Shareholder Spotlight: The Late Bernice Joseph
Joseph was born in Tanana and grew up in Nulato before moving to Fairbanks to attend high school. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and in 2013 was completing her doctorate from the University of South Australia Adelaide as a visiting scholar. Prior to her passing on January 7, 2014, Joseph served as vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education at UAF.
On March 23, 2017, the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) awarded the inaugural 2017 Bernice Joseph Award to the University of Hawai’i Community College for its data-rich sector mapping tool. The Bernice Joseph Award recognizes an institution or organization for creating a tool in the past academic year reflecting innovation, problem-solving capability, potential for impact and replicability in the two-year institution sector.
Most recently, Joseph was awarded a Ph.D. of Philosophy from the University of South Australia Adelaide (UniSA) for her completed doctorate requirements prior to her passing. Joseph’s doctorate degree was the first posthumous-awarded degree in history by UniSA. Joseph also pioneers as the first graduate of UniSA’s David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research. The college is recognized worldwide as the first to include indigenous content in every undergraduate program.
Joseph’s husband, Stewart Joseph, daughter, Alice Joseph, and mother, Edith Nicholas, received the degree on her behalf in Adelaide, South Australia on March 29, 2017.
“Bernice was a leader and pioneer in Indigenous education on Alaska and shared this knowledge and experience internationally,” stated UniSA Postgraduate Aboriginal Studies Director Dr. Peter Gale. “Bernice’s research contributes to international knowledge on Indigenous education.”
Joseph’s thesis, Indigenous and Western Knowledges: Transforming Educational Practices in Native Alaska, will be published in the near future by UniSA in a thesis e-library that can be accessed globally.
In Joseph’s own words (provided by Dr. Peter Gale), “The research highlights the intersection between Indigenous and western knowledges. It highlights how Indigenous people have historically experienced discrimination in educational sites and there has been a failure by western educational institutions to recognize and value Indigenous knowledge. I argue that it is critical for Indigenous people to develop political agency and overturn educational disadvantage through decolonizing the curriculum. As an Alaska Native Denaakke researcher, my research encompasses a holistic approach and is grounded in Denaakke values, beliefs, spirituality, the environment, language, and Indigenous philosophy.”