What is Urban in Alaska?

Urban in Alaska was created in response to the need to think of Anchorage as an urban area with urban issues in a state that is typically viewed as a rural expanse.  Urban issues in Anchorage are similar to other cities, whether the issue is poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, low employment, access to affordable housing, or mental illness.  While these issues may be prominent in non-urban areas, there may be an advantage to bringing another lens of urban studies to problems or solutions, in addition to viewing Anchorage issues in the context of the entire state of Alaska.

The focus on place as something distinct and important and creative is an area of study that has been the purview of urban planners.  The appreciation of what place means to people, the social spaces of neighborhoods and what they provide for residents, and the notion of what serves people in designing public spaces and neighborhoods, including those impacted by social issues key in creating livable urban spaces.

Fairview Pop Up Museum

Our Urban in Alaska Initiative at UAA includes a number of activities on campus and in the community!

  • Think Tanks – Each month a different non-profit agency presents a challenge or issue, and those attending brainstorm solutions for the organization.
    • Fall 2015 Think Tanks are scheduled for: Sept. 10, Oct. 1, Nov. 5
    • Past Think Tank guest agencies include: Leadership Anchorage, Catholic Social Services, United Way, AK Community Action on Toxics, Refugee Assistance & Immigration Services-CSS, Housing Anchorage, AK Legal Services Corporation, Covenant House AK, YWCA Alaska.
  • ENGAGE Week –events scheduled for November each year.
    • ENGAGE Week is a packed week of activities focused on neighborhoods, social issues, &community events held each fall.
  • Urban in Alaska Conference –The annual Urban in Alaska conference is scheduled for the end of March each year and includes a community-wide participatory process, with faculty, students and community members engaging in dialogue together.
  • Civic Engagement Courses that focus on learning about Anchorage's neighborhoods
  • Bree Kessler &Eric Larsen hosted "Urban in Alaska Expeditions" Winter Walks starting at the fountain in Town Square Park on Thursdays in the winter and spring.
  • Dialogues for Public Life – A new Kettering Foundation initiative will train two faculty members in bringing facilitation of public dialogue around community issues through the National Issues Forum process.

For more information on Urban in Alaska contact:

Bree Kessler

bckessler@uaa.alaska.edu  or 907-786-6582




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