If You Love Something, Why Not Make It a Career?
These student stories demonstrate the value of investing in themselves by furthering their education.
Robert Castro, Nursing Student
"I came here in 2006 from the Philippines. Being domiciled in mega-cities like Manila, the night the plane landed in Sitka I was like, "Where are the high rises?!" But then when the sun rose I saw the beauty of the ocean, the mountains. It is a peaceful place to be.
We have dreams for the kids, for the family, so we decided we need more college education. I've always wanted to be a nurse. I took the CNA course - just 3 months, and I got a job immediately. Then I took some HIM courses, and worked part time at the Community Hospital. Took nursing prerequisite courses, and last fall I was admitted into the Sitka Cohort of the UAA nursing program! Now I am about half way through my first year as a nursing student!
I find online study is very convenient. I can put the kids down for the night, then do my studying while they sleep."
"I had a high school diploma, and did try college right after high school, but I wasn't ready. So I moved to Seattle and got a job working at a hardware store. It was brutal, and I was crying myself to sleep at night.
I heard about HIM and it appealed to me because I wanted to be prepared for an actual job, without running up debt. I enrolled, started taking courses, and was able to work while I went to school. The time went by a lot faster than I expected ... suddenly, I had graduated!
Now, just a couple of years later, I am heading up a small hospital HIM program.
The Sitka Campus didn't just change my future - it set me on a new trajectory. There is just no comparison ... without the HIM program I would be slinging boxes and needing back surgery!"
Zach Heathman, Fish Tech Student
"A few years ago I decided to go back to college. I was looking for an e-Learning program because I am living on my own and having to work full time. So I started looking around and I noticed that UAS offered a fish tech program. Right away it sounded like something that would be up my alley -- I've grown up here my whole life and I've always loved the [fishing] lifestyle....
I just pulled the trigger, and started with a small credit load. Because it's a distance-based degree, I didn't know quite what to expect. But I found that most of my fisheries based classes had quite a few hands on labs.
The hands on dimension is the best part of the whole program. We got to go out to some hatcheries, and rotated different tasks, and really got a feel if that's something you would like to do for a living or not.
Also there's the opportunity to work for the state, such as the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. I did an internship with Fish & Game. It was fun and informative ... now my goal is to work for the State of Alaska.
I would say the Fish Tech program at UAS has been a very positive experience. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about fish culture and what really happens out here. And that's what the fish tech program teaches you. It gives you a much better understanding, start to finish, of how this whole process works.
If you love the ocean, and fishing, why not make it a career?"
Mary Olsen, NWC Arts Student
"When I first met Delores Churchill, I took a class with her. We went to Haida Gwaii and gathered spruce root. It was back before the Golden Spruce was cut down. Delores showed us many things.
One of the things that I have found, living in the outback or the forest, living off the grid, and my experience gathering and weaving, is how it connects us to the people who have come before us. When you go into the forest and see places on the tree that have been taken for the bark, and used for these utilitarian items, it just gives me a warm feeling to see that there were people standing in this very spot, and the tree is still growing.
And then I go to the museums, and see the work and ... to see how hard they worked, without good light ... and here they were living right here and doing the very same things. And they made it so beautiful. To think of the people and how hard they worked makes a nice connection for us. But also respect."
Mike Stenberg, AETC, USCG Ret., BLA Graduate
"I finished my military career and made a decision to pursue a Liberal Arts degree through the Sitka Campus. I took some amazing local art classes as well as a wide variety of e-Learning subjects. It was a great decision, I studied history and art with technology ..."
Marsha Togiak, Welding Graduate
"I took six welding classes at UAS while I was at Mt Edgecumbe High School. Allen Puckett is probably the best teacher I have ever had. I just passed my level 6G pipe test!"
Trin Sturgeon, Fish Tech Student
"I grew up on the Missouri River… I was 2 blocks away in Oacoma South Dakota. And I just started sport fishing. I love sport fishing. ... And as I got older I decided maybe I should turn it into something profitable, something I could be doing and enjoy doing. I was tired of having jobs that I didn't like going to every day. Every day I'd be driving along on the way to work and I would enter the parking lots of the places I worked and an overwhelming feeling would come over me: "This is not it." And I didn't like it. So I decided it was time to go back to school and do something I like doing.
I planned to go back to school and then go to Alaska to do commercial fishing but, I kind of got more entangled in the scientific arena. I started getting more curious, and dived deeper and deeper into my education about fisheries.
I started school in South Dakota, but they wanted a Bachelor's degree or a Master's degree, and the availability of job placement just wasn't there… they were all out-of-state.
So I started looking into Alaska and realized fishing is the biggest industry of Alaska -- fish are the number one resource up here, so I found UAS and found it was only a two year program. I decided to transfer to UAS and finish out the degree there and get into the field sooner. And [because of their internships] while I was getting the education I could get experience at the same time.
The Fisheries Technology program allows you to get right out into the job field, pretty much immediately. In most cases what I found is that people around me were getting jobs before they would even graduate.
The best part about taking classes online is the ability to take classes anywhere at any time as long as you have internet access.
The networking system is big here. And it ends up turning a vast area into a small town, is what it does. You meet people in the education field, and they know people in the industry field outside, so if you move somewhere else, you already know people. While I was going to school they told me about a job in Kake -- I have one class to go and I'm already working as a fish culturist III.
If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life."
Amy Valley, Nursing Graduate
[Describe the Sitka Campus] "You have the water right in front of you: views from every window. Everyone is very friendly, very helpful. There's a very nice Success Center here that I spend a lot of time in. Laptops you can borrow; you can print things, make copies, study areas, even a nice lunch room that has a lot of natural light in it, and I like to sit in there and study.... The teachers are professionals I can not only learn from but look up to and want to have skills like them. They are patient advocates. And as nursing students, that's at the core of what we want to be, patient advocates. We want to give the best care we can and do our best for our patient -- and work holistically.... [Describe the UAA nursing cohort in Sitka] There are 9 students in our cohort here in Sitka. Each and every one of them is different and unique in their own way. We have formed a good team. We all work very well together, we care about each other. We're supportive. We help each other out when we need it. That has been a great impact on the experience -- we spend a lot of time together. We're able to get a lot of one-on-one time with our instructors.... It's a small enough town that we get a lot of specialists who come in to give us instruction that we might not get elsewhere. [Did you grow in confidence at UAS?] "I think it has taken me awhile to get to the point where I believe in me.... I haven't always been the most confident person. Even in my first conferences with my instructor, she was encouraging me to be more confident in myself -- and that's something that, over this first year in nursing school, I've improved on. I've gained confidence in myself, and a lot of that stems from people having confidence in me. ... Believing in yourself is what's going to get you through a program like this. If you don't have faith that you are able to accomplish these goals, you might not accomplish them. ... This wouldn't have been possible without UAS. The people here at UAS assisting me, and helping me achieve my goals, has made me believe that I can do this. ... If I was talking to a friend, I would say that UAS has been here for me in everything that I have needed. It is an amazing campus. The staff is all amazing -- and I wouldn't have been able to do it without UAS.... For me, UAS has been a perfect fit. I've attended many universities and UAS is great. Everything that you need. Right here. In the small town of Sitka, Alaska, it's got everything that you need....[What do you think of Sitka?] Oh, man, there's a lot that I like about Sitka. First of all, it's the prettiest place that I've ever lived. It's gorgeous at all times of the year. The summertime, the wintertime right now, with the mountains all frosty with snow. I like the opportunity we have to be outside. Although it does rain a lot and it can be gray, it's still beautiful. The trails all over town that you can hike up. It's peaks, right here. Hop on your boat and go to beaches. I've never lived in a really small town before. Living in a town of about 8000 people, which Sitka has -- it's got a really nice community feel. People are always looking out for each other. When I first moved here I thought it was kind of weird how friendly everyone was.... everyone just starts talking to you, and introduces themselves -- and really follow through with what they say. There are community events all the time -- always something to do. It's a really nice place to live. It would be a really nice place to raise a family, and even as a young couple it's been a really nice place to move to. So one of my favorite aspects to living here in Sitka is the people. Lots of artists ... unique things they make right here ... we even have a farmers market here with local food.