Classes wrapped up at Kodiak College last week, marking the end of the first year of the Alutiiq Studies Program.
The program joined the college curriculum last fall and offered classroom and distance learning courses in Alutiiq Language and culture. John Beale is the data collection and distance learning technician for the program, and said its first year faired well with student interest and community support.
“It’s looking good. I mean, we’re at baby steps at the moment. Our grant is teaching, not only an in class, but a hybrid distance class, which is something not many colleges are doing," Beale said. "It enables us to teach a class and distance students simultaneously. We’ve had students as far away as Finland, Thailand, we’ve got several students down in Oregon, California, and then in the villages in Alaska that we’re managing to reach all online at the same time and include them in classroom activities via a video conference link.”
The program is funded through a five year Title III federal grant from the Department of Education. Under the grant, Beale said there are various requirements the college must meet each year. For instance, this year the college was asked to provide multilingual and educational signage throughout the buildings and campus. Beale said they did that, and even added lamppost banners, which were installed last week.
“We wanted to put some lamppost banners up that reflected the Alutiiq influence on Alaska Native heritage here in Kodiak,” he said.
Twenty-six banners went up on 13 lampposts, and feature Alutiiq Dancers, artifacts, Russian Orthodox Churches and other images culturally relevant to Kodiak. Some of the banners were designed by the program’s project director, Alisha Drabek.
Beale said the college will now look to other projects within the grant, like providing more spaces for the program.
“We provided one space already with our Alutiiq Studies and Support Room, which is like our tuition room which is upstairs in the campus center. And we’re also going to provide what we’re going to call a gathering space, which is going to be a larger room where we can have bigger meetings, Alutiiq Dancer performances and drummers."
He said they’ll do a few renovations to make it a more distinct space for the Alutiiq Studies Program.
Beale said the past year was a lot of work to set up, but they’ve built a foundation for growth. He said he hopes student enrollment continues to climb and more faculty and staff can be hired in the semesters to come.