Alaska Voices: Celebrating the Alaskan spirit

The Last Great Race reflects the Alaska spirit within everyone who calls this state home

  • Thursday, March 14, 2019 2:01pm
  • Opinion

Last week, I stood with many other Alaskans and guests from around the world to witness the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. This was my first year attending the start in person and as I stood there, I witnessed just how much the Last Great Race reflects the Alaska spirit that is rooted so deeply within everyone who calls this state home. As I cheered mushers and their teams alongside the trail a little way from the start, I could see the collective ambition and determination as they prepare for the journey ahead. As a new Alaskan, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am to witness a similar Alaska spirit every day on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

Since I accepted the chancellor position last fall at Alaska’s largest university in its most diverse and populous city, I’ve learned a lot about what is important to our state and how our university is constantly evolving to be responsive to community needs.

The student body at UAA is growing. Applications and enrollment are up, and our students are achieving national recognition for their research, academics and athletics. Three years ago, the school increased investment in student recruitment efforts, specifically in our presence in local communities. We hosted a hands-on Academic Preview Day last fall that brought in more than 900 participants from Eielson to Kenai. We’ve achieved significant increases from each Anchorage and Mat-Su high school and more than half of the students applying from these schools have high school GPAs of 3.5 or higher. We are proud to have a school that high-achieving students from Alaska choose to attend.

When students complete their education in Alaska, they are more likely to stay in Alaska. We know that we are grooming the future leaders of our state and we take that responsibility seriously. This means listening to the needs of our community so that we are providing the programs both our students are interested in and that will benefit our community later. For example, by revamping the application process for nursing programs, enrollment is up, and for our associate degree in nursing, by 35 percent. Our focus on Alaska’s health care needs is also evident in our initial accreditation for a new Surgical Technology program by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. We’re planning an open house for students, staff, faculty, and community partners to learn more about this program later this month.

We rely on state funding to assist us in providing this support in our community and we strive to be dependable stewards of those resources.

There are a lot of unanswered questions right now. Governor Dunleavy has proposed budget cuts that I believe will have an impact on every Alaskan in some way. Now, our legislators are responsible for difficult, yet important decisions as they define the budget. Once the final budget is released, the UA Board of Regents will also have its own big decisions to make.

I know people are concerned and they have questions about what the future of the University of Alaska system looks like. I also have questions, but for one Saturday witnessing the Iditarod ceremonial start, I was thankful to let all the noise fade away and enjoy a day with fellow Alaskans; all of us from different backgrounds, with different ideologies and beliefs, coming together to celebrate the Alaska spirit that ties us all together.

Cathy Sandeen has been chancellor of University of Alaska Anchorage since September 2018.


More in Opinion

An array of stickers awaits voters on Election Day 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The case for keeping the parties from controlling our elections

Neither party is about to admit that the primary system they control serves the country poorly

Voters fill out their ballots at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, Alaska on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Voter tidbit: Important information about voting in the upcoming elections

Mark your calendar now for these upcoming election dates!

Larry Persily (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: State’s ‘what if’ lawsuit doesn’t much add up

The state’s latest legal endeavor came July 2 in a dubious lawsuit — with a few errors and omissions for poor measure

The entrance to the Homer Electric Association office is seen here in Kenai, Alaska, on May 7, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Speak up on net metering program

The program allows members to install and use certain types of renewable generation to offset monthly electric usage and sell excess power to HEA

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signs bills for the state’s 2025 fiscal year budget during a private ceremony in Anchorage on Thursday, June 25, 2024. (Official photo from The Office of the Governor)
Alaska’s ‘say yes to everything’ governor is saying ‘no’ to a lot of things

For the governor’s purposes, “everything” can pretty much be defined as all industrial development

Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board members, staff and advisors meet Oct. 30, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The concerns of reasonable Alaskans isn’t ‘noise’

During a legislative hearing on Monday, CEO Deven Mitchell referred to controversy it’s created as “noise.”

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Crime pays a lot better than newspapers

I used to think that publishing a quality paper, full of accurate, informative and entertaining news would produce enough revenue to pay the bills

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo
Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom addresses the crowd during an inaugural celebration for her and Gov. Mike Dunleavy at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Jan. 20, 2023.
Opinion: The many truths Dahlstrom will deny

Real conservatives wouldn’t be trashing the rule of law

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his veto of a wide-ranging education bill during a press conference March 16 at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Governor, please pay more attention to Alaskans

Our governor has been a busy guy on big issues.

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict