Friday Focus: Highlighting UA's Alaska Native Success Initiative

June 17, 2021

Tori Tragis

Charlene Stern. Photo by Rachel Saylor, Tanana Chiefs Conference.
Charlene Stern. Photo by Rachel Saylor, Tanana Chiefs Conference.

— by Charlene Stern, interim vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education

In January 2021, President Pitney kicked off the Alaska Native Success Initiative (ANSI) to help frame a set of goals and processes for addressing Alaska Native educational success throughout the University of Alaska system. In support of this effort, a steering committee was formed to advise the president, in addition to three university-based action teams. The UAF ANSI team members included a small working group of administrators, faculty, students, staff and community representatives, including Dr. Anna Frank, first chief of Denakkanaaga.

The UAF ANSI team adopted an asset-based approach that sought to build on existing strengths and best practices. Today, one of UAF’s six strategic goals is to “solidify our global position in Alaska Native and Indigenous programs.” We have tremendous opportunity to build on existing programs and models within UAF that have a record of demonstrated success when it comes to supporting rural and Indigenous students. Included in that record are the five rural campuses, which extend the university’s reach to a much broader geography across the state.

Additionally, UAF has numerous rural and/or Indigenous-focused degree programs, including tribal governance, Alaska Native studies, rural development, rural human services, Indigenous studies and more. Another unique feature of UAF is Rural Student Services, which consists of a team of advisors who provide comprehensive advising to rural and Indigenous students. UAF is also home to the Rural Alaska Honors Program (RAHI), which facilitates rural and Alaska Native high school juniors and seniors with an opportunity to spend 6 weeks on campus and earn 8-11 college credits. This summer, 52 RAHI students will be experiencing college life for the first time on UAF’s campus!

UAF has an impressive infrastructure of people, places and programs from which to draw inspiration for future ANSI related work. For now, the UAF ANSI team is working hard to analyze baseline data on Alaska Native/American Indian demographics and to develop a set of preliminary recommendations that will be incorporated in a draft strategic plan, which will be considered by the Board of Regents in fall 2021. We look forward to sharing more updates on this important work in the near coming months. Stay tuned!

Friday Focus is a column written by a different member of UAF’s leadership team every week. On occasion, a guest writer is invited to contribute a column.