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Mike Cook’s SOM Connection

My SOM Connection
Mike Cook

When I was a youngster, my mother, Pat Cook, took our family to the UA Museum of the North. That was the first time I stepped foot on campus, and my connection to UAF has strengthened ever since. Our accounting firm, Cook & Haugeberg, LLC, actively recruits students and all firms in the Interior would agree that there are never enough accountants in the state of Alaska.

I believe strongly in the mission of SOM and have great faith in the students and the education they receive. As Chair of the Business Advisory Council, I get to learn firsthand what is happening at the school. I appreciate that Dean Herrmann really listens to the council members. He explains the issues the school is facing and the opportunities that are available. We, in turn, let the dean know our ideas to improve the school and what we are looking for in business graduates.

SOM has transformed over the decades. As it continues to increase in size, I am impressed by how the school keeps up with industry demands; for example, SOM is now offering degrees in homeland security and emergency management. The array of majors, and thus the diversity of students, make for a stronger and more interesting school. With this increase in size and programs comes a more diverse student body in age, ethnicity and family makeup.

As a lifelong Alaskan, I believe that most of us want to do what we can to remain living and thriving in this state. SOM has a sterling reputation and I ask you to consider a new, renewed or additional gift to the school. Cook & Haugeberg sustains an annual accounting scholarship and supports the UAF Business Leader of the Year. My wife, Sharon, and I also choose to give personally to SOM. No matter the size of your gift, you can help SOM students obtain an ideal educational experience inside and outside the classroom. Your gift is also a shout out to our legislature that we are in this predicament together and we are not idly standing by for a handout. Your gift signifies the importance you – and I – place on SOM and the future leaders of our state.

Photo by Sarah Villilon.

Dedicated Donor – Usibelli Coal Mine

A Family Owned and Operated Mine

Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc. (UCM) is a fourth-generation family-owned business. Joe Usibelli Jr. currently serves as President of the corporation and his father, Joe Usibelli, 1978 UAF Business Leader of the Year, is chairman of the board of directors. UCM was founded in 1943 by Emil Usibelli in the mountains of the Alaska Range, near the town of Healy, Alaska. The mine is located 115 miles south of Fairbanks. UCM currently holds six permits that provide access to over 100-million tons of coal. In 2017, the mine is projected to produce approximately 1-million tons. Today, UCM provides coal to the six power plants in Interior Alaska: GVEA’s Healy 1 & 2, Aurora Energy in downtown Fairbanks, Eielson Air Force Base, Fort Wainwright Army Post, and the UAF Combined Heat & Power plant on campus.

Four generations of the Usibelli family have lived in or near Healy. With the mine in the family’s backyard, it was no surprise that six years before it was required by federal law, UCM pioneered a successful land restoration program to establish a natural landscape on mined land. The land is contoured and then seeded with a mixture of grasses and plants indigenous to northern regions. Over the years, through a partnership with the local school, children have helped collect cones from local trees to germinate seedlings for transplanting.

The mine supports many community events and activities, and through the Usibelli foundation, provides grants to more than 100 organizations annually throughout Alaska.

UCM’s involvement with SOM
SOM plays a critical role in providing students with the education, tools, and resources they need to be successful in the workplace upon graduation; this is important not only for the mine, but for businesses across the state. UCM has a long history of supporting UAF and SOM, including management team members serving on the Business Advisory Council and the Accounting Advisory Board, sponsorship and volunteers for the annual Business Leader of the Year Banquet, participation in the annual Spring Etiquette Seminar and Dinner, and two $5,000 scholarships per year for SOM students. Earlier this year, UCM pledged $75,000 to become the lead sponsor for the UAF Arctic Innovation Competition for the next three years.

UCM support of UAF
Since 1977, UCM has donated more than $4.2 million dollars to UAF, including the UA Museum of the North. The importance of a healthy community fueled by the commitment from private enterprise remains a priority for the Usibelli family and for the mine. From funding scholarships to providing the lead gift for the Engineering Building and from establishing the Usibelli Awards to supporting university athletes, UCM has a long and proud relationship with UAF.

Join UCM in Support
For UCM, the choice to support SOM and UAF is an easy one. UAF is the state’s premier educational institution and over the years the university has assisted with research projects directly related to the coal mining industry, natural resource development, and the electrical power generation business. UAF is truly building the workforce of the future – something that benefits every business in the state. Supporting UAF is a two-way partnership!


UAF Chancellor Dana Thomas, UA President Jim Johnsen, UCM VP of Public Relations Lisa Herbert, SOM Dean Mark Herrmann, and Dr. Ping Lan at AIC 2016

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.

SOM Speaks: Hear us Roar – Daniel Mitchell


Daniel Mitchell is the managing director for KPMG, where he specializes in providing audit and accounting services to Alaska Native corporations and financial institutions. KPMG is a distinguished audit, tax, and advisory firm that has participated in many SOM events and has recruited many SOM accounting students. Daniel understands the challenges ahead and advises students to part of the solution during these difficult times.

Donor Spotlight – GCI


GCI is an Alaska-based company that delivers communication and technology services to consumers and businesses. They’ve been delivering services for more than 35 years to some of the most remote communities in our state and in some of the most challenging conditions in North America. GCI is proud to be an “Alaska born and raised” company; they’re dedicated to providing Alaskans with the most innovative technologies in order to improve the quality of life for all Alaskans, through education, health care and economic development.

Harvey Tower Rainbow

The GCI and SOM Partnership
The UAF School of Management is training Alaska’s future leaders and is an important investment not only for GCI, but also for the state. Recently, GCI has become more involved, becoming a top-level sponsor of SOM’s annual gala, Business Leader of the Year, and participating in the Spring Etiquette Seminar, which provides students with the opportunity to learn valuable lessons about professional conduct from Alaska’s business leaders.

GCI and the UAF Business Leader of the Year
As one of Alaska’s largest employers, GCI believes in the importance of developing Alaska’s future business leaders and value the education that SOM provides. Many key business leaders in the Interior and across Alaska are SOM graduates. As an Alaska-based company, GCI understands how crucial it is to attract talented business minds as well as retain those individuals so that they can continue to serve Alaskans for years to come.

Advice for Current SOM Students
Value the lessons that you’re learning—they will help set you up to excel in the world of business and prepare you for many of the business challenges that are unique to Alaska. Also, keep in mind that it’s in your best interest to take advantage of every opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. Internships and other forms of business experience can go a long way and will provide valuable, on-the-job lessons that will complement your education (and resume).

GCI Gives Generously Around the State
GCI’s long-standing history of corporate giving is built on their philanthropic goals, which include supporting youth education and higher learning, investing in Alaska-based programs and initiatives and strengthening programs supported by GCI employees. There are dozens of organizations and causes that GCI supports; the gamut includes major Alaska cultural events such as the Native Youth Olympics and the Iditarod, to educational opportunities like the Alaska Academic Decathlon, to business and health-related organizations. A full list is available on the GCI website.

GCI’s Advice for an Organization Considering a Gift to SOM
It’s incredibly important to support the institutions that develop and prepare the individuals who will make up our future business workforce. By investing in UAF’s School of Management, you are also investing in the next generation of business and community leaders, those who will play an immense role in the future development of Alaska’s economy and therefore the well-being of all Alaskans.

GCI employee-1


GCI employee-2

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