UAA adds Alaska Native-themed GER to curriculum

by Michelle Saport  |   

Students entering UAA this fall will be part of the first class required to complete three credits of an Alaska Native-themed (AKNT) General Education Requirement in order to graduate with an Associate of Arts or Baccalaureate degree. The new requirement is part of a broader effort to integrate knowledge about the diversity, perspectives and history of Alaska Native and Indigenous peoples into the university's curriculum.

The Alaska Native Studies Council took up the student-initiated proposal. Comprised of faculty from all three University of Alaska campuses (UAF, UAS and UAA) as well as Iḷisaġvik College, the council spearheaded the curriculum change, and in 2015, the council approached the UA Board of Regents with a formal request to establish an Alaska Native-themed general education requirement. After receiving an enthusiastic response from the board, the council collaborated to develop four Student Learning Outcomes for the GER proposal:

  1. Recognize Alaska Native/Indigenous diversity by tribe, language and region.
  2. Identify and articulate the complexity and sophistication of Alaska Native/Indigenous knowledge systems and social institutions and the arts in historical and contemporary contexts.
  3. Articulate the social and legal development of Alaska Native peoples, such as ANCSA.
  4. Identify the historical forces of colonization and their impact upon Alaska Native regions, communities and individuals.

The proposal - which focuses on integrating the learning outcomes into courses across the various disciplines, colleges and programs at UAA, rather than requiring a single course - moved through all curriculum committees and Faculty Senate at UAA. Interim Provost Duane Hrncir and Interim Chancellor Samuel Gingerich signed the final approval April 18.

The requirement goes into effect for students entering UAA in the fall 2018 semester. The curriculum is designed so it will not burden students with additional required credits, but can be completed as part of their General Education Requirements (GERs) or their program requirements.

Special thanks go to the leadership of Jeane T'áaw xíwaa Breinig, associate vice chancellor for Alaska Natives and Diversity, professor of English and member of the Alaska Native Studies Council; Maria Sháa Tláa Williams, associate professor of Alaska Native Studies and member of the Alaska Native Studies Council; and the assistance of Dan T. Kline, director of General Education Requirements, for driving the development of the Alaska Native-themed GER at UAA.

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