Educational visit; UA officials hear good news

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2003

The University of Alaska's Board of Regents meeting concluded Friday at Kenai Peninsula College on a positive note.

Teachers, students and parents had plenty of good things to say about the university, its classes and support for the community.

The morning was devoted to meetings of the Finance and Audit Committee, and the Human Resources Committee. The full board also heard public testimony. The Kachemak Bay Campus of UAA was included in the testimony via satellite conference technology.

The general theme of the testimony from Homer was one of gratitude. Several current and former students expressed their appreciation for the services provided and stated hopes of a continuing extended campus program.

As the public testimony shifted to Kenai-Soldotna residents, the accolades continued.

Nancy Veal spoke on behalf of the Cooperative Extension Services and the 4-H program. She thanked the board for all of its support.

Mary Lambe and her husband also thanked the board for the assistance given to 4-H.

"We are eternally grateful to UAA," said Lambe. "The kids have learned a lot of skills about business, marketing and public speaking through 4-H."

Lambe said she has two daughters enrolled in UAA classes, and a 17-year-old planning to attend when she graduates from high school. As a community member and a mother, Lambe values the education her children are receiving.

Cara Steadman, a student at the KPC campus and a recipient of the UA Scholars Award, gave her thanks to the board.

"This campus is why I stay in school," she said.

James Fisher spoke his mind during the public testimony. He is a student at KPC, but his grandson, who is a junior at Soldotna High School, also attends classes there through the partnership with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

"I think it's a wonderful program to integrate kids into higher education," Fisher said.

Fisher also commented on his first enrollment at the college a few years ago to take the Death and Dying course after his wife passed away. He got a lot from the course and continues to take classes. He said he is grateful for the diversity of courses offered.

Mark Graves from the Coalition of Student Leaders used the public testimony to report on some of their efforts.

"We've recently conducted a postcard and a fax campaign with the goal to raise funds for the university," Graves said. "We are also planning educational rallies in Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage to let legislators know education is important to the community."

Dennis Murray of Heritage Place in Soldotna thanked the board for working with them to expand nursing opportunities, but he also had some suggestions.

"I want to encourage you to think about jobs in health care. We need to double the number of nurses, and we need your help to do that. I want to encourage you to consider brokering with other institutions on funding issues. If we can't do it internally, let's look externally, but in a way that will be a maximum benefit to our state," Murray said.

After the conclusion of the public testimony, UA President Mark Hamilton said he enjoyed what he heard.

"It gives us an idea of what needs to be fixed, directly from the people involved," he said. "We can also reflect on the programs that are working here. It's invigorating to hear the things we did today from 4-H and the others, and it's exciting to see how involved the community is. It lets us know this is worth supporting."

Hamilton and the other board members were complimentary on what a great visit it had been. They expressed their appreciation to KPC and Kenai-Soldotna for the experience.

"What we need to do is figure out how to clone KPC, because this is how community campuses are supposed to work," Hamilton said.

In the afternoon, the board members toured the KPC campus. This gave many of the new members a chance to see its facilities firsthand. Board members also spoke with several teachers and students during the tour.

Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology at KPC, toured the board through the archaeology lab.

"I want to impress upon you that we're working closely with the community," he said.

Boraas explained several of the past, present and future anthropology projects the university is involved in, and why they are important to fund and support.

"We're uniquely situated to do this kind of research," he said.

Two students majoring in anthropology, Sheri Dub and Gilbert Burkman, were on hand to provide information on research they've been involved in and share what they had learned at the college.

Board members interacted with the students and learned about various artifacts. They had to be prodded out of the lab by tour leaders, but not before Lee Gorsuch, UAA chancellor, personally commended Boraas.

"We thank you for the 30 years of hard work you've done for the college and the Alaska Natives," Gorsuch said.

The board also went through the machine shop, where many classes in metallurgy, welding and blueprint reading are taught.

"Forgive me for not shaking your hands, but you don't want what I've got on them" said Drew Obrian, the metal shop instructor known as O'bie to his students.

The tour wrapped up outdoors so board members could see the Kenai River that runs behind the school. The board members "oohed and aahed," while enjoying their reprieve from the indoor conference rooms.

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