By Lynn E. Paulson, staff writer.
This is how Crystal Dalison described herself to me – “just an outdoors-oriented, action-adventure nerd.”
“That about sums it up,” she said.
But she’s also an award-winning photographer, and if you take a look at her work, you’ll understand why. It is simply stunning, and the judges for a recent, nationwide student photography contest held by Educational and Institutional Insurance Administrators (EIIA) thought so, too. There were over 100 photos submitted from among 150 different institutions in EIIA’s program, and first place honors went to Crystal. A photograph submitted by Alaska Pacific University student, Brian Gehring, earned second place.
EIIA has been holding this contest for three years, with a different theme each time. This year’s theme was “Navigating the Currents,” and Crystal’s winning image was captured last winter off the bow of a small, wooden boat in Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park, which is only one of the places in Southeast Asia where Crystal’s sense of adventure has taken her.
“So where are you actually from?” I asked her.
“Um, everywhere,” she said. But she has considered Alaska her home for the past ten years, because she’s spent more time here than anywhere else. Not steady time, you understand. But for the last ten years she has returned here regularly to work during the summer months, mainly in Denali National Park, before fleeing to back pack and travel during the off-season, primarily in the southern hemisphere.
Recently, Crystal decided it was time to return to school.
“I decided it was time for me to make my mark in the world, make a difference,” she said.
Previously, she had been studying Computer Information Technology at Haywood College in Clyde, North Carolina, where she also did photography, videography and IT for Marshall Karesh, owner of Convention Photography (whose clients include Major League Baseball teams) and Tony Pataco, who filmed Astaire Dance competitions (an earlier incarnation of “Dancing with the Stars”).
Crystal’s interests by now had shifted away from technology as a focus of her study. She began looking for a school where she could earn a degree that would allow her to focus on her interests in sustainability and outdoor studies. This is what brought her to Alaska Pacific University, where this talented young woman is now trying to decide which of these two programs will serve as her launching pad for making that mark on the world.