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Alumni Spotlight – Marisa Sharrah

Marisa Sharrah after completing her first 5k in 2016

Marisa is the president and CEO of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2001 with a concentration in marketing.

Why did you choose to attend UAF?
It was important for me to stay in Fairbanks and remain close to my family. I felt fortunate that UAF had a degree that fit with my long-term goals. The choice was easy and it felt right at the time, and I can say that over 15 years later, I still think it was the right choice.

Share with us an outstanding teacher or class.
I loved Claudia Clark! She demonstrated the right balance between being firm and flexible. She held students accountable and reminded us we live in an unforgiving world, but she was also fun to be around and kept us laughing while learning.

What is a favorite SOM memory?
Attending commencement in a sea of black caps and gowns, and having my then 3-year-old son spot me in the crowd and yell “MAMA!” from the mezzanine during the ceremony.

How did SOM prepare you for your professional career?
SOM classes covered the right breadth of issues to prepare me for my career. Everything from human resources and business law to customer service and marketing topics came in handy almost immediately and have remained relevant in the 15+ years since I graduated. The program provided a great foundation for me professionally.

What does being a UAF alumna mean to you?
Being a UAF grad adds to my sense of community. I love Fairbanks and am always proud to share that I’m a UAF graduate. I find pride by supporting our teams, reading about innovations and ideas generated by students, faculty, and graduates, and seeing our community rally to support this institution that has such an important role in our community.

What keeps you enthusiastic about your career?
Change. Change can be incredibly difficult until you accept that all great things happen as a result of change. Even during times when I had the same role in an organization for several years, I found fulfillment in trying new and creative ideas. Change keeps things exciting and fresh.

What’s the number one skill or practice that has contributed to your success?
I think my ability to foster a team environment has been one of the biggest factors that helps me feel successful. I know results are better when the right team of people are working on a common and well vetted goal, and it feels good to be able to celebrate wins with everyone that helped achieve a successful outcome.

What advice do you have for current students?
Find people in your community who you admire and make them your mentors. You don’t have to ask them or literally assign them that role. Just start asking questions and for advice, observe how they communicate, who they surround themselves with, what they do in their spare time, etc. They will be your mentors as soon as you decide they are.

The Fairbanks Chamber team celebrates a successful Military Appreciation Event: Elizabeth Warlick, Amanda Blanchard, Elena Sudduth, Marisa Sharrah, Christina Tachick, and Alla Gutsul. Photo by Isaiah Mangum.

  • Favorite breakfast food?  Peanut butter protein shake or waffles
  • Dream vacation destination?  Beach. Book. Beverage.
  • Book you are currently reading?  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Last music digital download or streaming music channel?  Sam Smith
  • When was the last time you sang out loud?  Odds are I’m singing out loud right now


Marisa with her son Thomas, mom Teresa, and grandpa Tom during grandpa’s annual visit to Alaska in 2017

SOM Speaks: Hear Us Roar – Lorna Shaw

Lorna Shaw is the Public Affairs Manager at Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo, LLC. She graduated from the School of Management with her BBA in 1996 and her MBA in 2005. She was the 2014 UAF Business Leader of the Year.

In these videos, she talks about the future of Alaska’s economy and how School of Management students have a uniquie opportunity to play a role in that future. She also discusses how the skills and experiences gained through your academic career can contribute to your future professional and community life.

Alumni Spotlight – Lori Wilson

Lori with her significant other

Lori is the Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Alaska, Far North and Interior District. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing in 1996.

Why did you choose to attend UAF?
I had taken a year off from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. My family lived in Alaska, so I decided to move here and continue my education at UAF. SOM had the same AACSB accreditation as schools like Harvard, Cal Poly, and many other top business schools, yet it provided a more intimate learning environment.

Share with us an outstanding teacher or class.
My very best Professor was Dr. Laura Milner. She demanded excellence and pushed us to be better students and to think outside the box. She was tough, but she was fair. I remember a group project that we spent hours on, but we turned it in 30 minutes late. When we met with her, she told us that when we handed it in late she wanted nothing more than to fail us because deadlines are critical, and as professionals there are no excuses for being late. However, the paper was so well done that she had no choice but to give us an A, and in fact our recommendations were implemented by the company we did the research for. She taught me a great lesson about commitments and fairness. I can’t remember the name of most of my professors, but I do remember hers, as she taught me the most.

What is a favorite SOM memory?
Working on the Business Leader of the Year was a lot of fun. I was working full time while going to school, so my ability to get involved in campus life was rather limited. Being a part of working on this event in my final year was truly one of my best memories.

How did SOM prepare you for your professional career?
I learned that, in addition to “book learning,” teamwork and cooperation are critical to success. A willingness to ask questions, respecting other people’s time, and working as a high functioning team will produce much better results than working individually.

What does being a UAF alumna mean to you?
I have lived in Fairbanks for the past 25 years and am very proud to be able to say that I am a UAF alumna. When I hear teenagers criticize or downgrade UAF because it is in their back yard, I can easily give testimony to the fantastic education that I received.

What keeps you enthusiastic about your career?
I appreciate being able to put my education and knowledge to work for the good of our community. The many curve balls I’ve experienced in my own life have helped me understand the importance of nonprofits to our community. Not only do we provide many jobs, but we are the safety net for when life throws those curve balls. I am honored to be able to put my arm around a family that just lost their home to a fire and let them know someone cares, they are not alone, and we will help. I am passionate about the mission of the American Red Cross. Fires and disasters do not discriminate; they are great equalizers and we are able to help regardless of all the factors that tend to divide people.

I am never bored. I am constantly challenged by the importance of providing a positive working environment for my staff and volunteers, an environment that encourages team work yet individuality, inspiration when we are so busy that we can’t think, open communication across service lines, and the support they need to do their jobs effectively.

What’s the number one skill or practice that has contributed to your success?
Honesty and integrity are the primary skills that have contributed to my success. No one can truly be successful if those around them do not trust them, and that only comes from working with honesty and integrity.

What advice would you give to current students?
No amount of advancement up the corporate ladder is worthwhile if it is not achieved with honesty, integrity, and ethical decisions. Part of that means not making commitments that you can’t keep. Do not forget appointments, do not promise to do something and then not do it, and never pass the buck – if you made a mistake, own it and learn from it. No matter how good you are at the tasks of a job, if you cannot be trusted as a person of your word, you will never truly succeed. Additionally, you should never be afraid to ask questions; there is never a time when you will need to pretend to know everything and have all the answers. Finally, have fun! It’s OK to laugh and have fun at work, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be productive, but work shouldn’t be a place of misery – laughter does wonders!

Lori heading to Hawaii with her daughters

  • What is your favorite breakfast food? Smoothie
  • Dream vacation destination? A sandy beach with lots of sunshine
  • Last music digital download or streaming music channel? Google Play
  • When was the last time you sang out loud? Yesterday just to watch my daughter cringe since I sing off key
  • What was your last DIY project? Building my shed


Lori with Red Cross staff on Community Smoke Alarm Install Day

Alumni Giving – Henry Bolanos

Army to Alumnus
Henry Bolanos

After enlisting as a junior in high school, I served six years as army infantry. First stop was Fort Benning for basic training; followed by an assignment at Fort Wainwright and then Washington State. I was deployed twice. In 2008 I served in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom and the second time in 2011 in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. After the army, I moved back to Fairbanks, where my family has made our home.

When I began my university studies, I explored several career options, including nursing or history. I eventually found my way to the School of Management (SOM) and decided the business program fit well with my military background, given my experience with organizational strategy and management.

Opportunities to learn beyond the classroom is one of the best things about SOM. Joining the Associated Students of Business student organization enabled me to travel to San Francisco with the National Millennial Community. It was one of my most impactful experiences as a student. During this trip, I met students from other universities and networked with executives from wellknown organizations including: the Golden State Warriors NBA team, Google, Verizon, and eBay.

Another standout experience was working as a student assistant in the SOM Dean’s office. Although I have an outgoing personality and am comfortable with people, it was my first post-army job and I had no actual office experience. This position prepared me for the professional workforce by giving me the knowledge, skills, and confidence to interact in an office environment and relax. I learned that if I don’t know how to do something, I can simply ask for help and guidance. These are skills that employers look for, and I believe that SOM helped me gain those skills.

After graduating this semester, I will officially be a SOM alumnus. Looking back, the best advice I can give to students is to put in the hard work. For example, in my marketing class we were able to choose an option that required more work, but also offered more experience and a challenging group project. I can honestly say I learned so much more than I would have if I had taken the easier option. I also created a feasibility study for an entrepreneurship class, which involved writing a business plan for a company that I would want to start. I did my plan on a donut shop and learned a lot through trial and error.

Networking is essential to success and I recommend students start networking as early as possible. I wish I would have gotten involved earlier in my studies. It feels good to be building a professional network with people at this early stage of my career. I am proud to say my hard work and networking paid off and I recently accepted a position as an HR Analyst for UA Statewide.

My sense of loyalty to SOM is strong and I want to stay connected. I enjoy mentoring students and I would love to come back as a guest speaker. In addition, I hope to support the school financially as much as I can. Please join me in staying connected to SOM, and give any way you can.

Alumni Spotlight – Micaiah Liebhober


Micaiah at Lake Tahoe.

Micaiah is a human resources administrative assistant at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Denali Center. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in Spanish in 2015.

Why did you choose to attend UAF?
I chose UAF because it is my hometown school and offers a quality education at an affordable price. All of this without having to leave my friends and family was a win-win.  As a first-generation graduate, attending college was not an easy feat for me, but UAF made it possible.

Share a memory of an outstanding teacher or class.
Amy Cooper always comes to mind. I wasn’t even an accounting major and she almost convinced me to switch majors based on her teaching ability and friendliness. Wendy Tisland is a great mentor in the HR field.

What is a favorite SOM memory?
I have a lot of great memories with the UAF Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) student organization, which I helped found and then served as an officer. A few of us participated in the Northwestern Human Resources Management Association HR Case Competition and student conference held in Portland. We had a great time going to Voodoo donuts as a group and networking with other HR students and professionals in the Northwest.

How did SOM prepare you for your professional career?
SOM prepared me for my professional career in a number of ways. It taught me how to balance my personal life with deadlines and how to prioritize. It taught me the value of networking and teamwork. I learned a lot about myself and what sacrifices are necessary to succeed and accomplish a task. Being in a student organization highlighted the importance of making the time to participate in extracurricular activities. I have learned that you will never have the extra time to do such things, you have to make the time.

What does being an alumna mean to you?
Being a UAF alumna gives me a great sense of pride. I am proud to support the university that supported me, got me where I am today, and will take me farther in the future. I have my UAF Alumni sticker on the back window of my car, and I flaunt it shamelessly!

What keeps you enthusiastic about your career?
Continuing education, challenges, and experience keep me excited about my healthcare HR career. I am able to shadow the recruiters I work with and I plan on going into that particular field. I hope to be an HR Consultant or Chief HR Officer, and I am starting the UAF MBA program to help me reach my goal. The unlimited growth potential in the field keeps me very motivated to keep moving forward.

What’s the number one skill or practice that has contributed to your success?
Sheer determination, strong will and consistency helped me succeed. There were many obstacles and challenges along the way and I feel like overcoming them made me better. I haven’t given up when times have gotten hard, and have pushed through instead. I worked two jobs and supported myself through my whole college career. That working experience helps me today, and I know how to balance multiple commitments. It took me five and a half years to complete my Bachelor’s, but I got it done!

What advice would you give to current students?
I would advise students to expand your horizons and not get too overwhelmed. Make time for yourself through working out, a hobby or travel. I also strongly recommend joining a student organization and making professional connections in your chosen field.


Micaiah participates in the annual American Heart Association Heart Walk with co-workers.

  • What is your favorite breakfast food? Pancakes, although I don’t eat them very often (unless they’re protein pancakes)!
  • Dream vacation destination? Anywhere foreign, exotic or tropical. I like to get out of my comfort zone and see things from a different perspective. I would love to go to Greece or somewhere in the Caribbean.
  • Last music digital download or streaming channel? G-Eazy radio on Pandora. He is coming up to the Alaska state fair this year!
  • What’s the best advice you didn’t take? To start applying for scholarships earlier in my college career. I thought I would not be considered for any, but turns out there is a lot of aid available.
  • When was the last time you sang out loud? Probably yesterday in my shower or in the car. I sing and dance a lot!



Micaiah on a black sand beach.

Alumni Giving – Heather Rauenhorst

Heather Rauenhorst & Leo

Heather and her son, Leo

Tradition of Excellence
Heather Rauenhorst

My name is Heather Rauenhorst (formerly Lesko), and I am the current chair of the SOM Business Advisory Council. I received my MBA from SOM in 2003, and it was a life-changing experience. It enabled me to achieve my personal goals and also prepared me for opportunities I never imagined. Not a day goes by that I don’t apply the knowledge and skills I gained through the MBA program in my leadership position at the school district. I hear far too many people say they don’t feel their college experience adequately prepared them for their careers. I had a different experience, and am thrilled I didn’t have to leave my hometown to do so. How lucky are we as Interior residents to have such a high caliber school in our own backyard?

I found my MBA classes challenging and relevant. Then, as now, there were brilliant faculty members who truly cared their students learned. And I can say without any bias, my classmates at SOM were the very best and brightest in all of UAF. Actually, one classmate in particular was a bit unique. My dad returned to school later in life, and the last year of his bachelor’s degree was my first year in the MBA program. We took a marketing class together, which was a memorable experience for both of us!

SOM also offers incredible opportunities outside the classroom. I signed up for an internship course when the program was just beginning, and it allowed me to experience a completely different type of business than any of my previous jobs. I believe so much in the value of these experiential learning activities, and in the potential benefits for both the student and the host business, that I created an internship position in my own small department. I’ve had two terrific SOM interns so far, and my coworkers have been very impressed with the caliber of the students and the quality of the work they’ve done.

So that was then, but what about now? In my opinion, the school has only gotten better. Today, SOM boasts even more engagement with local businesses, more student organizations and activities providing practical experiences, and more opportunities for students to make meaningful connections in the community.

I am thrilled to be an SOM alumna, and grateful for the time invested in me by the faculty and staff. I ask you to join me as I give back and enable SOM to continue its tradition of excellence, so today’s students have the opportunities they need to develop into tomorrow’s leaders.

Torc forest