University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton was on the Peninsula last week for commencement exercises in Homer and other Kenai Peninsula campuses, but he wasn't here only to congratulate and speak to those graduating.
The retired U.S. Army General rallied support among young people and adults alike for his vision for education in Alaska at meetings with students at Soldotna and Skyview High School and also to KPBSD administrators and community members at the Homer and Kenai Chambers of Commerce.
"There is nothing or no one that is too good for Alaska," said Hamilton.
"I wish he would come and speak to us every week, he would really get us going," commented Sheri Brewer, Kenai Chamber President.
"Our kind of mantra this year is It's Working. The investment in education has worked, enrollments are up enormously, we've seen a 20% increase in enrollment in the last two years; this is remarkable and there is no demographic explanation for those figures. It's just to our improved reputation and our message to young people that we want you. Any state that allows 80% of its youth to leave for other states is committing suicide," said Hamilton.
The understanding of the legislature to his cause however, has not been working so well.
"Our professors are doing a fabulous job, our students are making fabulous progress, our staff is doing a fabulous job and I'm letting us down a little by not being able to convey and sell the economic significance and understanding of the university to the legislature," said Hamilton, who intends on making his message a year round proposition to legislators. "We're planning on inviting our legislators to the campus during the off months of the session where perhaps we'll have a better opportunity to get their attention, because the more they know about the university the better off we'll be," added Hamilton.
The UAA President took time out of his busy schedule to meet one-on-one with this year's Caring For the Kenai winner, a sophomore from Nikiski, Kristin Frederic. Kristin's idea to convert a closed Inlet oil platform into a facility for alternate energy experimentation, perhaps under the UAA Science Department, was met with enthusiastic interest from Hamilton.
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