LeeAnn Garrick’s path to becoming the first Chairperson of the new Board of Trustees formed as a result of the APU-ANTCH partnership was an unconventional one. Raised in Petersburg, she came to Anchorage for high school and college at UAA, where she received three degrees (Bachelor’s and Master’s in English and a Master’s of Public Administration). From there, she taught English, did technical writing, worked for engineering firms and was even employed by Hawaiian Vacations before switching to ANTHC 13 years ago. Having had those experiences, she said, is what drew her to APU, because she learned that there are “so many different ways to understand the world and taking a path like that, especially with a liberal arts degree like APU provides, you learn so much in between and can apply it in different ways.”
Now a semester into her new role as Chairperson, she shares her a bit on her background, her vision for APU’s future and provides some insight into what the Board is up to.
How have your prior experiences leant themselves to your role at APU?
I think that they taught me to understand that people come from all different backgrounds and experiences, but when you get them into a dynamic group you can make changes. The Board of Trustees now is a really strong group of people from all kinds of backgrounds — some folks are near retirement age, some are putting their kids through college now — it’s very diverse. I appreciate coming into a team where everyone has something different to bring. We wanted to have tribal members to make sure people have a wide variety of development and understand federal guidelines, folks that have education experience, people that are sharp on details and others that are good on big picture. I think those are concepts that are good to have on the Board.
What’s your leadership philosophy?
I like to have a goal and I like to champion people around that. I think that’s my job. I don’t like to tell people “we’re going to do this, this, and this and there’s no ifs, ands, or buts,” rather I like to tell people “this is our goal, what are we going to do to get there?” I like to be there for people who need help or support, but in most cases if I’m leading it, I like to stand aside and let people do what they need. If they need me, I’m there for them.
What’s the current goal?
For the APU Board it’s to find a balance where we’re really strong, robust, invigorated university. I think enrollment could increase a bit, we could bring in more grants and gifts so we can do more programing, have more clarity around the programs, and I’d like to see more community outreach. All of those things take money and effort, but those are the things I’d like to see. APU is a jewel here that I don’t think enough people know about.
What is the role of the Board?
To guide University governance. So we work really closely with the administrative team, which is nice, because they deal with students and budgets and payroll everyday so when they come and report to the Board, they tell us these are our challenges, these are our strengths. It’s the Board’s job to look at that and see if there are obstacles we can help them overcome, or if there are places in the budget where we need to dive in an assist administration, or assess if our current strategy working. It’s good that we’re meeting our goals now, but what are we going to look like in five year? Who do we need to be reaching out to now?
Why did you decide you wanted to take this role?
I think it’s really exciting. I think my background in English and education definitely had informed me. And now, working at a non-profit, I see that there’s a huge need for a stronger work force, so I feel like I want to be part of that. It’s difficult to sit by and watch the state budget and the cuts on a federal level. You think, “what can I do in my own community?” Well this is definitely something I can do in my own community. I feel like this is a really inspiring body of students that can do so much. I was really impressed by the very first week I took office, to see the reports and projects everybody working on. These are the folks that are going to make a huge difference when they get out of school and take jobs. I want to be a part of that and make sure that people make their way.
What do you see as the future of APU?
I see this as a bigger university. Especially as we pay attention to market trends and see where career opportunities are and what gaps and needs there are across the state. Healthcare definitely is one of them. There’s nothing saying we can’t have healthcare tracts as well, because there are people who are interested in that, as well liberal arts.
What are you personal goals for the Board?
My personal goals are for us to be able to really focus in on why we’re here when we’re making decisions. I think we’re doing a good job now and I’m so thankful for the folks who’ve been on the Board for a long time for their guidance, because it’s good to know where we’ve been when we vet ideas. I’d like us all to feel like we’re in and have a part. It’s amazing to me how those Trustees just step right in. I think it’s good for students to have an active Board that rolls up their sleeves and says, “Walk me through each of these things, make sure I understand how this works or how will this have impact.”
What are you most excited about?
I think I’m most excited for more students to come in. It was really exciting to see students graduate this month and see the wide range of interest they had. I’m really interested in getting the word out to more students about APU. The state of Alaska is where I think we should be targeting, because I think it’s important that everybody has the opportunity to receive an education.