The Fall Class of 2020 includes 55 students, each with their own unique achievements. Below, meet three of the latest graduates from APU.
Bachelor’s of Business Administration
Class of 2020
Coffee is a big deal for many college students. For Lani, it was also the theme of her senior project.
APU business students design a company for their senior project, considering everything from supply chains to profit margins to assessing the competition. Lani chose to focus on espresso in her hometown of Kotzebue. While coffee huts line the roads in Anchorage, Kotzebue lacks a coffee business completely. That wasn’t always the case; Lani first found her love of espresso while managing the city’s since-shuttered coffeeshop years ago. Now, she’d like to bring it back.
Aside from research, coffee also helped Lani get through college as a working mom. For several terms, she would work the night shift at the Anchorage airport, then head home to wake up her three kids for school before logging into online classes.
“This has been a 10-year journey,” she said of her path to graduation. Several professors encouraged her along the way, helping her map a timeline, asking about her family, and adding a personal investment in her work.
“To be able to earn a degree as a mom, having a career, and being able to go to school and do it successfully has been amazing,” she said of her time at APU.
Lani recently retired from Alaska Airlines and finished her degree. It’s time for the next chapter. Maybe that means bringing coffee to Kotzebue, or maybe she’ll share her business plan with entrepreneurs in her hometown. With a business degree, the options are open.
“It’s just a matter of what I want to do.”
Marquia “Kia” Giles
Bachelor’s of Counseling Psychology
Class of 2020
Kia completed two very different documents for her senior project. For one, she wrote a literature review on processing trauma through writing and art. In addition, she also completed a 27-page memoir drawn from her personal diaries. She presented both pieces – her research and her writing – in a senior presentation this December.
Kia’s interest in creative therapy stems from her 18-year career in the U.S. Air Force, where she was confronted with the stigma of depression. Service members may overlook or underreport their mental health issues to avoid the stigma of seeking help, she said. But ignoring an issue won’t resolve it.
“Mental disorders are typically invisible wounds,” she said. “There’s no tangible evidence that something is actually wrong.”
In her memoir, she frames depression as a character – the Darkness – who periodically returns to confront her. Through this framework, she explored the challenging moments in her life – post-partum depression, loss of a parent, family suicide – and how she worked through these issues.
“Writing my memoir has validated the effectiveness of expressive writing as a therapeutic practice,” she said. She hopes to share writing therapy with members of the military next, and eventually work as a licensed professional counselor.
“Ultimately, I want to help combat the mental health stigma among active-duty service members and veterans,” she said.
Kia’s next steps will build on her experience at APU. She is exploring publishing options for her memoir and plans to enroll this spring in a graduate program for clinical mental health counseling, with a specialization in military families and culture.
“I’m so grateful,” she said of her time at APU. “I don’t think I could have picked a better school.”
Bachelor’s of Outdoor Studies
Class of 2020
As an Outdoor Studies student, Russell spent quite a bit of time in the mountains. Early courses took him to the Chugach Range to study snow science. He learned the basics of winter travel in the Talkeetna Range, and took a multi-week mountaineering course in the Alaska Range. His travels culminated with his senior project, a month-long trek through the Brooks Range last summer.
For his senior project, Russell worked with Professor Roman Dial on a project tied to NASA research. From space, satellites record change in vegetation color on the ground. But to determine what’s actually happening, NASA needs direct observations across a giant tract of remote Alaska. Russell helped design the methods and techniques for Dial’s ongoing research in the Brooks Range, including what camping gear and research equipment could help the team move fast and travel light while collecting data (read more about their project here).
His project combined research with recreation, both important tools for working in Alaska.
“I think the Outdoor Studies program at APU does a really good job giving people the full value of Alaska,” he said. “There’s just so much that I’ve gained from all of these classes and all of these experiences.”
Through his courses, he also met dozens of scientists, guides, and professors who demonstrated career possibilities in the North.
“Something that’s really stood out is just the connections that you make,” he added. “I’ve just met so many amazing people that do all kinds of different things in Alaska.”
Russell plans to return to the Brooks Range this summer, only this time he’ll be collecting data for his thesis. Russell will start the Master’s of Environmental Science program at APU in January.