By Rachael Miller
Assistant Professor of Business
I don’t know if one can find a better first teaching responsibility than rafting 20 freshmen down the Yukon river. Admittedly, this wasn’t my first rodeo in the classroom. However, as a seasoned business professor, my syllabi usually include phrases such as “marketing plan” and “social media strategy”; not “expedition”, “first aid”, and a packing list that includes a sleeping bag.
Welcome to Alaska Pacific University – where students are encouraged to get dirty and they earn college credit doing it.
Kicking off one’s freshman year can be difficult anywhere. It’s often a student’s first time away from home for an extended period of time, and Alaska adds a separate set of challenges including limited cell phone reception and (sometimes) inclement weather. When I was invited to co-instruct this course, I was curious to see how the class of 2020 would adapt throughout this very nontraditional introduction course.
Our Expedition Alaska experience sets the tone for a student’s first year at APU. The class was not only about Alaska natural history, such as plant life and glaciology, but also about cohort building, leadership, self-discovery.
Additionally, the Yukon river is fabled around the world. It’s been the setting for many a historical figure and stories abound of both hardship and victory, as the gold rush ebbed and flowed. What’s the best way to learn how a gold dredge works? Climb all over one and ask a ranger questions! How does one learn about salmon stock management? See them swimming in the river and talk to the folks who fish for them!
As a new instructor at APU, this was an incredibly humbling, and eye-opening experience. The staff and faculty on this trip were second to none, and the students truly stepped up to the challenge of learning in the field. The magic of the Yukon wrapped itself around us, often as the Aurora Borealis called us out of our tents to watch them dance across the night sky. This is why I came to APU – to teach and learn from students who are choosing their own academic adventure and in a classroom that has no boundaries.
Looking forward to seeing these students walk across our graduation stage one day, knowing who they were on Day 1 and what they accomplished during their time with us. And don’t worry Yukon, you haven’t seen the last of me!