The UAF Bristol Bay campus commencement ceremony focused on rural campuses as key to providing opportunities for local people to work in their communities.
The University of Alaska Bristol Bay Campus held its graduation ceremony Saturday. The 57 graduates received recognition for completing programs, ranging from occupational endorsements to Master’s degrees.
“For some of them, they’ve been attending classes for a particular degree or endorsement for just a year,” said Sarah Andrew, acting director of the UAF Bristol Bay campus. “For many of them it’s numerous years to achieve their goal. And so to me it’s a real celebration of persistence and dedication to education.”
The ceremony’s recurring message was that educational institutions like the UAF Bristol Bay campus can help involve local people in the community. Vice chair of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Dorothy Larson, delivered the commencement address. Evon Peter, vice-chancellor for rural, community and native education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was also in attendance.
“These rural campuses are critical to the regions they serve, and they’re critical to our state,” said Peter. “This is where rural communities have access to post-secondary education and workforce training and development. I think that they’re integral partners at the community level, with K-12 education, with industry, with nonprofits and tribes. As more rural Alaska native students make their way through masters and PhD programs, I would like to see them return back to their communities as research faculty, as teaching faculty, really researching and looking at the issues that are of most importance to the rural communities and the Alaska native communities, and so I think that’s the direction that we’ll be heading more in.”
Evelyn Olson, a student who received her Masters of Business Administration, spoke to this point as well.
“I think that when you have a local filling a position that person’s going to stay. They’re invested in the community, so that’s a lot of the message I want to get across, was that getting an education’s not easy, but it’s attainable if you just take it one step at a time and work very hard,” Olson said.
Andrew emphasized that the Bristol Bay Campus’ efforts are strongly influenced by community input. The Bristol Bay Campus advisory council, community members and partner organizations have helped the university develop programs, including sustainable energy, welding, and health and human services.
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