Keep calm and be resilient

by Catalina Myers  |   

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UAA fall commencement speaker Jamie Bagley's message to the class of 2020 is one of resilience in an unusual time (photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage).

 During her junior year of high school, UAA fall 2020 commencement speaker Jamie Bagley shadowed a veterinarian as part of a class. After her experience in a veterinary clinic, she knew working with animals was a career she wanted to pursue. When it came to choosing her major at UAA her freshman year, biological sciences was the obvious choice. However, charting the rest of her undergraduate career was a little less straightforward until a friend encouraged her to join USUAA Student Government.

Bagley said she wasn’t always confident in her leadership skills and abilities but that joining USUAA provided a foundational cornerstone of her college career allowing her to grow into the confident senior who decided last year to take the plunge and apply for commencement speaker in the fall. 

When I first started with USUAA I didn't really think of myself as a leader but more of a doer,” said Bagley. “As time went on, skills I didn't know I had emerged and I just grew into a confidence that allowed me to be not only in a supporting role as vice president but eventually in the role as student body president. I think USUAA helped me grow as a person, not just personally but professionally too. I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate with other people and how to mediate a conversation, especially when you don’t always agree with someone else’s opinion.”

Born and raised on the Kenai Peninsula, coming to Anchorage was a big change, but looking back she’s glad she chose her hometown university and feels she’s received a well-rounded education and had experiences she may not have had the opportunity to receive had she been at a larger university in the Lower 48.

She said her professors and coursework were always fairly hands-on and her involvement in USUAA allowed her to network not only within the university but in the community, where once she graduates from veterinary school, will be useful in securing a job in what she considers her second hometown — Anchorage.

UAA is a small university and coming from a small high school in Kenai, it wasn't too framatic of a change,” said Bagley. “UAA has always felt like a close knit community for me where everyone either knows or knows of each other.

Bagley said despite knowing that acquiring a biological sciences degree was going to be challenging, she’s enjoyed all of her classes, although some more than others, and that she’s glad she’s in the home stretch heading toward graduation. 

“The biology road has been really hard and I’m so happy to be done, but it’s always been enjoyable, and the teachers have always been good,” she said. “I can’t imagine how my life would be if I had gone out of state — which I did consider for a while — but feel like my experience would have been really different. I think freshmen coming to UAA should get involved because it makes you happy and feel like you’re a part of something much bigger.”

In addition to her full-time student status and currently serving as the speaker of the assembly where she helps coordinate and chair meetings, while also providing counsel to both the USUAA president and vice president, Bagley spends most of her Friday nights as a technician assistant at Midnight Sun Animal Hospital and Emergency Care. She’s been working there for five years and her part-time job outside of school and USUAA was what determined her applying to veterinary schools in the Lower 48. She’s anticipating hearing back from schools sometime this month or in December and hopes to be in grad school next August.

“I know graduate school is going to be a lot harder than my undergrad,” said Bagley of her next big step. “I can write a really good essay on vertebrae biology, how to find and cite my sources correctly.” She credits her biology teachers for helping her develop her essay-writing skills and said that her coursework at UAA has developed her study skills and work ethic — all tools she knows she’ll need to survive veterinary school.

For now, Bagley is looking forward to closing the books on her undergraduate degree and is reflective of the four years she’s spent at UAA and the legacy she and her classmates will leave. She believes if there’s anything that she and her peers have learned early on in life it’s that resilience can get you through a lot of life's challenges.

“I want to inspire my classmates and to encourage them to be the best version of themselves and for them to know that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to,” Bagley said. “My theme is focused on how UAA’s student body is resilient — especially for this graduating class.” 

Bagley said it’s been a tumultuous four years for this particular class as they’ve experienced a lot together in that time. The massive 7.1 earthquake that shook Southcentral in 2018, the unprecedented academic and budget cuts the university experienced the last two years and finally, a global pandemic that completely reshaped the last months of their junior year and final semester as seniors. 

To be resilient is something everyone should strive for,” said Bagley.

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