By Jennifer Witter, PhD
When we move ahead in life we cannot always know what lies over the horizon. Yet the particular horizon that faces us is a result of the path that we are on, the choices that have been presented, the decisions that we have made up until this point. Louis Pasteur said “chance favors the prepared mind,” which for me sums up the importance of education. The more you know about yourself and the way the world works, the better able you are to recognize and capitalize on the opportunities that are presented to you. With an education, you also get perspective and a sense of responsibility: the myriad decisions that we make as individuals collectively define the path of our societies. Uninformed decisions take us toward an uncertain future, and lack of preparation may result in lost opportunities. What kind of world do we want to live in? It is up to us to create it, one mindfully prepared decision at a time.
Some time ago, Alaska was a surprise fork presented in my own path. While I had not foreseen this choice, my family and I opted for the adventurous life, packed up a Uhaul truck and drove north up the Alcan Highway. Was I sure I would love it? Not yet, but I was willing to take the chance based on my previous life experience. The best summer of my life was a field season in Northern Labrador, collecting ancient rocks on the austere tundra, catching Arctic Char and watching migrating caribou. I also spent a year in southern Sweden at a latitude similar to Anchorage, surviving the dark and cold winter by socializing and making sure to ski when the sun was out. After living in Alaska for a few years, I can say that I do love the vast and glorious landscape, and the genuine people I have met. I especially love the opportunities that my choice to move to Alaska has presented in my life.
I consider it my good fortune to be working at Alaska Pacific University, which I find to be an educational institution well aligned with my philosophy. Here at APU, students and faculty alike are encouraged to find their own path, with the understanding that we are all interconnected. The greater community is often our classroom, as students are encouraged to use real-world problems as their training ground. APU is big enough that that there are many different perspectives, but small enough that no one is anonymous. Engaging in a diverse community provides us the mirror we need to reveal both our uniqueness, and the common values and goals that we share. I am thankful to be part of APU, helping students prepare their mind for the opportunities, as well as the challenges, that lie just over their horizons.