The University of Alaska Southeast will conduct the biggest commencement in the school’s history this year, as it graduates more than 400 students Sunday, mostly from its flagship Juneau campus.
“UAS is celebrating its largest graduating class in 40 years,” said Chancellor John Pugh, who has been with the school for 24 years.
Other ceremonies are at the Sitka and Ketchikan campuses.
Pugh said it has been fun to watch the school thrive in recent years as it added new programs to meet needs in high-demand Alaska fields such as education.
New emphasis on programs such as the master’s degree in education leadership, where teachers learn to become principals, and special education certification, which enables Alaska school districts to fill those important jobs with locally trained teachers, are meeting a real need, he said.
“We’re seeing strong upward trends in both those areas,” Pugh said.
This year’s commencement speaker, long-time Alaska educator Annie Calkins, highlights that focus on education.
“She’s a really amazing person, who came Alaska, taught in the Bush, and then helped others learn how to teach in the Bush,” Pugh said.
Well known in Juneau, where she one served as assistant superintendent, Calkins earned her master’s in education at UAS in 1987. She’ll receive an honorary doctorate in education Sunday.
This year’s student speaker is Grace Lumba, who is also the outstanding student in English.
She’s a Juneau native who was chosen for her “consistently high quality academic work, and for bringing poetry and media to life on campus and in the broader community,” the school said.
“She goes through life with gusto and embraces it all,” Pugh said.
He said he knows Lumba, a second-generation Filipina-American, from student government and a variety of campus activities in which she’s involved.
Those activities include working as a peer advisor to co-hosting UAS Radio Sunday evenings on Excellent Radio, the school said.
Three University of Alaska regents, including Kenneth J. Fisher and Bob Martin of Juneau and Timothy Brady of Anchorage will join Pugh and Provost Michael Caulfield in conferring the degrees.
The commencement ceremony begins at 2 p.m. and is immediately followed by a catered reception in the Mourant Cafeteria. An exhibit of art by graduating Bachelor of Arts in art students is in the Fireweed Room just adjacent to the cafeteria.
The exhibit features painting and drawing by outstanding graduate in art Teri Robus, ceramics and painting by Cassia O’Neil and ceramics and sculpture by Josh Reeder and Bergen Carey.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.