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UAA celebrates 23 years of partnership with General Motors

by Joe Selmont  |   

View slideshow on SmugMug. All photos by James Evans, University of Alaska Anchorage.

In 1998, the General Motors (GM) Automotive Service Education Program, or ASEP, was integrated with UAA’s Automotive and Diesel Technology Department. ASEP is designed to meet a specific community need in Alaska: current and aspiring technicians at GM dealerships across the state, which include Buick, GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac dealerships, require training to keep up with current technologies.

UAA provides that training through a combination of online and hands-on learning. The classes are structured to offer flexibility to working students. And graduates from the two-year program come away with up to 85% of the requirements for their GM technician certification.

One student in the program, Zach Koziczkowski, said, “It’s been an awesome experience. When you learn online or from a book, you know how everything works in theory. But having actually gone through the steps with my hands on the equipment, I know for a fact that I can work on these vehicles.”

Of course, hands-on learning wouldn’t be possible without automobiles and their constituent parts — engines, transmissions, on-board computers — plus the tools and equipment necessary to work on them. In the past year alone, GM donated a 2016 Chevrolet Traverse, a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu and five 2019 GMC and Chevrolet half-ton pickup trucks, plus 20 brand new eight-speed transmissions and 15 engines.

Darrin Marshall, who is vice president of ASEP’s Western Region and chair of UAA’s Automotive and Diesel Programs, said that Alaska’s automotive community would have faced enormous challenges over the past two decades without GM’s support.

“Since the program began, we’re talking about well over a million dollars in donated vehicles and parts,” Marshall said. “And our partnership with GM has given us the ability to teach using the latest and greatest technologies. For example, our 2019 Cadillac is loaded with the new nine-speed transmission, five communication networks, over 40 computers and haptic response seats. Students who get to learn on this technology will be educated on anything that comes in the dealer.”

GM’s donations also have cascading benefits that go well beyond ASEP alone. Their donated vehicles, components and equipment are also used by students in the UAA Automotive and Diesel Department’s other programs. And GM’s donations eventually end up as hands-on learning tools in high schools across Alaska.

Marshall, who himself graduated from ASEP at UAA in 2002, understands the program’s value not only to Alaska’s communities, but to individuals, too.

“For me and a lot of other nontraditional students, the road can be tough,” Marshall said. “I started school after I had been married, had kids, had a mortgage. But the road has also been incredibly rewarding. For graduates from our programs, myself included, it’s a comfort to know that your skills will be useful no matter what the economy is like or where you live.”

As UAA begins implementing its next strategic plan, UAA 2025, program leaders like Marshall, who understands where students are coming from, and partnerships like the one with GM will play an important role in advancing UAA’s vision of itself as a university of distinction, transforming lives and communities.

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