Quieting the Mind

Karen Stomberg

Sometimes on Northern Soundings, I can’t air an entire discussion with a guest. This was the case last episode when the artist Karen Stomberg shared about the inspiration for her exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. I found Karen’s remarks about the power of engaging in creative activity so inspiring I thought I’d publish the addendum to the last episode. I hope you enjoy it.

The Meaning of Life… Almost

Nancy Cook Hanson

One of the major fall social events in Fairbanks is HIPOW, the fundraising dinner and auction for the Catholic Schools of Fairbanks. This year marks the effort’s 50th anniversary. My guest this week is Nancy Cook Hanson, who recently stepped down as director of the school and Monroe Foundation. I took the opportunity of her retirement to ask about her background and how she came to join the school. When she was young, she says, she yearned to discover the meaning of life. While she says she didn’t discover it, friends and colleagues know she remains a thoughtful, curious and compassionate person.

Also on the show: Educator and artist Karen Stomberg has a wonderful exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Its title comes from Karen’s recently published book, Collected Treasures: Six Alaska Wildflowers. Karen talks about her botanical art and capturing it in print.


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Science and Faithful Stewardship

Hayhoe Fishing Doug Hayhoe credit

Young Katharine Hayhoe Photo by Doug Hayhoe

Last week millions of young people and supporters around the globe gathered to protest inaction by world leaders on climate change. This week some of those leaders are gathered at the U.N. to discuss the matter, but the United States is absent from any leadership role. Despite that my first guest says a majority of Americans polled identify climate change as an important issue. Katharine Hayhoe is not only a respected atmospheric scientist but also an evangelical Christian who has emerged as an important voice for bridging the divide between religion and science.

Also on the show: Dysfunctional leadership goes way back. Shakespeare scholar and dramaturge Janis Lull says in Macbeth it isn’t clear opposing tyranny is enough.

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Restoring Word and Volume

Juliayn Coleman

I believe the physical book can sometimes be a work of art. Think of illuminated manuscripts or the works of local artist Margo Klass. As with any art object, age and usage can take their toll. How to preserve a well-loved volume can be a challenge. Enter Juliayn Coleman. As you’ll hear, the San Francisco based book conservator and binder has learned the venerable art of restoring books. The Literacy Council invited her to Fairbanks this summer to teach classes on restoration techniques. I sat down with her just before one of her classes at the Northwoods Book Arts Guild studios to learn about her art.

Also on the show: earlier in the summer I spoke with Rebecca George about the challenges of mounting Shakespeare’s Macbeth. George directed the play for the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre. She is also slated to direct an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for Theatre UAF this spring. We also discuss the curse associated with the play.


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Out of Nowhere

Linda photo

Poet Linda Schandelmeier has deep roots in Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but her links to Alaska extend farther back still. She was born and raised on a 160-acre homestead outside of Anchorage, and her memories and impressions of the homestead and coming to university are captured in a recent book of verse published by the University of Alaska Press, Coming out of Nowhere: Alaska Homestead Poems. The poems combine elements of memoir and history with literary techniques of multiple voices and personae. The mixture attracted the attention of  Women Writing the West judges. The organization annually hands out Willa Awards in various literary genres to works that explore the contributions made by women to the history, culture and growth of the American West.  Schandelmeier’s collection took top honours for poetry.

Also on the show: Frank Soos is in with a look at Tessa Hadley’s latest novel Late in the Day.

And Chris Lott is off this week, but a seasonally relevant Katexic Clippings comes round again.


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How Not to Die Hunting in Alaska

Ron & Owen

I had to name this show after Ron Smith’s provocative book title. Ron has authored three books since he retired as zoology professor emeritus from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. One is a no-fooling-around natural history of Interior and Northern Alaska; another is a thinly veiled autobiographical novel about coming of age in the SW, United States; and the last volume is a whimsical but very practical work devoted preventing some of the memorable mishaps Ron and his hunting buddies have met in the wild. As you’ll hear, Ron is a passionate storyteller who takes his science seriously.


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Bridging Cultures

Phyllis Morrow

My Summer Sessions series continues with former University of Alaska Fairbanks Dean Phyllis Morrow. Phyllis is a cultural anthropologist who has spent a good part of her career helping one culture understand and fruitfully work with another, not just between Alaska Native communities and the dominant culture, but between various groups and the legal profession. She and her husband Chase have a consulting business.

But in retirement, Phyllis also donates time to help lead a women’s writing group in Fairbanks Correction Center. It is a program started by one of my earlier guests Sarah Stanley. If that were not enough, Phyllis just finished performing with the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre Company in Macbeth and she is part of a Klezmer band Almost a Minyan.

Also on the show, Chris Lott on Katexic Clippings looks at the “3-Ds” currently haunting Alaska’s political landscape.


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Building Enduring Roads


Like several of the guests of this Summer Sessions series, Doug Goering has a multifaceted connection to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Doug’s father taught marine sciences here and Doug attended UAF as an undergraduate before receiving two bachelors of science degrees from the University of Washington, one in mechanical engineering the other in physics. While an undergraduate at UAF he also worked as a research and administrative assistant.

Doug returned to UAF for his master’s in mechanical engineering focusing on Arctic heat transfer; before earning a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Doug also worked here as a research and teaching assistant.

In a remarkably long career, Doug taught here as Assistant, Associate and Full professor and served as interim and full dean of the College of Engineering and Mines from 2006, until this year, when he retired.

And reviewer Frank Soos looks at Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. The book celebrates its centennial this year.


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Creating and Cultivating

Frank Portrait

Frank Soos ©Kesler Woodward

My “Down Memory Lane” series continues with a friend, mentor and splendid writer Frank Soos. Frank was not only the guy I tapped to be my first guest on Northern Soundings, but regular listeners will know he frequently contributes book reviews here. This episode’s title refers to Frank’s abilities to not only write gracefully and compellingly about the human condition, but also to his hard work in forming new generations of writers. It was a joy to talk with him about his background and influences.

And Chris Lott on Katexic Clippings examines the word exegincy, a term seeing a usage uptick since the University of Alaska Board of Regents just declared financial exigency.


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Putting Students First

Pete Pinney

Pete Pinney

My UAF Summer Sessions series continues with Pete Pinney. Pete has a long and multi-faceted history with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The school awarded him an MFA in Creative Writing in 1988. He taught English for years, becoming a full professor in 2005.

He received the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Service Award in 2006 and the KUAC/Alaska One volunteer of the year award in 2001.

His administrative service includes stints as Associate Vice Chancellor of Rural, Community and Native Education as well as Dean of the College of Community and Rural Development from 2014-2017. Other service saw him acting as Interim Vice Provost of Outreach/Director of UAF Cooperative Extension Service.

He remains fully engaged within the community as well, serving as PFLAG’s treasure for more than 15 years. He is currently Executive Director of the North Star Community Foundation.

And Chris Lott is back with another Katexic Clippings.


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