UAS to graduate 179 on Sunday

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2003

When University of Alaska Southeast graduates walk onto the Centennial Hall stage Sunday afternoon to receive their degrees, there will be more young people and more full-time students than in the past.

And that's what the school needs to sustain its growth and build its programs, administrators said.

The university expects to confer 28 master's degrees, 103 bachelor's degrees, 40 associate's degrees and eight certificates at its 32nd commencement ceremony, which starts at 2 p.m.

Among the students will be Crystal Hayden, 22, who graduated in the top 10 percent of her class at East Anchorage High in 1999, which meant she could have received free tuition for four years at any of the University of Alaska campuses.

She chose UAS partly because she wanted to study marine biology and partly because she had relatives in Juneau. As it turned out, she switched her interest to English and social science, but remained happy with her choice of schools.

"I love it a lot because it's a small campus, and you get the one-on-one attention that a student needs," Hayden said. "There are services available if you need extra help on math, or writing tutors to help you with your papers."

Chancellor John Pugh said UAS has made a push in recent years to enroll more Alaskans and students directly out of high school, who are more likely to enroll as full-time undergraduates. Part-time, older students tend to be local, and there are only so many of them, he said.

"We think it balances out our student body," he said of younger students. "We were heavily, 10 years ago, into nontraditional, older students."

First-time freshmen jumped from 76 in 1993 to 146 in 1997, then declined for several years. The university now does a better job marketing itself, Pugh said. Every Alaska high school student hears from the school in junior and senior years. The number of first-time freshmen recovered to 157 in 2001.

Younger students tend to live on campus and are more involved in clubs and activities than part-time students, who often have jobs and families.

Hayden lived in student housing for her four years and said she made friends she expects to keep.

"If I want to do this college experience, I have to be away from what I know. I need to meet new people and have new friends," she said. "Those people I've met are going to be my friends for the rest of my life."

Jackie Manning, 23, grew up in Juneau and attended the University of Hawaii for a year but decided she wanted to go to a small liberal arts college instead. She'll graduate Sunday from UAS with a bachelor's degree with concentrations in French and art.

Although Manning lived at home, she said UAS increasingly has a college atmosphere, gained through such events as weekend outdoor activities.

"Those kind of things are pulling students together," she said.

Not all of the younger or full-time students have progressed through UAS in four years.

After high school, Josh Bentz, 25, of Juneau attended community colleges in Arizona and Michigan to play on their baseball teams. He also played a year of semi-pro ball in Australia. But after hurting his pitching arm, he moved back to Juneau and enrolled at UAS two years ago.

He will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in general biology and hopes to become a state wildlife protection trooper.

"No. 1, it was in my hometown," he said of the college. "No. 2, it was real cheap. No. 3, it's got a great biology program, and that was what I was interested in."

Like other students at UAS, Bentz said he valued the interaction with professors.

"The professors care," he said. "At the other schools (he attended), you're just a number. They don't care if you pass or fail, or if you get the class you want. Here they sympathize with you, ask you how you're doing."

For Barbara Morgan, 34, it's been a long road to her bachelor of science degree in general biology, though she's been a full-time student.

She was the only member of her graduating class at the tiny school in Edna Bay on Kosciusko Island in Southeast, but nature was her school, too. She grew up partly on a hand-troller fishing boat.

"I think that biology and science happened (in her college years) because I grew up out in the Bush and saw on a daily basis a lot of science and nature happening," Morgan said.

She completed three years of college at UAS in the late '80s and early '90s, but illness interrupted her education for years after that. She enrolled full-time again in 2000, lived in student housing and has taken 40 more credits than required - just to learn more.

Now she'll enroll in the master of arts in teaching program in Juneau and plans to teach high school science. In college, she valued teachers who set the bar high but helped students succeed.

Morgan and Hans Chester of Juneau will be the student speakers at commencement. Chester helped start a Native dance troupe on campus, and has taught in the Early Scholars program for high school students, Chancellor Pugh said.

"He's just been one of those people who provide a great deal of leadership and support for other people," Pugh said.

Morgan and Chester represent Alaskans who stayed in Alaska for their post-secondary education.

"I'm from Alaska," Morgan said. "I'm going to stay in Alaska. I did all my schooling here at UAS."

She said her speech's theme probably will be about persistence.

H.A. "Red" Boucher, president of Alaska Wireless Inc., will give the commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of letters degree.

Boucher, 82, "represents the first wave of the new pioneers of Alaska, whose leadership has created the infrastructure to help better govern the state," the university said.

Boucher founded the Alaska Goldpanner college-level baseball team, and about 170 of its players went on to play Major League baseball. He was mayor of Fairbanks, lieutenant governor of Alaska under Gov. William Egan, and a state representative from Anchorage.

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