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
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.
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.
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.
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 OrganizationConsidering 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.
After making a career in local government, Judi Slajer, at the age of 39, enrolled at UAF to finish her degree. Her eldest daughter, Veronica, had graduated from high school, and her youngest daughter, Francie, was entering middle school. Judi and her daughters packed their bags and headed to Fairbanks. Judi and Veronica both attended UAF and even lived on the same floor in Bartlett Hall at one point. Veronica returned to UAF in 2013 for her M.A. in rural development.
The big move and the pursuit of a degree came after 18 years of residency in Ketchikan and employment with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Judi moved to Ketchikan in 1962 and became the borough’s first employee, working as municipal clerk and then as borough manager. Judi was the first woman to hold a borough manager position in Alaska. She says it was the best job she ever had.
Just before graduating, Judi left two months early to accept a job at the Municipality of Anchorage as a budget director, and worked for Mayor Tony Knowles for the next four years. She finally received her diploma that summer of 1982.
Judi met her husband, Tom Rosadiuk, at a Gold Kings hockey game in Fairbanks. Tom (UAF ‘59, College of Engineering) founded a Fairbanks engineering/surveying firm, which he grew to become PDC Inc. Engineers, with offices in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Judi moved back to Fairbanks to join Tom and develop and teach governance courses in rural Alaska for the UAA’s extension program. After a spring and summer of teaching, she accepted the chief financial officer position at Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Judi and Tom both retired in 1997 and took off on a road trip that fall. When Judi’s replacement at the borough did not work out, Mayor Sampson called and asked her to come back to work. After another nine months on the job, Judi’s successor was hired.
While Judi and Tom thought that they could relax in retirement and enjoy their travels, more challenges lay ahead. Returning from a trip to New Zealand and Australia in 2000, Judi found a registered letter waiting for her from her doctor. The letter said that her mammogram results were alarming and that she needed to consult with a surgeon. Within three days, she was diagnosed with cancer and made arrangements for surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Judi continued her treatment in Fairbanks and Palm Springs, California.
With only one grown child now living in Alaska, Judi and Tom decided in 2002 to make parallel moves, one by purchasing a winter home in La Conner, Washington and the other to make a rural lot on an island 25 miles southwest of Ketchikan their permanent residence. Developing the remote lot as a residence has been a major project. Judi and Tom purchased a historic float house—built sometime between 1928 and 1938—for the property. Tom has spent years improving the house and adding outbuildings, including a greenhouse, as well as water, sewer, and electrical generating systems, a ramp, and a 40-foot dock.
Always grateful for her second chance at higher education, Judi has contributed to UAF for years through donations to the School of Management and through her membership in the American Association of University Women. She and Tom also invest money into 529 College Savings Plans for all of her and Tom’s eight grandchildren. Maintaining her connection with UAF, Judi said that education plays a large role in determining how she and Tom approach life and all of its challenges.
For the immediate future, Judi and Tom will maintain their Alaska residency, travel to their south Kona fruit and macadamia nut farm in Hawaii, and monitor their health. Judi also looks forward to spending more time with her children, grandchildren, and friends, enjoying them as much as possible. She stays busy volunteering for several community committees, after spending nine years on the board of directors. She tries not to worry about the future, and just enjoys the adventures that life brings!
The School of Management hosted its 2nd annual In My Element Shopping Spree for SOM students on Friday and Saturday, December 4th and 5th.
In My Element once again donated thousands of dollars of professional attire for our female students. This generous donation meant that students were able to select up to five items of clothing, including one pair of shoes, and enjoy them free of charge!
About 35 students took advantage of the opportunity, and were thrilled at the chance to “shop” for new clothing items.
Thank you again to In My Element for making these items available for SOM students. We appreciate your generosity and ongoing support for our students!