Seawolf Opportunities Scholarship celebrates 10 years of helping students

by Catalina Myers  |   

First generation college student, Al Asuncion is purusing a double major in accounting, thanks to the Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship that is helping make his dreams of earning his degree a reality. (Photo credit, Al Asuncion)

 “Would you rather work for 40 hours a week for two weeks and receive less than $1,000, or would you sit down, spend three hours, write a good essay and receive at least $1,000 in scholarships?” It’s a question UAA junior Al Asuncion, who is pursuing a double major in accounting and finance, posits to the students he helps transition from high school to university. It’s a question Asuncion asked many years ago as a high school senior and first-generation college student from Kodiak, who was wondering how he would pay for college.

Asuncion said he had aspirations of attending an Ivy League school and pursuing a medical degree, but after realizing the astronomical cost and taking a career placement test, found that his analytical, mathematical brain skewed more toward something in the field of accounting and that UAA was a more feasible option. 

Even with UAA’s tuition, Asuncion said he knew he needed financial help to cover the cost of tuition, books and other associated student fees. So he turned his attention to scholarships, making it a goal to earn one that would help him not only cover his financial costs but also help him realize his newfound love for accounting and finance.

His dedication to earning a scholarship paid off when he was awarded the Seawolf Opportunities Scholarship (SOS), a fund established a decade ago from a $7 million anonymous gift to the university. In 2009, UAA was among a dozen universities nationwide that received millions in anonymous funds to create scholarships. Now, 10 years later, SOS has benefited 248 Seawolves ranging in disciplines from accounting and finance to engineering and nursing. 

“SOS allowed me to focus on my personal and academic success,” said Asuncion. “If I had not received this scholarship, I would be having to find ways to fund my post-secondary education. This scholarship allows me to just focus on my academics and help other students receive scholarships as well.”

For Asuncion, he’s grateful that he’s been able to keep his focus on academics over the last three years. His career placement test ended up being a perfect match and he’s never looked back. Asuncion said he fell in love with accounting his freshmen year and leaned into his major, so much so that he decided to add the finance degree. In order to be a licensed accountant in Alaska, students must earn 150 credits upon graduation, while only 120 are needed to graduate, so Asuncion thought, ‘Why not?’

“I really like the organization and how you have to be structured,” Asuncion said. “It really reflects my personality — I’m that person who’s very structured and organized — and so my thought was something that required those skills and I thought, accounting, let me try that.”

He said the two degrees complement each other and have widened his skills, something he knows will help him earn a spot in a top firm after graduation. He likes the variety the two degrees bring, with one zeroing in on specific numbers and calculations and the other with a wider, big picture view of how stock markets and large scale numbers work. 

Although Asuncion’s focus is razor sharp on keeping up with his academics, he values giving back, which is a big reason he chose to attend UAA. As a first-generation college student, he said he and his family didn’t really know or have the resources to help him budget for pursuing his post-secondary education. It’s something Asuncion hasn’t forgotten and partly why he decided to attend UAA — he wanted to immediately give back to his community while attending college and after he graduated. 

“With the SOS scholarship, the financial stress is gone, so this has allowed me to have time to share my knowledge with other students,” said Asuncion. When he applied to work in Residence Life, he was able to make a meaningful impact for other students, who were like him, trying to navigate how to meet the financial cost of pursuing their dreams in higher education. 

Besides participating in the Honors College Council, Accounting Club, the Emerging Leaders Program and intramural volleyball, he’s most proud of his work as a resident advisor. Through mentoring younger students, he’s been able to pay it forward by helping others attain their university goals, through sharing his knowledge and expertise in navigating the scholarship process.

“This scholarship has not only impacted my academics but how I approach other students and provide support so they can receive scholarships similar to mine and achieve their own personal academic success.”

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