UA Regents hear support from Southwest Alaska
DILLINGHAM---Parents, students, alumni, civic and business leaders came out in force earlier this month to tell the University of Alaska Board of Regents the importance of the Bristol Bay Campus to the community and surrounding villages.
Two dozen community members relayed personal stories about the impact the campus has had on their lives.
Joseph Chythlook, the chair of the board of Bristol Bay Native Corp., said the campus provides important education specific to the region, which means a tremendous amount to people in the area. “Bristol Bay Campus has been a success story in many ways,” Chythlook said. “We’re behind your program and we’re glad we’ve been able to support your campus.”
In collaboration with University of Alaska Anchorage, the Dillingham campus—which is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ family of campuses---has plans to modestly expand the campus and begin offering nursing education within the next year.
Sarah Andrew of Head Start voiced support for the campus’ early childhood education program; Rachel Muir, a public health nurse, spoke about the need for locally trained people in health-care fields.
Dan Dunaway, a retired sport fisheries biologist for Fish and Game, recalled the top three candidates for an administrative assistant position all received their education through Bristol Bay Campus. “They were highly qualified, plus they were local,” Dunaway said. “This campus is important and makes an important contribution to this community.”
Deanna Hardin, with Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. and a lifelong Dillingham resident, said she appreciated being able to stay home while earning her college degree without having to uproot her family or leave her supportive community. All of her children are enrolled in the Bristol Bay Campus; one started their university education before finishing high school; one will soon graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Her oldest son was on the dean’s list last semester and her youngest will finish middle school with university credits already behind him.
“Here, we are able to provide for ourselves and our children by having the best of both worlds,” Hardin said. “Our toes are planted in our traditional lifestyle, yet we can still reach the stars with the Bristol Bay Campus.”
Pearl Strub of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. thanked UA President Mark Hamilton for his support during his 12 years overseeing the public system of colleges and universities. “When you came on, there was a threat of getting rid of the rural campuses. And you stood up and said ‘No, you’re important.’ Thank you,” she said.
It had been 13 years since the board has met in Dillingham.
“The April meeting has become one of our favorites, because we get to come out and visit our community campuses,” said Board Chair Cynthia Henry. “The community of Dillingham has certainly set the bar high for public testimony.”
In other business, the board took action on the following:
- Formal project approval of a $7.5 million federal grant to the Center for Alaska Native Health Research (UAF) to renovate and create space in Fairbanks and Bethel to support behavioral and nutritional health science research for Alaska Natives;
- Formal project approval of air handling and ventilation system improvements at Mat-Su College in Palmer, at $2.4 million in previously approved funds;
- Approval of emeritus status for retiring UA President Mark Hamilton, to be presented at UAF commencement;
- And ratification of incoming UA President Pat Gamble’s contract.