CHECKING IT OUT – Fia Turczynewycz, a visitor from Ohio, walks her dog,  Mani, past the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center this morning. Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph’s newly completed yellow cedar Waas’go pole, pictured in the background, was moved out of the park’s carving shed Thursday to make room for Joseph’s latest project – carving a Tlingit canoe with the aid of an apprentice. Joseph’s Waas’go pole is the third version of the Haida pole in the past century – a reproduction of a reproduction made in the 1930s by George Benson, which is placed inside the visitor center. Rangers are working on approval for a location along the park’s trail system for the new pole. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Group Targets SJ Campus for New College

By TOM HESSE

Sentinel Staff Writer

For years Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins has been finding ways to make use of the Sheldon Jackson campus, and his next idea is even more ambitious.

Kreiss-Tomkins is working with dozens of collaborators from Alaska and other states in an effort to bring an accredited college back to the campus.

 

Deep Springs College alumn Bryden Sweeney-Taylor, at left, speaks at a meeting in Allen Hall to discuss creating a college in Sitka based on the Deep Springs model, Nov. 11. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The proposed Outer Coast College would offer a two-year program on a different model than that of traditional higher education.

Students would make decisions on nearly everything, from meals to classes to faculty. After Sheldon Jackson College closed in 2007 and the campus was turned over to the nonprofit Alaska Arts Southeast, the primary use of the historic campus has been for the summertime Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

“The campus is such a great attribute for Sitka, but it sits empty for most of the academic year,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “I realized that creating a college on a campus would be an incredibly natural fit, and once I had that sort of practical or utilitarian fit, my mind sort of moved into idea connecting world.” 

He connects the potential of Sheldon Jackson to a college he heard about while studying at Yale University – Deep Springs College. It’s a two-year institution founded in 1917 and located in the central California desert near the Nevada border. 

Kreiss-Tomkins said he met a number of Yale students who had transferred from Deep Springs. 

“A handful of Deep Springers would transfer to Yale for their junior and senior year and I got to know some of them and became exclusively impressed with their character and their personality,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. 

In contrast to typical academic institutions, Deep Springs students are mostly on their own. Students handle admissions, self-governance, faculty hires and their own cooking and cleaning. 

“Students effectively run the boarding school,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “I would sort of describe that kind of labor as ownership of the institution and of the education of the students.” 

Kreiss-Tomkins said modern education needs more of that approach, and he thinks Sitka can replicate that kind of success. 

“The idea is for this to be a sort of academically and intellectually rigorous and alive place,” he said. “You can’t really quantify it but that’s one of Deep Springs’ most obvious and renowned features.” 

The idea is still in the incubation stage. Kreiss-Tomkins expects the earliest it could start would be 2017 – a decade after Sheldon Jackson closed and a century after Deep Springs was founded. The student body would be small, “well under 100 students,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

A number of hurdles lie ahead for the project, the largest of which is getting the school accredited. After that’s obtained, students would be eligible to transfer Outer Coast credits to other institutions, the way that Kreiss-Tomkins’ Yale colleagues did. 

“Our limiting factor right now is figuring out accreditation,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “We’ve been doggedly learning everything there is about accreditation over the last three months. We’ve definitely made progress so far – we have a pretty respectful understanding of how the process works so far.” 

Kreiss-Tomkins is Sitka’s representative in the State House of Representatives, so he’s experienced with red tape. But even he was surprised at what it takes to get a school accredited. 

“It’s a complex and difficult regulatory system and I say that as someone who spends a lot of my life regulating regulatory systems,”  he said.

The group working with Kreiss-Tomkins includes Sitka residents and Deep Springs alumni. Fine Arts Camp Director Roger Schmidt is also helping. Schmidt manages the campus and has headed up most of the revitalization work. 

Some of the people involved have been tied to past ventures such as the Bulldogs on Baranof program and the Sitka Fellows, which bring college and post-college students to Sitka for individual study projects and community service. Parts of those programs, such as revitalizing the SJ Campus or community volunteering, also are included in the Outer Coast vision. 

“One of the big aspects of the college is going to be community integration, and this is effectively one of the founding principals of the school, which is Sitka is a magical place and young people have a lot to learn being a part of a place that is this integrated and this amazing,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. 

Unlike Deep Springs, which has an all-male student body, Outer Coast would have no gender barrier. Aside from mapping out how the college will function, Kreiss-Tomkins and his team are also tracking down donors,  through both Alaska and Deep Springs networks. Kreiss-Tomkins expects those efforts to step up in the coming months with the hope of taking applications in 2016 for the 2017 school year. 

More information about Outer Coast plan can be found at outercoast.org. 

 

 

Comments  

 
# alaskated15 2015-12-11 19:59
Given the history of how that land was taken, if a college is to be located there it should be a tribal college. I intend to write in more depth soon about why I believe this. If only the planners like JKT and others had used their connections and energy to work toward that end.
 

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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 9-17-21)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 10:47 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 875

Total statewide – 96,002

Total (cumulative) deaths – 454

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 2,207

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 14 new COVID cases in the past 7 days, a rate of 187.73 per 100,000 population. Alert status will be high until the rate per thousand is below 100. Case statistics are as of Thursday.

New cases in Sitka – 5

Cases in last 7 days – 16

Cumulative Sitka cases – 946

Positive cumulative test results in Sitka, as of 9/10/21 – 1,090

Deceased (cumulative) – 3

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

• • •

 

Sitka Vax Stats 

The State of Alaska DHSS reported Friday the following statistics on vaccinations for Sitka.

Partially vaccinated – 6,132 (83.03%)

Fully vaccinated – 5,991 (81.12%)

Total population (12+) – 7,385

Sitka has vaccinated fully vaccinated 89.85 percent of its senior population (1,478 total), age 65 and older. 

Vaccination data for the City and Borough of Sitka can be found online at: https://cityofsitka.org

 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2001

Alaska Pacific Bank has opened an account for donations to be directed to the families of the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11. The account has been opened with a $2,000 contribution from the bank and an anonymous donor.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1971

At the Sitka Historical Society’s meeting Sunday, Mrs. Esther Billman of Sheldon Jackson College presented a “surprise package” of recent donations to the Sheldon Jackson Museum by Mr. Hugh Brady, youngest son of former Territorial Gov. John Brady.

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