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Spring Convocation 2010

Retention, Engagement, & Community


Photo by Ryan Cortes

Spring Convocation included an update from the Chancellor’s Task Force on Student Retention and Success. At the Juneau Campus General Assembly of Faculty and Staff Monday morning (January 11, 2010) members Sol Neely, Wendy Girven and Jill Dumensil presented some of the initial findings of the group tasked with identifying ways to keep more students engaged in campus life and ultimately, graduating from UAS.

Student testimony to the group identified lack of campus community as the main issue. English faculty Sol Neely said the alienation felt by some students could be ameliorated with more opportunities for student activism and campus solidarity. He acknowledged such goals could be, “hard to engender with distance education.”

Proposed solutions included an Events coordinator position, first year experience/ freshman seminar, opportunities for service learning, civic engagement and student leadership and a campus book project.* (see related article)

Following the presentation, student Gloria Anderstrom provided an inspiring example of a student engaged in creating community at UAS and whose education is providing her an avenue for activism. On behalf of the Cultural Infusion Committee, Anderstrom did a command performance of a talk that won first place at the 2009 Native Oratory competition held at UAA. “UAS is one of a kind in that it really embraces the Native Culture and the values of the Native people,” she said. “The truth is all universities are on Native land but the difference is UAS really embraces that.”

Anderstrom gave a presentation about environmental damage and tainted subsistence shellfish resulting from debris left behind by military activities near her hometown of Yakutat during World War 2. The damage is linked to cancer clusters in Yakutat. Anderstrom’s mother recently died of breast cancer. Anderstrom encouraged the UAS community to get involved with groups working to clean up the damage left by WW2 in Alaska such as Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Yakutat Tribe. “No one is going to do something about this than us,” she said.


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