.S. Biological Sciences: Physiology













2021 BLaST Scholars Graduates

     *Summer 2021 graduate.