Ilisagvik College Offers Opportunity on the North Slope

Photo courtesy of Brook Gondara: She is the president of Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska.

After graduating its largest class ever this past spring, Ilisagvik College kicked off its fall semester on Monday. In its effort to serve Alaskans, especially those on the North Slope, it has enacted a few new programs.

Last spring, Ilisagvik College completed one of its most successful years, graduating a school-best 87 students with degrees and certificates…and another 11 who received their GEDs. With that still fresh on her mind, college President, Doctor Brooke Gondara as the school year gets underway.

“Our dorm students arrived yesterday and are moving in tonight. Registration is taking place, the book store is going to be hopping. So we’re all very excited with the energy of the upcoming year,” Gondara said.

According to Gondara, being the only tribal college in the state and one of only 37 in the nation, Ilisagvik College is in an advantageous position

“We can respond very quickly and responsively to industry needs. And we don’t necessarily have to get all of our course offerings approved through another university system or those kinds of things. We are able to cut through some of the layers that happen at a bigger university in order to get things done. So we’re being able to continue to respond to workforce needs on the slope and put people, and particularly Inupiaq people, in jobs, in high skilled, high paying positions on the North Slope,” Gondara said.

Teacher education and training…especially in early childhood education is in high demand in the state. Gondara says the college is beginning to cater to those needs.

“We’ve got a project going on with that, that’s centered around language immersion through a language nest model that happens in the home, or in a small, home-based kind of care-giving center that also has a neat economic development component to it…so that families, or households, can earn an income while providing language-based child care; and that they can also enter into a degree or certificate programand pursue a degree in early childhood education if they would like to,” Gondara said.

Gondara says Ilisagvik also offers a strong GED program, but it takes a unique approach.

“Our pilot project has entailed reaching out to students in Kivalina who may be interested in completing their GED and coming to Barrow, and coming to Ilisagvik for a short-term period of time where we are building the structure of the program. Where they could work for, I believe, in a five-week module to complete their GED, get registered for classes at Ilisagvik, go home in the interim for a little while and come back ready and prepared to enter college life,” Gondara said.

Gondara says Ilisagvik currently has satellite campuses in eight villages, covering around 89,000 square miles.

Patrick Yack, APRN – Anchorage also contributed to this report.

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Josh is the Statewide Morning News Reporter/Producer for Alaska Public Media | jedge (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8455 | About Josh

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