Board Chair Catkin Kilcher Burton and six other members have fulfilled their terms on the Forum Board as of Sept. 30, 2017: Christa Bruce and Dave Kiffer of Ketchikan; Joan Braddock of Fairbanks; and Jeane Breinig, Renee Duncan, and Kurt Wong of Anchorage.
We asked them to share their answers to three questions:
1. How has your board experience changed your perspective(s)?
2. What moment or experience from your board service sticks in your mind?
3. What have you done differently outside of the Forum as a result of your time on the board?
Take a moment to share in the excerpts from their answers.
Catkin Kilcher Burton, Chair
Retired Col., USMC and Co-Founder, Eagles Enterprises
I’ve been fortunate to see up-front the many faces and resources of Alaska and have been working to synthesize these with my world travels as a Marine. The opportunity to better understand the history and cultures of people across the state and the different struggles, resource availability and victories families faced and achieved in different locations has been amazing.
Catkin Kilcher Burton retired as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps after serving 31 years in numerous countries, including combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. She currently lives in both Anchorage and also Homer, where she was raised and continues to be actively involved in the Kilcher Family Trust that helps maintain her family homestead and museum. Catkin holds two Masters of Science degrees, serves on the JBER Civilian Advisory Board, and is President of the Captain Cook Chapter of the Military Officer’s Association of America. Her military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Korean Service, Medal and the Legion of Merit. Catkin joined the Alaska Humanities Forum Board in 2011 as a gubernatorial appointee and has served as Chair for the past three years. She has been especially active in the Forum’s national and state advocacy efforts, with a special affinity for the Standing Together working group and Duty Bound program.
Joan Braddock, Ph.D., Past Chair
I think one of the most moving experiences for me was attending the culture camp on Afognak Island. It was a joy to see kids and teachers learning language and culture from elders. A truly unforgettable experience.
Now retired, Joan Braddock was employed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks for more than 20 years as a faculty member and administrator. Her positions included professor of microbiology, chair of the Department of Biology and Wildlife, dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics, director of the University of Alaska Press, and interim dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She is a lifelong Alaskan and strong advocate for humanities programs across the state. She joined the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Board in 2011, shortly after serving as a member of the 2010 NEH Site Visit team. In her term as Chair, then Past Chair, Joan provided the Forum with strong leadership and strategic vision.
Jeane Breinig, Ph.D.
Professor of English and Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Alaska Natives & Diversity, University of Alaska Anchorage
My time as AHF board member was a joy. It introduced me to new perspectives, and news ways of thinking about Alaska’s peoples and their literary, artistic, and creative expressions. Alaska is rich in cultures and traditions, and the Alaska Humanities Forum supports and empowers people to tell their own stories in their own words.
Jeane Breinig specializes in American Literature with an emphasis in American Indian and Alaska Native Literatures. She is co-editor and contributing author of A Retrospective Analysis of Alaska Statehood from Native Perspectives (2011) and Alaska Native Writers, Storytellers & Orators: The Expanded Edition (1999). Her research interests include oral history, Native language restoration, and decolonizing theories and methodologies. She has written a Haida language arts curriculum, completed a Haida elders' interview project, and co-produced a video based on the interviews. In her current position as Interim VC for Alaska Natives & Diversity, she is helping UAA implement their Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DA/IP) based upon an 18 month process involving focus groups, interviews, and surveys collected from students, staff, and faculty. Jeane has provided thoughtful insight on the overall strategy of the Forum’s programs. She has been on the Board since 2011.
Christa Bruce, Secretary
I remember a dear Yup'ik friend who asked: What is it that fuels the fire in your belly? The question set me back a bit. Somewhat slow to respond, I formed an answer: Seeing humankind thrive. As a public school teacher, I used to say that I "grew" people. What I realized at the Alaska Humanities Forum is that giving people voice, we build a healthier Alaska.
Christa Bruce has been an educator in Alaska for over 45 years, spanning from the elementary school classroom to graduate university teaching, as well as the Alaska Statewide Mentor Program. Christa received an Administrative Fulbright Fellowship to the Czech Republic and a sabbatical to teach English in Japan. She was invited by the U.S. Department of State to facilitate online conversations on social justice in Azerbaijan which paralleled Breadloaf School of English collaborative work with rural students in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Mississippi, Alaska and post-soviet democracies. Christa is an Annenberg Scholar and has an honorary degree conferred by the University of Alaska for her extensive contributions to education. Christa has provided great insight on the Forum’s rural education programs in Alaska. Christa joined the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Board of Directors in 2010 as a gubernatorial appointee and lives in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Director, Children Ministries BRBC
The Humanities Forum is about connecting our stories, experiences and providing connections through discussion and interaction. When we are willing to “hear” people and their stories it creates opportunity to restore community and our stories become more defined.
Renée Duncan of Anchorage is the Director of Children Ministries for Baxter Road Bible Church, an international speaker, and life-coach. While living in Soldotna, she served as the Director of Alaska Women Ministries AG, and as a member of the Lt.Gov. Faith Based Community Initiative, the Kenai Peninsula Emergency Food and Shelter Board, the Women of Impact Board, and the Soldotna Republican Precinct. Renée is also active in the arts, a writer and a radio persona. She continues to perform before distinguished audiences both locally and abroad. Renee’ received a degree in humanities from Northwest College. She joined the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Board of Directors in 2014 as a gubernatorial appointee.
Council member, Ketchikan City Council
Before I was on the board, I tended to view humanities - or at least my definition of humanities - fairly narrowly. But I have learned in the past six years that humanities is a very broad topic, it involves just about every aspect of life, in this case every aspect of life in Alaska. It has helped me see the interconnectedness of all the different regions of Alaska in a new and positive way.
Dave Kiffer is currently the Education Coordinator at the Ketchikan Correctional Center and a Ketchikan City Council Member. For six years, he was the Mayor of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and for five previous years he was a Borough Assembly member. He is also a free-lance writer, historian, poet and a local musician who also teaches music. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska-Ketchikan. Dave also provides a valued statewide perspective to the Forum. He has been a member of the Board since 2011.
Kurt Wong, C.P.A.
This experience has broadened my view of community connection and understanding of various culture issues and differences, and changed my perspectives by expanding the capacity of humanity.
Kurt Wong is currently working for Tanadgusix Corporation (TDX), a Village Corporation of St. Paul Island, which is one of the Pribilof Islands, located in the Bering Sea about 250 miles north of the Aleutian chain of Islands on Alaska’s southwest side with a population of under 500. Kurt provides strategic insight on the long-term financial direction for the Forum, as well as providing financial expertise on how to maximize the organization’s resources for long-term financial gain and how to manage the complexities of the Forum’s budgeting process. Kurt joined the Alaska Humanities Forum’s Board in 2011 and lives in Anchorage, Alaska.