Friday Focus: College rename, leading the nation

Charlene Stern, vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education
UAF photo by JR Ancheta
Charlene Stern, vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education

May 24, 2024

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

This week, the UA Board of Regents approved a regulation change that formalized the renaming of UAF’s College of Rural and Community Development to the College of Indigenous Studies. This action effectively makes UAF the first public institution of higher education in the nation to have such a college.

The name change which took effect immediately, came as the result of a two-year effort to solicit feedback in the renaming process. In its over 50-year history, CRCD has been known by different names and focused primarily on meeting local and regional educational needs across the Bristol Bay, Northwest, Chukchi, Kuskokwim and Interior Alaska regions. Over time, CRCD has grown significantly in size and scope to now include 27 degree programs (including baccalaureate and graduate programs) and several Centers including the Center for One Health Research, the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, and the Alaska Native Language Center.

The new name is in many ways a more accurate descriptor for the majority of the programs offered by our college while making explicit the unique expertise that our faculty and staff have to offer the state, nation and world. Since UAF first articulated its goal to strengthen our position as a global leader in Alaska Native and Indigenous Studies in 2019, we have been working hard to advance initiatives that support that broader effort. Those efforts have (and continue to) include supporting the renormalization and visibility of Alaska Native languages within the campus environment, investing in new student support positions for Rural Student Services and the Rural Alaska Honors Program, and advancing the future Troth Yeddha’ Indigenous Studies Center among many others.

As both an alumni and employee of UAF, I am incredibly proud to be a part of a university that regularly demonstrates its commitment to being a more inclusive place of belonging for all and, in doing so, is a leader for other post-secondary institutions.

Friday Focus is written by a different member of UAF’s leadership team every week.