For two years, Betty Walters has served as Kodiak College’s interim director, leading the college after the previous director, Alan Fugleberg, retired in 2018. But Walters will be handing over the reins to a new director soon. KMXT news reporter Jared Griffin filed this story about Jacelyn Keys, the newly appointed director of Kodiak College. (In the spirit of full disclosure, Jared Griffin is also a faculty member at Kodiak College.)
Kodiak College is getting a new campus director this summer. On Tuesday, UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen announced that Jacelyn Keys of Blue Mountain Community College in eastern Oregon will take over leadership of Kodiak College in August. Currently, Keys is director of the Hermiston Center, a small satellite campus of Blue Mountain, and believes that her experience there will help her succeed at Kodiak College.
Keys said, “In the interview process there were a lot of things that came up either from the chancellor, or from the search committee, or from staff and faculty about how students really wanted to see the faculty they loved supported and wanted to see the director engaged in their activities. And those are easy, shared values for me.”
While Kodiak was not initially on her job search radar, the allure of leading a small campus in remote Alaska quickly grew in Keys.
“Kodiak, Alaska, itself was not on my list. I was thinking east coast. But my list of six things, Kodiak ticked every single one of the boxes that I really wanted for my next professional step. So that’s why Kodiak. I was raised in the middle of nowhere, on the side of a mountain in eastern Oregon. We didn’t have cell service and we had dial up until I was in my mid-20s, maybe late 20s even. We went to the big city once a month and we did grocery shopping. When you ran out of stuff, you ran out of stuff, and there was no getting stuff. Because the closest grocery store was going to be seven or eight bucks for a tiny container of cinnamon that had probably been sitting on the shelf for seven or eight years. I feel like there’s a little bit of homecoming for me, coming back to a rural place. And I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Keys understands, though, that she will be joining the UA system facing some major obstacles related to budget and CoVID-19 pandemic, but she still hopes to accomplish great things at Kodiak College.
“Staff and faculty seem to just have an extraordinary amount of passionate energy around finding a direction for the college, and the community seemed to have that same thing. Not finding a direction so much as defining it and honing it. I love strategic planning and I love assessment so I’m really looking forward to working with that passion and that energy to put together that strategy and strategic plans. They were selling points for me…We don’t exactly know what the economy is going to look like, and we don’t have an exact picture of what community and workforce development needs are going to be. So we’re going to work real closely with the Kodiak community, with all the communities, to define what Kodiak college can do to help us snap back from covid-19, and to be what it is the community needs to grow and continue to develop and find themselves.”
Another of Keys’s goals is related to diversity and inclusion. Kodiak College has a diverse student body, and Keys sees opportunities there.
“I’m coming from a place that’s 50% Latinx. And creating inclusive environments in the community, in the college, and being a person who’s looking at my own internalized racism as a white woman, and how that has been bred and taught in to me, and then rooting that out so that I am working to use my privilege for everyone. That is core to who I am…That was one of my top 6 things that I needed to have, wherever I moved, in the job search process, was a college that had a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Not just in a mission statement or a vision statement or a pretty bullet point list. I wanted that to be something we grapple with. Because nobody’s perfect, we’re certainly going to make mistakes. But I wanted to work with a college that was committed to doing the hard work. Looking, learning, and then creating change. ..Equality is not necessarily what we are looking for. How do we create true equity for our students in marginalized populations, as well as students that haven’t been given a fair shake? How do we create that? I think that education is in a unique position to do that. That is definitely part of my passion. That’s my heart work.”
Kodiak College Assistant Professor of English, Jordana Long, sat on the search committee that chose Keys as one of the finalists for the Director position.
“I’m just really tremendously excited that Jacelyn Keys is coming on board as our new director of Kodiak College. You can look at her resume and see on paper how qualified she is, and how much relevant experience she has. What came across to me the most, is just how great a communicator she is, and how good she is at building relationships. She seems to be very intentional about building community relationships and partnerships that I think will be good for the Kodiak College community and the wider Kodiak community. I think she’s going to be a great fit for Kodiak College.”
Kodiak itself is a diverse community, and Keys is excited about joining the community to work and live.
“One of my relationship building techniques is I love to bake. I joke that I build relationships with butter and sugar. But that’s not at all a lie…Beyond that, I just want to be involved in a community where my skills and talents can help grow things, can be a service to people.”
Keys will take over as director of Kodiak College on August 1. You can listen to KMXT’s full interview with Jacelyn Keys here:
Note: Minor edits were made to the interview for clarity.