Sparrow has worked at the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 1985, focusing on work to share science with elementary and secondary school students and K-12 teachers.
|Elena Sparrow at UAF Commencement|
Her work with the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program works to engage students and teachers as citizen scientists. GLOBE is an international science and environmental education program in which students and teachers gather and analyze environmental data.
From classroom visits to community volunteerism to workshops for colleagues, both at UAF and throughout the international scientific community, Sparrow’s nominators consistently note the depth and breadth of her contributions to both science and education.
“Through her dedicated and effective methods of providing teachers with the information and tools needed to teach about the Alaskan environment, she has literally influenced tens of thousands of students,” said IARC Director Larry Hinzman. “She is an inspiration to all who meet her and she has absolutely made the world a better place through her dedicated efforts to educate students and the general public throughout the world.”
Multiple people wrote in support of Sparrow’s nomination for the award, several of them noting her strong influence on emerging young scientists through her work as a judge at school- and community-level science fairs.
One student, who is nearing the completion of her doctoral work at UAF, first met Sparrow in kindergarten as a participant and award winner at the Interior Alaska Science Fair.
“Dr. Elena Sparrow stood in front of the crowd to give the Alaska Women in Science awards. She called my name. I shook Dr. Sparrow’s hand and felt like a real scientist,” said Katie Villano Spellman. “I, too, hope to be a scientist who commits her career to building relationships between students, teachers and scientists and I look to Elena’s impressive public service as a model on how to do this with sincerity and passion.”
Sparrow holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of the Philippines, a master’s degree in soil microbiology from Cornell University and a doctorate in agronomy-soil microbiology from Colorado State University.She receives a cash award of $10,000.
Other recipients were Joseph Thompson for teaching and Roger Ruess for research.
Thompson, an associate professor of philosophy and humanities in the College of Liberal Arts, received the teaching award. Ruess, a professor of biology at the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology and College of Natural Science and Mathematics, received the research award. Sparrow, a research professor and education outreach director at the International Arctic Research Center, received the service award.
Thompson joined the university in 1999 and has taught a wide range of undergraduate courses, from introductory philosophy to core humanities classes to advanced senior thesis, according to a UAF news release.
College of Liberal Arts Dean Todd Sherman called him a student favorite, as well as “a hard-working and successful teacher who challenges his students to think critically and to be able to communicate their ideas through the spoken and written word.”
Ruess joined the faculty at UAF in 1989, after postdoctoral and faculty positions at Syracuse University and two years as a postdoctoral fellow with the National Science Foundation.
Ruess is an ecologist whose research has focused on the boreal forest. For the past three years, he has served as principal investigator for the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research Program, which involves approximately 20 researchers from UAF and other institutions.
Each year, a committee that includes members from the faculty, the student body and a member of the UA Foundation Board of Trustees evaluates the nominees.