She’s back. After 17 national titles, 29 World Cup podiums, and Team USA’s first Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing, Kikkan Randall is finishing her degree.
Kikkan started at APU 20 years ago, joining APU’s Nordic Ski Center after graduating from East High School in Anchorage. Though she’s taken classes over the years, her primary focus has been skiing. She attended her first Winter Olympics at age 19 and officially retired after her fifth Olympics in 2018. She returned as a full-time student in summer 2020.
Thanks to her unique background, Kikkan has been applying her APU coursework immediately in her life. She already helps with fundraising for U.S. Ski & Snowboard, but now she’s finished a fundraising course at APU. She’s a board member on the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, and now she’s completed a course on board management.
“I find it so cool that my classes are connecting so directly to what I’m doing and the experiences that I’ve had,” she said.
She even picked up a job through APU that matches her academic and athletic background. Following a recommendation from Professor Yaso Thiru, Kikkan is now an employee of Onward and Upward. The Palmer nonprofit – founded and directed by APU alumnus Randy Dowd – offers experiential education that encourages resilience and wellbeing. Kikkan serves as the Director of Finance and Administration, overseeing budgets, grants, timesheets, and more.
It’s career experience with a cause. “The connections at APU have led me to this opportunity to work with Onward and Upward, where I’m able to learn and build up my skills at the same time,” she said. “It’s an organization whose mission really resonates with me, but I get to apply the things that I’m learning to really help the organization grow.”
In addition to the course connections and career experience, Kikkan has found plenty to love as a full-time student. She also appreciates the small class sizes, the close connections with faculty and staff, and the flexibility provided by APU’s online and evening classes.
“My experience coming back as a later student is working really well with my lifestyle,” she said.
Kikkan is on track to graduate this fall with her bachelor’s degree in business administration. It’s a goal she’s been pursuing nearly as long as the Olympic gold medal. Thankfully, her competitive spirit translates well whether she’s chasing race times or test scores.
“There are so few things you can measure in your life, but finishing your degree is one way to take a really good step for your own future,” she added.