Regents approve UAF College of Indigenous Studies

The University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Rural and Community Development is now the College of Indigenous Studies. The University of Alaska Board of Regents unanimously approved the name change at its May 23 meeting in Anchorage.

Four people sit on chairs in front of a birch tree mural as they hold up traditional Alaska Native drums.
UAF Photo by Suzi Tanski
Members of the Iñu-Yupiaq Dance Group pose in the Wood Center after their workshop during the 2023 Indigenous Peoples Day, a community event hosted by the College of Indigenous Studies. From left are Alliyah Nay, Naatanii Mayo, Cavelila Wonhola and Sonni Shavings.

“As a leading research university in the Arctic, UAF is committed to integrating Indigenous knowledge with Western science to address global challenges,” said Charlene Stern, UAF’s vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education, earlier this week. “Becoming the first-ever College of Indigenous Studies in the nation within a public university is a huge step forward for us and for advancing the positioning of Indigenous education within academia at large.”

The newly minted College of Indigenous Studies has roots dating back to 1972 with the establishment of the Kuskokwim Campus, the university’s first rural community college. Five years later, the university established the College of Rural Education and Extension. 

Today, the College of Indigenous Studies offers 27 degree programs and includes the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, the Alaska Native Language Center, the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development, Rural Student Services and the Center for One Health Research. The college also includes UAF’s community campuses in Nome, Kotzebue, Bethel, Dillingham and Interior Alaska locations. 

“I have experienced firsthand the importance of recognizing and celebrating Indigenous cultures and knowledge within our academic and athletic community,” said Destiny Reimers, a recent UAF graduate who spoke to regents during public testimony on Monday. Reimers is now pursuing a master’s degree in rural development at the College of Indigenous Studies. “The name change not only strengthens the college’s identity but also reflects its unique position within the university, as well as nationally and internationally.”

The College of Indigenous Studies creates culturally relevant, unique and remote learning opportunities for its students. With a focus on preserving Indigenous languages, it offers the world's only bachelor's degrees in Inupiaq and Yup'ik. In addition, the Indigenous studies Ph.D. program is the only distance-delivered curriculum of its kind that enables students to complete their degrees from anywhere in the world. 

“The regents’ approval of the UAF College of Indigenous Studies represents more than a simple renaming,” said UAF Chancellor Dan White. “It’s essential to strengthening our international leadership in Alaska Native and Indigenous research and education.” 

The college will eventually be housed in the new Troth Yeddha’ Indigenous Studies Center, which is slated for construction on the west ridge of the Troth Yeddha’ Campus in Fairbanks. Regents formally approved the project in February. 

MORE INFORMATION: Visit the College of Indigenous Studies website.