Class of 2024 standouts overcome obstacles

This year’s graduating class started college when the pandemic was at its height. They’ve surmounted personal and global challenges to get where they are — and to light the way to where they’re going.
Words By Savannah Johansen


In the middle of the cross country season this last fall Nash tore his other labrum. The recovery on the second  tear took him about a month and a half of physical therapy before he came back to running. After all the physical therapy and his performance in indoor track season, Nash is expected to come back full speed.

Nash is also one of the two students selected from UAA’s track team to be on the Student Athlete Advisory Council. On this council the students vote on decisions for the NCAA. 

Nash’s school work is also demanding. For his business capstone his class meets two days a week, but there is a lot of research and writing he has to do. His economics seminar adds weekly check in meetings with his professor while writing his thesis for the class.

In the past Nash has been the president of the real estate club. Now he is the planner of their events and meetings and they meet about once a week.


Nursing was not Thompson’s first idea for her education. She originally was a natural sciences major. After a while Thompson realized her disinterest in the subject through friends in the nursing program she found her direction.

“When I went for the nursing program I got waitlisted,” Thompson said. “If I don’t make it in I don’t know what I am gonna do.” 

She did not know if she was in the program and was anxiously trying to look at all of her options. After a few weeks though she found out she was off the waitlist and in the program.

Thompson is also a leadership member of the Kabayan Community, the Filipino culture club at UAA. The Kabayan Community celebrates Filipino culture with events such as a karaoke night or table talks on what it means to be Filipino. 

“When I was a freshman and sophomore I wasn’t really a part of the UAA community,” Jocella says when describing her original view of campus life, “I thought of school as a place you go to and you take your classes and leave and do your own thing outside of the community.” 

After getting into the nursing program, becoming an orientation leader, and joining Kabayan Thompson was able to find her community at UAA.


When she started at UAA White went through the Anchorage School District’s Middle College program, and originally pursued nursing. While taking a chemistry class White was so frustrated and discouraged she knew nursing was not for her.

She was also pursuing a minor in communication, inspiring her to drop all her nursing courses for spring of 2023 and replaced them with all journalism and public communication course.

Quickly White was flourishing in her classes she was chosen to go with other journalism students to Nome to cover the Iditarod. 

“I was down on the sea ice and 10 feet away from the mushers coming in, and it felt so surreal,” White said. “I just knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Before she left Nome she was offered a summer internship position at KNOM, the local news radio station, and she chose to take it.

Right after returning from the Iditarod, White became the president of the public relations club on campus.

By the end of the summer, White was the only reporter in the newsroom at the radio station. They hired her as a reporter and for all fall 2023 semester and half of spring 2024 she was the voice of news in Nome. 

“I feel like my social life really lies within my work,” White said when describing working with her coworkers. “When you’re around creative people it’s easy to be yourself and I feel like it is my social time.”

As a student and full-time employee she does not have a lot of free time making her grateful for the community she has built at UAA and at her work.


Bissett is a Dena’ina woman from the Talkeetna area. She is proud of her heritage and it shows in her work for KNBA, but also in her leadership positions at UAA.

“I was the first person to bring land acknowledgements to both ASA and to Concert Board meetings,” Bissett said, “I feel it’s a significant part of being literate is knowing what land you are on and supporting that.”

In her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Bissett took on a lot of administrative roles. “I was doing like four people’s jobs when I was president,… I’m not a very sociable person so I really focused on organization of events and then let the other people do the social stuff.”

In these background roles Bissett was able to triple her sororities size and improve retention rate of members.

In her internship with the Federation of Alaska Institute, Bissett was given the opportunity to get a leg up in an industry she would not have connections to. Bissett was placed with a radio news outlet for Alaska Natives KNBA 90.3. After the summer ended the station kept her on as a part time journalist. She now writes stories for Alaska Natives with local and national interests.

She held leadership positions in most of these organizations. Starting in this last semester Bissett stepped down from many of her roles choosing to be nice to herself she says, but also so she can mentor those who will take over for her.

After Bissett graduates in May, with a degree in International Relations,  she plans on getting her graduate degree in public policy and then go to law school. She wants to study Tribal Law and bring awareness to its existence and regulations. 

True North Magazine

True North is a publication of the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Journalism and Public Communications. It has been published since 1995.