- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The University of Alaska Southeast has set a new standard for Alaska Native graduates with this year’s commencement ceremonies.

There were 57 Alaska Native students who were graduated from a UAS campus this year, the largest number for any graduation in the university’s history, the Juneau Empire reported (https://is.gd/GZPl5Z).

And at the main Juneau campus on Sunday, the first degrees ever awarded in Alaska Native language and studies program were presented to three students during the annual Alaska Native Graduation Ceremony.

Nae Brown was among the first to receive the Native studies degree. “It’s very surreal; it’s hard to imagine how it’s happening,” she said.

Her daughter, Adeia, dressed in a tutu, accompanied her mother to the stage when her mother was honored as a future Alaska Native teacher in a separate ceremony during the graduation program.

Brown received her bachelor’s degree with the goal of earning a master’s in teaching. She wants to teach “anybody who wants to learn” about Native culture and languages.

“I have never heard or seen so many Alaska Natives graduate and I have been on campus since 1972,” said Tlingit elder Marie Olson. “I never thought I would be able to address a group of people in my language… That’s history. That’s something I never thought would happen.”

The new Alaska Native languages and studies program has gone from just a few interested students to a full-fledged degree program in just four years, UAS Chancellor John Pugh said.

He said credit for that goes to an engaged student body who fought for the classes.

Vice Chancellor Joe Nelson asked audience members to help ensure that trend continue by recruiting Alaska Native students to attend UAS in Juneau, where a 120-bed residence hall is under construction.

“Help us fill that building with a bunch of Native 18-year-olds,” he said.

Officials say more than 680 students from the Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka campuses received degrees this year, up from 557 graduates last year.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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