Last Dance

Sitka Fine Arts Camp elementary age campers dance with instructor Brendan Jones in their final day of camp today at the Sheldon Jackson College Campus. Middle School Camp, for grades seven thru nine, begins Monday. Registration is still open at 907-747-3085. (Sentinel Photo by Klas Stolpe)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

UAS-Sitka Enrollment Up for Third Year


Sentinel Staff Writer

Enrollment at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus is up for the third consecutive year, to a total of 614 students signed up in one or more courses, the campus director said.

“I feel like we’re in a good place,” said Dr. Paul Kraft, speaking to the Sentinel Thursday, near the end of the second week of classes.

Angela Bowers, University of Alaska Southeast assistant professor in the applied fisheries program, center, watches students Jonathan Simack and Orion Kwon, right, prepare slides during a pathology lab this afternoon at the Japonski Island campus. Enrollment at UAS Sitka Campus is up for the third consecutive year to a total of 614 students in one or more courses. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Kraft, who is in his fourth year as campus director, talked about his positive outlook for the year ahead, and the future of the Sitka campus.

“Of course I came in the middle of COVID, and everything was shut down,” he said. “But now our financial situation is stable, whereas three years ago when I came it was not and, I didn’t stabilize it – it’s just the situation is better.”

He was referring to cuts to the university system three years ago, and a proposal to merge the three Southeast campuses into the UA system.

“We’re not talking about that anymore,” Kraft said. “We’re talking about growing – and certainly having strong enrollment, which makes people feel secure in their jobs. People aren’t worried about, ‘Am I going to lose my position? Is the campus going to close?.’”

Besides the increase in enrollment, another positive sign is the positive response to the course offerings at UAS-Sitka.

“We didn’t cancel any classes this semester for any class that we intended to offer – we had to add a few sections because the classes filled up,” Kraft said.

The enrollment figures reflect a variety of learning options. Students can take classes in person or online locally, or from other UA campuses. The variety of formats means students can take classes in a way that fits their work and family schedules, Kraft said.

“There may be a student who is taking all their classes from us, or they may be taking three classes from Anchorage, one from Fairbanks and one from us,” Kraft said. “Not all students are created equal.”

The Sitka campus has traditionally offered a lot of courses online and was a pioneer in the field of online education.

“We used to be essentially one of the few players in the online game, but since COVID everyone has gotten in the game,” Kraft said. “We still have a strong niche there, but now with some of the classes we offer online you can take the same class from Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan and Fairbanks. We have to be better at it and more responsive.”

In addition to building a reputation for high-quality classes, which creates good word of mouth, an additional challenge is making sure the course offerings are responsive to the needs of students and “fits their lifestyle,” he said.

“With my team, I talk about the three Rs, and they’re hearing this from me increasingly: that for us to be successful, we have to be responsive, we have to be relevant and we have to build solid relationships,” he said. “Someone suggested a fourth, and that’s resources. We have to do it within the resources we have available, and I wouldn’t argue with that.”

The “relationship” and “relevancy” components are about building connections with other schools, businesses, the community of Sitka and tribal partners.

“I have to be out there, and I expect faculty and staff to be doing that, and we have to be responsive,” he said. “We have to figure out, what are the needs of the community, what are the needs of the state, and then at the end, we’ve got to be relevant.”

Staying relevant, he said, is particularly important with lower college enrollment throughout the country, and lower percentages of high school graduates going into college.

“They’re questioning, ‘is a four-year college degree still relevant?’” Kraft said. “If the needs of students are not the same as they were five years ago, how do we move the institution to be more responsive to the student rather than demanding the student respond to the institution. We share that responsibility for the student’s success.”

Kraft is proud of the variety of classes offered at the Sitka campus, including dual enrollment courses in which students can receive college credit for Tlingit, and Intro to Health Sciences at Sitka High, and EMT, welding and Certified Nursing Assistant classes at Mt. Edgecumbe.

Another area Kraft highlighted is semester intensive programs, where students can earn endorsements or certificates in programs such as the popular “scientific diving semester,” and “aquaculture semester.” Both of these in-person intensives have maxed out and drew students in from all over the U.S.

Both courses are responsive to interests in marine sciences, in the community, in government circles and in industry.

“We’re also looking at things that are not for credit, again, trying to be relevant and responsive,” Kraft said. 

The first of these will be a basic auto maintenance class for “the person who has a car but doesn’t know how to check the oil or change a tire,” he said. Others in the works are how to winterize your house and “protecting yourself on the internet.” 

Kraft said he loves to hear from organizations and individuals about classes they want to see offered, and skills they see are needed in the community. So far he’s heard about the need for bookkeeping, cooking and hospitality.

“I want people to keep asking, give me a chance to say yes, even though maybe immediately I have to say no, or not yet,” he said.

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June 2004 

Advertisement: Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Caring Employee of the month! Franklin Thomas Hospital Nutrition Services.


June 1974

Edna Revard is enjoying a much-deserved vacation: she and youngest son Joe are in Italy visiting her older son, Jack, his wife and child. Jack is with the military, stationed in Italy. Edna will be gone a month, the crew at Revard’s Restaurant says.


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