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Success Center keeps students on path to graduation

March 22nd, 2013 | Ilisagvik Staff Print this article   Email this article  

Ilisagvik College, Alaska's only tribal college, has worked tirelessly since its inception to educate and empower the Inupiaq people of the North Slope; to build its workforce and prepare new generations of competent professionals. While the college celebrates tremendous successes; steadily increasing enrollment, growing graduation numbers, and countless post-graduation success stories, Ilisagvik faces a challenge familiar to many minority-serving, post-secondary institutions - student retention.

The unique population Ilisagvik serves faces equally unique challenges in achieving their goals of higher education. Some Ilisagvik students are the first in their families to have graduated from high school and the first to go beyond that into college or technical training. Consequently, for many students, family support for their pursuit of higher education is limited, as family members often have little insight into the challenges this undertaking can present.

To address these student retention challenges, the Division of Students has transformed its Student Services Department into a Student Success Center and brought the Recruitment Department under its umbrella so that students have a unified resource to assist them in meeting their goals. This reorganization allows for a smooth transition from prospective recruit to active student.

Gloria Burnett, formerly the Allied Health/NW AHEC Program Coordinator, is now the Dean of Students and oversees the Student Success Center. The Center is divided into four sections, each section headed by its own coordinator. These divisions are the Recruitment Division, the Student Life Division, the Student Wellness Division and the Retention and Persistence Division. Ruth Aiken, Cultural Activities Specialist, works with these four divisions to incorporate cultural relevance into all programming and activities.

The Recruitment Division, led by Janelle Everett, serves as the first stop for prospective students. With assistance from Recruitment Specialist Norman Edwards, this division aims to expose Alaska's youth to the prospect of post-secondary education from the earliest possible age. These efforts are made possible through collaboration with the North Slope Borough School District, the North Slope Borough, the State of Alaska, and many other entities for a variety of programs such as Ilisagvik Glimpse (middle school program), Kids2College, summer camps, radio shows and village outreach.

The Student Life Division oversees the Residential Center, Student Activities and Security. Hina Kilioni, who previously worked for the State of Alaska Public Defender Agency and served as a United States Marine, heads it up. Residential Advisor Simon Aina assists the Student Life Division as a student and staff member available on campus for all student needs. This division is working on a variety of ideas to enrich student life on campus including Foreign Film Nights, Community Service Projects, and a community-wide Cultural Fair slated for April 13. In addition, The Residential Center is in the midst of a modernization process with updated murals, decor and furniture improving the overall atmosphere to a more "student-friendly space".

The Student Wellness Division, headed by former Behavioral Health Practitioner Ace Stettler, is working to incorporate all aspects of positive physical and emotional health into a wide variety of recreational program and services based on the proven connection between a healthy mind and body. They are currently facilitating student and staff wellness activities such as a "Biggest Loser" Competition, P90X strength training, yoga, and dietary guidance, as well as intermural basketball and the continuation of Talking Circles.

Finally, the Retention and Persistence Division, led by Coordinator Chelsi Danner, is providing students the academic support, accommodations and resources needed to stay in school and succeed. Within this division is the Learning Resource Center, which has regular walk-in hours seven days a week in two locations. All staff in this division will be trained using the reputable MASTER Tutor program. There will also be access for students through an LRC email account for requesting proctoring and tutoring appointments, in addition to submitting papers and assignments for feedback. A new student referral system has already been implemented college-wide to better assure that no student needing help goes without.

"This reorganization is a critical part of our effort to retain the students we recruit by offering them support and assistance in every aspect of their academic and private lives," said Ilisagvik College President Pearl Brower. "Sometimes when classes seem impossibly hard and you just want to quit, a kind ear listening sympathetically on the other end of the phone is all you need to get you through. And sometimes you need more - you need counseling for financial assistance or emotional issues or you just need someone to look at the paper you worked so hard on to tell you it looks great. Whatever it takes to get students to stay in school, overcome their fears and problems, and be successful, is what we want to do. In the end, it's all about the students. Their success is our success."

If you are interested in becoming a student at Ilisagvik, contact Recruiter Janelle Everett at 1.800.478.7337, ext. 1799 or 907.852.1799 or visit


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