Q & A with NANA Employees

A Conversation with Kristine Couse, HR Onboarding Administrator

This is part of a series of interviews to learn more about our diverse employees throughout the NANA family.

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Kristine Couse, a NANA shareholder with family from Kiana, is an onboarding administrator for new hires in camp services and security. Photo by Craig Billingsley.

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

Ikkaiyuk. I was named after my great-aana (great-grandmother), Belle Cook.

Where is your family from?

My mom, Norma Morena Couse, is originally from Kiana (up the Kobuk River from Kotzebue). My aana (grandmother), Hilda Morena, still lives there. She’s 93. My dad, Toby Couse, grew up in Nyack, New York.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Fairbanks. When I was in the second grade, we moved to Kiana and then to Anchorage.

What was your first job?

I scooped ice cream at Baskin-Robbins in the Northway Mall (in east Anchorage). My favorite flavor is Cookies ‘n Cream (vanilla ice cream with Oreo pieces).

Who has inspired you?

I’ve always looked up to my dad. He worked really hard to provide for his family—for me and my two siblings. We never wanted for anything. I carry that with me, in my life, so that I can do the same for my two children.

After years of hard work, it’s good to see my dad and mom enjoy the fruits of his labor. They finally get to retire. They bought a second home, paid in full, in Buckeye, Arizona (a fast-growing suburb of Phoenix).

Who encouraged you to come work for NANA?

Ron Adams recruited me. He placed me at NANA/Colt (now NANA WorleyParsons) as the receptionist and admin assistant. Later, I moved to shareholder development as an administrative assistant III.

Tell us a little about shareholder development.

For almost 10 years, Kristina McCall was my boss. She took me under her wing and taught me so much over the years. She’s been an influential person in my life.

Our department included Annette Zella, Tami Krukoff, Ron Adams and Denise Koutchak. Three times a year, we traveled to communities in the NANA region to work with youth. We adjusted the Junior Achievement curriculum to make it relevant. We did things like change cows and horses to moose and caribou.

What’s your current job?

I onboard new employees in camp services or security positions. After a job offer is accepted, I process paperwork, background checks, fit for duty exams and drug testing results.

I work with De’Andra Harris, who has all this knowledge in her head which she shares with me. Her positive attitude is contagious. We need that high energy since we’re super busy. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I love it.

What do you like best about your job?

It’s my dream job! I’d been praying about a job in HR. Every day is different, crazy, hectic, but it doesn’t seem like work.

We make a difference in people’s lives. Gaining employment means they can provide for their families. You don’t know how far this reaches. You can see how much they appreciate the opportunity to work for an amazing company. It’s a blessing.

What advice do you have for young shareholders?

Keep a positive attitude. Be open to constructive criticism.

Be ready and available. When you accept a job offer, be reachable and responsive.

Keep out of trouble. Stay healthy and drug-free. When people don’t pass their drug tests or their background checks, we have to make some uncomfortable phone calls.

What important lessons have you learned?

When you make mistakes, own up to them. The sooner you say something, the sooner it can be fixed. I have a good conscience, so I’m not afraid to speak up and just own it. Never be afraid to ask questions.

Speaking of questions, what do people in the Lower 48 ask when they find out you’re from Alaska?

Are there cars up there? Are there Eskimos? Do we live in igloos?

What are you grateful for?

My family. My son is a senior at Bartlett (High School). He’s a good kid: smart, well-mannered, an old soul. He’s into sports and plays varsity football. My daughter is five, going on 15. She’s starting kindergarten.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I’m a hardcore Chitina dipnetter. I love Copper River salmon! But every year the river changes. Last year, I limited out in a day and a half, just standing on the shore. This year, we haven’t had any luck. Yet.

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Kristine Couse was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.