Commencement is May 1. Before the big day, get to know a few members of the Class of 2021
Commencement will be available on our Facebook page and YouTube channel at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 1.
Bachelor’s of Marine and Environmental Science
Class of 2021
Last summer’s travel bans threatened to disrupt long-term research at Toolik Field Station, where one year of lost data could derail decades of work. Out-of-state researchers had to rely on Alaskans to continue their projects remotely. As a field technician at Toolik, Kela collaborated with researchers from Finland, Denmark, and universities across the USA.
The opportunity came about through the network of professors and professionals she’s met at APU. “APU changed my life in that sense,” she said. “I got my hands in some really cool projects from all over the world and it was really impactful to be part of that research.”
Originally from northern Wisconsin, Kela found her footing quickly in Anchorage. “A month into being here, I felt such a deep sense of home. There’s such a connection to the place and the people,” she said. “APU had such an amazing community that made me feel welcome.”
One of her first APU classes was a statistics course with Professor Roman Dial. He’s since invited Kela to join fieldwork and research trips, and helped connect her with the summer job at Toolik. That one-on-one attention from professors, she said, “you only get at really small schools.”
After graduation, she’ll help Roman record shrub growth near Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, then head north for another summer of field work to Toolik Field Station.
“Being in Alaska was just so lifechanging for me and I’m just so thankful,” she said of her time at APU. “It’s set my life on this amazing trajectory, and I can’t wait to see where it goes and everything that I gain from being here.”
Bachelor of Science Health Sciences, Healthcare Management
Class of 2021
As a Community Health Practitioner, Lucy frequently travels to assist in rural clinics. But thanks to online classes at APU, she’s never had to halt her academic goals.
Lucy started as a Community Health Aide in 2008 in her home community of Aleknagik. Community Health Aides/Practitioners (CHA/P) are the frontline of medical service in rural Alaska, trained and certified to meet the broad healthcare needs of the Alaska Tribal Health System. Often, they are the sole source of medical information in a rural community.
Lucy moved to Anchorage in 2015 and became one of the first CHA/P instructors, but still visits patients in communities. She’s logged into APU classes from clinics in Dillingham, Egegik, Manokotak, Port Lions, and Ouzinkie.
For her senior project, Lucy designed part of an evaluation of the Community Health Aide program to share with the stakeholders. Her evaluation focused on the program’s turnover rate. “My goal is to be a Community Health Aide Program Director,” she said.
APU’s schedule and support helped Lucy work full-time throughout college. By mixing compressed courses, she could focus on one to three subjects at a time and still take a full course load. Small class sizes allowed her to establish attentive and understanding relationships with professors. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium offered academic leave when she needed it, too.
“I really like APU,” she said. “I had a lot of support from my director, my colleagues, my family, and my instructors. They were a huge support.”
Bachelor’s of Outdoor Studies
Class of 2021
At 19, Caleb is probably the youngest member of the class of 2021. Thanks to the Early Honors program – APU’s dual-credit option for Alaskans – Caleb could fast-forward his last year of high school while taking college classes at APU.
The motivation and initiative that led him to Early Honors also carried him through his senior project. As an Outdoor Studies major with a concentration in snow science, Caleb developed a youth avalanche education framework designed specifically for Alaska’s public schools. He designed curricula for all grade levels, and even implemented them this spring at every school in Homer.
Homer may have relatively mellow topography, but even small-scale features can increase avalanche risk. Caleb brought that message to his classroom visits, alongside a variety of teaching tools. At Homer Middle School, he took PE classes outside to run through the snow and practice digging rescues. At the high school, he joined a physics class to talk about the electromagnetic waves used by avalanche transceivers. “There’s so many different directions you can take this subject,” he said of avalanche education.
That variety has also been a hallmark of his APU education. “After my second or third OS course, I realized how well-rounded of a student and an individual it creates,” he said of the Outdoor Studies degree program. His APU courses included a range of outdoor adventures, but also courses in business, statistics, and GIS. He’s now ready for a career in the Alaska outdoors, or anywhere else.
“Looking back on the four years, I feel infinitely more prepared to do almost anything I want,” he said.
Bachelor’s of Counseling Psychology
Class of 2021
As an advocate for sexual assault victims, Kayla knows the numbers. 13 percent of students experience rape or sexual assault while in college.
“It’s considered to a be a public health crisis at this point because it is so prevalent,” she said of campus sexual assault.
That sobering statistic led to her senior project, which identified trends in sexual assault awareness among APU students. Kayla created a survey with open-ended questions, allowing students to share what they know, what they don’t, and what they think needs to be done on campus. Using the anonymous responses from her survey, she hopes to lay the groundwork for expanded sexual assault resources on campus and in the community. Her work included a lens on intersectionality, as not all genders, races, sexual orientations, and other aspects of identity experience sexual assault in the same light. “In order to offer inclusive assistance and resources, we have to have inclusive data,” she said.
Sexual assault awareness is more than a senior project for Kayla, though. She works full-time as an advocate at a local justice center, serving as a first responder to victims of rape and sexual assault in Anchorage. She’s held that job throughout her time at APU.
“Every professor I’ve had has taken extra time, care, and consideration. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt so heard as a student,” she said of the support she received from faculty.
“I think honestly going to APU has been the best decision for me personally and my education,” she said. “The professors and the environment have really given me the ability to embrace myself, my passion, and feel like I’m able to succeed.”