Words by Jonathon Singler
Over the past two years, Alaska Pacific University Chess Fellowship has grown in size and vision. A single idea for a casual university chess club quickly evolved into a home for Alaskan community chess players; then a United States Chess Federation (USCF) affiliated college chess team; to finally a glass bowl for national display. Last year, APU competed in the 2017 Pan-American College Chess Championship as the underdog team. Despite entering and leaving as the bottom seed, it was great exposure on a national scale for APU and the state of Alaska.
During the national tournament, there was an opportunity to meet the USCF College Chess Committee (CCC) and ask questions about the future of college chess. This governing body oversees and ensures competitive chess in college. In the same spirit, APU is the Alaskan chess-bridge for K-12 students to continue or even find their love for the game through university recruitment. At the Pan-Am, I met the committee and shared aspirations of Alaska thriving once again with a chess culture. In order to support this mission, I also shared the interest in joining the same committee as a board member. In April of 2018, I received an unexpected call from the Executive Board of the CCC for nomination, and in June, I was appointed to serve.
As a USCF CCC board member, I am able to help promote college chess at a broader level by voting on big-ticket items that affect the future of US chess youth looking to continue beyond K-12 scholastic programs. This was an opportunity to increase my experience of serving in governing bodies within a realm I am passionate about; a real win-win, as my graduate project is the development of academic chess programs in higher education.
In April, a major statewide initiative rose from the formation of an Alaskan 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Alaska Chess, and with it a dream to create a brighter chess-future in the Last Frontier. The most exciting part is that this statewide effort is not solely by my hands, but rather dedicated passion by Colleen Evanco, Andy Haas, and many other volunteers in places such as Anchorage, Homer, and Soldotna. Alaska Pacific University is providing Anchorage, a social and competitive hub for chess, with outreach opportunities such as elementary and secondary schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities and more. This year, a new chess team will be made for the 2018 Pan-American College Chess Championship in December. APU may be a small community, but its positive impact is reaching beyond the confines of the Last Frontier.