Meet the Forum’s new VP of Operations—Helen Poitra-Chalmers

Nancy Hemsath • September 14, 2021

Helen poitra chalmers edited

Helen Poitra-Chalmers

The Forum is thrilled that Helen Poitra-Chalmers has joined our team as the Vice President of Operations.

Helen’s background as a lawyer for Alaska Native Corporations and Tribes gives her an insight into issues unique to Alaska Native and rural communities. Her focus in this newly-established position will be collaborating with the leadership team to strengthen and innovate cross-entity operational functions, from employee development to vendor management. In her spare time, Helen enjoys attending community events, experimenting with unfamiliar vegetables at her community garden plot, and the occasional hike in the nearby Chugach State Park.

Her answers to our round of questions tell you just a little more about Helen.

How are you connected to the Forum?
I’m pleased to have recently joined the Forum as the Vice President of Operations and am beyond excited to be working with Kari Lovett and Malik Allen on supporting the Forum’s inspiring and challenging programmatic work.

What’s one Alaskan story you’ve heard or read that you would recommend to others?
Looking out for Bigfoot can be an exercise in both personal safety and creative imagination!

What’s one thing you have been curious about lately?
How the COVID-19 pandemic has in some ways diminished our sense of interconnectedness, but in other ways fostered new ways of connecting. I never would have anticipated being able to have a thoughtful conversation with far-flung participants on a digital platform like Zoom, but now I know it’s possible, provided there’s sufficient internet bandwidth. I wonder what other ways the pandemic has shifted people’s sense of belonging and interdependence.

What question do you wish more people asked you?
I’ll flip this one around -- I actually wish more people would ask me if they could tell me more about themselves, where they come from, and where they are going. I am so inspired by people’s stories, and am infinitely curious to learn more about new friends and acquaintances when our life stories intersect, but I also don’t like to pry.

What conversations do we need to be having (or having more of) in Alaska?
Conversations discussing how we can reconcile our Alaskan identities with our American identities. I’m fascinated by how the geographical distance between Alaska and the Lower 48 promotes a unique Alaskan identity, and how that interacts with the ubiquitous federal presence in the state, from federal public lands to military installations.

Anything else you’d like to add, like your favorite ‘big talk’ question?
“How are you really doing?” in my opinion is a “big talk” question. I am always so honored when someone is willing to be vulnerable and share both their triumphs and challenges with me and I can reciprocate with the same.

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The Alaska Humanities Forum is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that designs and facilitates experiences to bridge distance and difference – programming that shares and preserves the stories of people and places across our vast state, and explores what it means to be Alaskan.

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