Better every year, each year better

APU Nordic ski coach Erik Flora likes to end his team meetings with the mantra “better every year.”

The description fits: By all measures—podium finishes, international and national awards, community service recognition—APU accomplishments as a team, as individual skiers, and as coaches attest to better every year.

And as I look back on the academic year just ended, I’m reminded of sustained effort that’s behind much of APU’s success, whether it’s on the slopes, in the classroom, or in building our Outdoor Studies degree, proudly celebrating its 20th year.

Join me in considering recent accomplishments for a better APU:

  • Our pledge to quality, private, affordable education for Alaska continues. In 2014, APU tuition will roll back to $19,500 a year – a savings of 34 percent over current costs.
  • Starting in August, APU will inaugurate a unique first-year experience for all students new to the University. Expedition Alaska features a 15-day, 158-mile float trip on the Yukon River, introducing our students to active learning, APU and the vastness of Alaska. Bracketed by classroom learning in natural history, sustainability, psychology or wilderness skills, Expedition Alaska enhances self-awareness while fostering friendships to last a lifetime.
  • Food security issues and the growing of organic produce for student meal plans are elements of a campus master plan under way for Kellogg Farm, our Community Service Agriculture project in Palmer.
  • The University is investing $6.4 million in campuswide energy efficiency measures—with no net cash outlay and debt payments offset by guaranteed energy savings. Efficiencies are aimed at reducing fuel costs by 30 percent. We’re also pursuing innovative strategies to lower health care costs for our students and employees.
  • Led by our faculty, we completed the first major revision in 16 years of courses included in general university requirements. Reinforcing our commitment to arts and sciences undergraduate programs that prepare students for 21st century challenges and opportunities – especially those confronting Alaska – APU embraced competency-based education for intellectual and practical skills.
  • New curriculum initiatives further distinguish the University. Within the MBA program, oil and gas issues are central to APU’s Alyeska University program. A new Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program starts in the fall as well as a partnership with Southcentral Foundation targeting Alaska Native health care.
  • Collaboration with Alaska Native groups and public and private sector agencies are a foundation of applied research in our Environmental Science and marine biology programs. At the undergraduate and graduate level alike, our students work with APU faculty on real-world projects with statewide implications. Key to this success are upgrades at Gould Hall, new home of APU’s Applied Fisheries Science Laboratory and Marine Physiological Ecology Laboratory.
  • Plans are proceeding for an APU Graduate Behavioral Training Center, also housed in renovated Gould Hall. Using a physical/behavioral health integration model, the center would serve needs identified by the Alaska Mental Health Trust while also providing internships for students in the Psychology Doctorate program and the Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology program. The center would offer confidential counseling to APU students, staff and faculty while generating revenue through health insurance contracts.
  • We’re doing a better job of engaging our alumni, thriving in just about every corner of Alaska and the world. It was a pleasure to greet so many of you in April when the third floor of Atwood was transformed into a birthday party to celebrate 20 years of Outdoors Studies at APU. Other recent events that welcomed alumni back to campus include our Nordic ski fundraiser and the Hickel Scholar lectures. Lots more are planned.

Better ever year, each year better. That certainly captures the essence of a forward-looking list like this one, but I’ll add one tradition: APU senior projects, those end-of-term presentations delivered by undergraduates from every degree and program.

Year in and year out, senior project talks let the entire campus community savor results of personalized learning—hallmark of Alaska Pacific University and education that works.