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Title III Projects

Current Title III Sitka projects

Sitka Start

Sitka Start is a UAS Sitka campus initiative to support Sitkans of any age or background through the first stages of their higher education studies. Participating students are offered financial assistance and personalized attention as well as opportunities to connect with a cohort of peers.

Through involvement in a first semester cohort and a required one-credit course, Sitka Start students become part of a community of new students in similar positions and gain skills for learning in college and beyond. Through interactions with their cohort, faculty and staff, and the broader community in Sitka, students form and strengthen their social and career networks.

The SUPPORT team revitalized this existing program in Summer 2021 and is currently collecting information on how it can be improved and sustained for the future.

Student Outreach and Personalized Support

Through referrals from academic advisors, staff, and faculty, SUPPORT Specialists provide personalized support to diverse Sitka Campus students. Together, the SUPPORT Specialists and students create a plan to meet either one time or regularly throughout the semester via phone call, email, or Zoom. During these meetings, the SUPPORT Specialists are able to offer guidance, accountability, resource sharing, and personalized success plans that give students the necessary tools and confidence to achieve their academic goals.

Curriculum Development and Enhancement

To help the Sitka Campus foster the skills, habits, and mindsets relevant to the 21st century, the SUPPORT team works with faculty to develop and enhance their course curricula to be more inclusive, relevant, co-creative, and student-centered.

Mindful Learning Course

Mindful Learning is an all-new, one-credit course developed by SUPPORT faculty, Sara Tomczuk, that introduces students to a variety of techniques for more self-aware learning. The course explores practices such as mindful awareness and self-reflection, and engages with ideas from diverse fields, such as Indigenous knowledge, neuroscience, and education research.

More than just study skills, techniques for learning mindfully help shape students into more self-directed learners who can better monitor and adjust their learning approaches. Self-directed learners are able to articulate what they know, apply their learning to new situations, and know when to ask for help or seek support.

The strategies and techniques in Mindful Learning are important for success in college, but also directly transfer to challenges and situations in students' families, careers, and communities where situations, information, and technology are ever-changing.

Metacognitive Reflection Portfolio in Writing Course

Dr. Math Trafton, SUPPORT Director and Associate Professor of English, worked with Dr. Sara Tomczuk to transform his WRTG 111: Writing Across Contexts course for Fall 2021. Changes included refocusing the assignments and readings around the notion of place and the region of Southeast Alaska. This involved selecting new short stories, many by Alaskan authors, set in the state, and revising assignments to address social issues in the state of Alaska.

Together they designed a reflection portfolio in which students would post weekly entries, visible to their classmates, often involving multimedia elements, such as photographs, drawings, and even audio recordings. Sara and Math crafted weekly prompts encouraging students to think deeply about writing, reading, and learning—to underscore students’ individual connections to those activities. The objectives were to build students’ metacognitive knowledge and regulation throughout the semester so that they become more self-directed and confident learners.

Culture and Society Health Sciences Modules

SUPPORT faculty, Dr. Sara Tomczuk collaborated with Associate Professor Amy Samuel to create two new modules for HS101: Introduction to Health Sciences. The first module, entitled “The Social Determinants of Health,” introduced the concept of health inequities and demonstrated how social structures affects patients’ health. Students then participated in a discussion of how resources and barriers to access care may affect their communities.

A second module, “Culture, Society, and Healthcare,” challenged students to explain and justify the meaning of cultural competence in health care, to analyze culturally competent strategies in healthcare scenarios, and to reflect on personal or professional experiences with healthcare, culture, and bias. A short response paper encouraged students to consider and explain those experiences using the concepts introduced in the module.

These two modules ensured that students considering the health care professions were introduced to the essential elements of social equity and cultural competence from the start of their studies. Further, students who may have faced barriers to healthcare would have their experiences represented.

Staff and Faculty Resources

Working on ourselves is an important part of serving our students and community!

Perspectives on Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity (PIED) Series

By request of Sitka Campus Director, Dr. Paul Kraft, the SUPPORT team began organizing monthly opportunities for campus employees to engage with Perspectives on Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity (PIED) in Spring 2021. All Sitka Campus faculty and staff were invited to participate: exploring issues, reviewing concepts, and practicing open conversations on sometimes challenging topics.

In Fall 2021, PIED took on the topic of trauma-informed pedagogy with a three-part series on teaching and learning with a sensitivity to the possible effects of trauma on college students. The series included visiting speaker, Jody Hassel, adjunct professor of English at UAF and executive director of Blossom House, a trauma-informed yoga and wellness non-profit organization in Fairbanks. Jody’s session focused especially on using attunement towards student’s experience in online learning environments to create safer spaces.

The SUPPORT team is interested in speakers and topics for future PIED sessions. Please reach out to any member of the SUPPORT team if you have an idea or speaker in mind.

Student Engagement Plan & Student Navigator Plan

The SUPPORT team is developing plans to better equip staff and faculty with strategies, tools and resources to reach and support students on their educational journey. The team is particularly interested in helping staff and faculty empower students with these skills. These include: normalizing and encouraging help-seeking behaviors, proactively addressing financial concerns, advancing student self-efficacy, and cultivating a sense of belonging. One of the tools developed for this purpose is a new student dashboard, which enhances the way our campus proactively monitors student success.

Student and Employee Research

SUPPORT collaborates with the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research (CAEPR) at University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) to collect data from Sitka Campus students and employees to better understand student support experiences. Ongoing findings both inform and evaluate the activities of the SUPPORT grant.

Campus Reading Club

During the Fall 2021 semester, the Title III SUPPORT grant team invited all Sitka Campus faculty and staff to a series of informal reading club discussions of Robin Wall Kimmerer's book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (2013). The discussions explored the intersections and complementary possibilities of scientific knowledge and Indigenous ways of knowing — with a focus on what that means for research, teaching, and the mission of the UAS Sitka Campus.

Quantitative and Information Literacy Faculty Workshop

In April 2021, Dr. Sara Tomczuk organized a faculty workshop for the UAS Sitka Campus natural science professors. The focus of the workshop was to identify the ways quantitative and information literacy skills are not an explicit part of course learning outcomes. The session asked: how can these skills be better scaffolded and supported in science courses without overburdening the students with more content? In the 90-minute workshop, faculty shared their experiences of student challenges, explained which techniques they already employed, and brainstormed new approaches to quantitative and information literacy.

Community Engagement

SUPPORT is dedicated to better knowing our students and our community, through reaffirming and strengthening partnerships between the UAS Sitka Campus and local organizations.

Discussion Panels

The UAS Sitka Campus is a community hub for ideas and conversations. One of the ways the SUPPORT staff promotes this role is through hosting discussion panels. The latest discussions are about land acknowledgements—what they are, what purpose they serve, what actions should follow, and what organizations in Sitka have learned about implementing them.

Community Partners

Currently the SUPPORT staff meets with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Cultural Resources, Education, and Employment Department (CREED) once a month to collaborate on projects. The team is looking to expand the network of community partners that align with our values and goals. If you would like to collaborate with the team on a project, please contact Courtney MacArthur at cemacarthur@alaska.edu.