When Sammye Pokryfki speaks, you can’t help but feel inspired. No matter the topic—family, Alaska, literature or her work at the Rasmuson Foundation—Sammye has the skills to keep you listening.
Today, this vice president of programs has hit her stride. She is all about enjoying life, its pleasures and giving back to the community. Sammye feels she is exactly where she should be in her career, working at the Rasmuson Foundation, volunteering on nonprofit boards and taking part in improving the state of Alaska.
“I love what I do,” she says. “It’s extremely rewarding to work on projects that help solve some critical issues we face in our state.”
Sammye is definitely passionate about Alaska and its future. She came to Alaska as a toddler when her father, an Army and Vietnam War veteran, was stationed at Fort Richardson and has lived here ever since.
“It’s a place that pulls at you. Although most of my family eventually moved away, it never really occurred to me to leave,” she says.
So stay she did, and after marrying her husband and having two kids, she settled in Talkeetna, enjoying life as a wife and mother. Ten years later, she was ready to go back to school. “I wanted a career that allowed me to help people and society,” she says.
She first enrolled at Mat-Su College and earned an Associate of Arts degree in 1996. She then enrolled at UAA, intending to focus on psychology and counseling.
“I didn’t really connect with the [psychology] material,” Sammye admits. Luckily, she was taking a few electives in social work and English; she quickly realized where she needed to be and with her nose to the grindstone, Sammye tackled her coursework and looked forward to her career in social work.
“Social work was the perfect career path because the values of the profession are so closely aligned with my personal values,” she says. “It was a no brainer, this was what I had to do.”
After Sammye earned her B.S.W., the advanced placement program had her on the fast track for a master’s. Sammye earned her M.S.W in 1999 and even after she began working full time, she continued to take courses that led to a B.A. in English in 2004. “I’m somewhat of a literature nerd. I used to think it was a crime that kids were restricted to only checking out five books at a time from the library,” she laughs.
Fast-forward to 2013 and here she is, working for the Rasmuson Foundation and celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary with her husband. Sammye has two adult children, including a son who graduated from UAA with a degree in history, a daughter now enrolled in graduate school in Portland, and two granddaughters.
“Now, I have the concept of time and how precious it is,” she says. “UAA has grown so much since I was a student. I enjoyed my time at UAA and I’m very proud to be a UAA alumnus.”
Her ties to UAA don’t stop there. UAA’s Social Work Program has placed interns with Sammye for the past three years. “I love welcoming UAA students and showing them what we do at the Rasmuson Foundation. We really enjoy staying connected to the university,” says Sammye. “The social work department does an amazing job with the internship program.”
Sammye even takes an occasional class at UAA from time to time. “I’m a lifelong learner,” she says. “I love the atmosphere of engaging in discussion and learning from people. I always joke with my daughter, if I could get paid to go to school, I would go to school every day.”
When she’s not in the classroom or working on funding projects, Sammye is playing sports, staying active or spending time with her granddaughters. She recently coached them in their first triathlon. “I was so proud of them. It was a lot of fun cheering them on.”
“I’m really just enjoying life,” she says. “I have a great job, a wonderful family, the best grandkids and I’m enjoying every minute.”