River S.

River S.
River S.

Just days after his discharge from the Navy in June 2021, River was in Alaska, following up on his interest in visiting the state. He thought he would try out college for a semester.

Two years later, he has experienced far more of Alaska than he could have imagined.

“That’s what’s been cool about ,” he said. “It’s allowed me to see more of it than I thought I would.”

River, who earned an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in May 2023, grew up in a small town in Georgia. During his four years in the Navy, he tracked maintenance on aircraft and spent time on a carrier, visiting Guam, the Philippines, Vietnam and Hawaii.

At , River joined ’s Climate Scholars program. It offers undergraduates unique opportunities to get involved in research and learning related to climate change.

With scholarship funding and his own money, he has traveled across Alaska to towns and villages — Homer, Juneau, Elfin Cove, Nome, Utqiaġvik and Circle. He wrote about his experiences for his Climate Scholars capstone project.


Often, River found a deep sense of community. “I was an outsider, and I would walk down the street, and they would be extremely nice to me, invite me in, offer to get me food,” he said. 

The idea of “coming together to fix any issue” seems a model for addressing a challenge like climate change, he said.

“I think that sometimes gets lost in other places in America — that community sense. I think you can find it in a lot of places in Alaska.”