Statistical snapshot of UAA's 2016 spring graduates

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Optimism at UAA 2016 Spring Commencement

Optimism and happiness sprang out at UAA 2016 Spring Commencement, a time to celebrate and reflect on achievement. (Photos by Phil Hall / University of Alaska Anchorage)

By anyone's standards, 2016 is a tough year. State money woes are redefining and reorganizing Alaska. The dust is yet to settle.

This mood of uncertainty makes something as affirming as college graduation especially refreshing. Commencement is always big, the culmination of years of sacrifice and achievement by students as they reach for work and life success. Staff and faculty get a huge lift watching graduates celebrate their big moment.

The rest of us need good news, too, right? So why not indulge in a little optimism about Alaska's future. UAA's commencement is a snapshot of the next generation of bright thinkers and problem solvers. Who are they? What can they do for us?

Data from UAA's Office of Institutional Research and the Registrar's Office paint a portrait of the spring class of 2016. UAA, including its four community campuses in Kodiak, Kenai, Valdez and Mat-Su, expected 1,497 individuals to graduate, picking up 1,515 degrees or certificates. Of those, 222 are graduate degrees.

About half opted for some "pomp," crossing the stage at the Alaska Airlines Center at 1 p.m. May 1, where they saw a symbol of UAA's new budgetary "circumstance." The classic green and gold confetti blizzard was nixed in favor of thriftier one-shot streamers.

Confetti aside, the numbers show UAA persists as a transformative engine for Alaskans. Thirty-five percent of this semester's class are the first in their family to attend and finish college. Thirty-six percent achieved their academic goal with help from a Pell grant, needs-based federal financial aid that students don't repay.

Remember the recent legislative debate over ending the Alaska Performance Scholarship? Thirteen percent of this year's graduates relied on it. Eleven percent were UA Scholars.

More women than men will graduate in May-61 percent to 39 percent. Three in 20 graduates are affiliated with the military as veterans, dependents or active-duty.

Age is always interesting at UAA, a school known for its non-traditional enrollment. While 1,000 students live on campus in the more typical college arrangement for 18-21 year olds, nearly two-thirds of this class, or 63 percent, are older-between the ages of 25 and 49. UAA remains a place where Alaskans go to school when they want or need to. Here's how the age categories break down:

  • Seven 18- or 19-year-olds will graduate
  • 32 percent of this semester's graduates are 20-24 (478)
  • 28 percent are 25-29 (418)
  • 25 percent are 30-39 (367)
  • 10 percent are 40-49 (52)
  • 4 percent are 50-59 (54)
  • Just 1 percent are 60 or over (14)

Race and ethnicity categories confirm the diversity so frequently touted in Anchorage and at UAA. While almost 60 percent of the class report as white, just over 40 percent report in other categories, among them:

  • 6 percent Asian
  • 7 percent Hispanic or Hispanic/multi-racial
  • 6 percent Alaska Native or Alaska Native/multi-racial
  • 3 percent black/non-Hispanic
  • 1 percent Native Hawaiian
Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadim Tsimshian Dancers

Members of the Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadim Tsimshian Dancers offered an Alaska Native welcome to the Spring 2016 Commencement at the Alaska Airlines Center on May 1, 2016.

Perhaps the most important question: What did they study? How can they help the state move into the future?

UAA will award 515 two-year associate degrees in science or the arts. Bachelor's degrees tally 769, an even split between arts and sciences. The 10 most popular degrees are in:

  • management, 54 (Bachelor of Business Administration)
  • psychology, 50
  • accounting, 48
  • nursing science, 46
  • marketing, 33
  • justice, 32
  • sociology, 32 (Bachelor of Social Work)
  • biological sciences, 30
  • English, 27
  • history, 26

For a snapshot not based solely on individual majors, UAA will graduate more than 70 engineering students, including civil, mechanical, electrical, computer science and geomatics. It also will award 19 economics degrees, 10 each in journalism, early childhood education and computer networking, and eight each in theatre and music education.

The 10 most popular master's degrees are:

  • business administration, 21
  • nursing science, 18
  • social work, 16
  • educational leadership, 15
  • public health, 14
  • global logistics and supply chain management, 14
  • education, 13
  • clinical psychology, 11
  • counselor education, 9
  • project management, 9

Data points like these can give us a sense of trends. They fail to deliver a face or a personal story. Yet individual graduates this May easily illustrate the numbers.

Jonathon Taylor

Jonathon Taylor

Students work while they go to school: Jonathon Taylor, UAA's student body president, award-winning Seawolf debater and this spring's commencement speaker, earned a bachelor's degree in political science and minors in communication, economics and journalism. Besides lobbying all year for legislative attention to the university budget on behalf of UAA's 16,000 students (and globe-trotting for debate competitions), he worked full-time for Holland America Princess Alaska. After Sunday's festivities, he went right back to work, training summer staff.

Alice Choi

Alice Choi

Students gravitate from around the world for opportunity: Alice Choi arrived in Alaska from South Korea as a high school freshman, speaking no English. She spent her high school and college years translating for and caretaking her aging, ailing grandparents. She graduated with a degree in biological sciences and heads to dental school, with the promise of a job back in Alaska.

David Parret

David Parret

Alaskans go to school when they know what they want to study: David Parret and his then-girlfriend/now-wife Ginny, headed to UAA as freshmen right out of Service High School. She took to college easily, earning her bachelor's, master's and doctorate at UAA. After a few semesters, David opted for construction work for almost a decade. That is, until geomatics captured his imagination. Sunday he graduated with that degree. Ginny and their 2-year-old son will watch from the bleachers.

Haliehana Stepetin

Haliehana Stepetin

An Alaska Native Navy veteran finds her way at UAA: Haliehana Stepetin was the last person born on the Aleutian island of Akutan, an area influenced by Unangax, Russian and American cultures. She joined the U.S. Navy at 17 and served aboard a ship out of Hawaii. After the service, she focused her interests and background into academic pursuits, translating Russian texts on Unangax customs for her thesis. She graduated Sunday with a degree in international studies with minors in anthropology and Russian.

Snapshot from Spring 2016 Commencement

Snapshot from Spring 2016 Commencement.

Click here to view a selection of photos from the spring commencement ceremony.

Written by Kathleen McCoy, UAA Office of University Advancement. All photos by Phil Hall.

Creative Commons License "Statistical snapshot of UAA's 2016 spring graduates" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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