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From the army to student government, passion for service fuels Esther Dale

by Catalina Myers  |   

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Since the pandemic began Ester Dale has been serving as USUAA's vice president and has advocated for many student issues from mental health to helping establish a food pantry on campus. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

When Esther Dale, a veteran and mom of three kids, moved to Alaska with her husband after they retired from the U.S. Army, she was looking to use her GI Bill® before it expired. UAA was the perfect match, and she began her higher education career, pursuing a B.S. in social work. She graduated in May with her bachelor's and a certificate in civic engagement and is currently working toward her A.A. in Alaska Native studies.

For Dale, UAA was surprisingly the “perfect” match. When she arrived in Alaska and began looking for higher education opportunities, she chose UAA primarily out of necessity. Still, she quickly fell in love with the state and her hometown university. It didn’t take long for her to get involved on campus, and she began attending Club Council meetings as a representative of the Student Social Work Coalition.

“I really liked being a part of the Student Social Work Coalition and helping support our mission,” Dale said. “I also ended up really enjoying attending the Club Council meetings, and it was suggested to me that I run for a position.”

Dale ran for vice chair of Club Council, which meant she represented student clubs at UAA during Union of Students of the University of Alaska Anchorage (USUAA) meetings and would soon find herself running for a position within UAA’s student government.  

“USUAA and Club Council gave me a way to be involved in something when everything shut down,” said Dale. Shortly after receiving her Club Council role, the pandemic brought much of campus life and culture to a screeching halt. But for Dale, her involvement ended up helping her handle the trials COVID-19 brought. “It ended up being a great network and support system as I headed into my senior year of school. Both of these activities ended up being relevant to my program, particularly with the advocacy portion.”

Dale said the experience of participating in both organizations allowed her to maintain her connection with the campus community during the shutdown and helped her feel like she was making a difference for her peers and providing support.

That was nearly two years ago, and although the pandemic has shifted life, the university has returned to a more normal day-to-day experience for students. Since joining USUAA and stepping into her role as vice president, Dale has championed many projects and initiatives advocating for students' overall well-being and success.

From organizing a list of mental health resources for students on- and off-campus and helping to pass a resolution for an established student food pantry to successfully advocating for the military tuition assistance model, a model that has now been adopted universitywide, Dale, in addition to her studies, has been seriously engaged in her work with USUAA.

Since COVID-19, she and members of USUAA have focused their attention on health and safety efforts, making sure they are advocating for students at the university and the statewide level. 

This fall, Dale is working on passing a resolution that an assembly member introduced to implement an Alaska Native land acknowledgment at the beginning of each USUAA meeting, which the student body will vote on in April.

“I think this, in particular, is important because it’s not just a check box, but it is a way for us to be thoughtful on this issue,” Dale said.

Dale is looking forward to finishing the academic year as vice president for USUAA and said the experience has enriched her education at UAA.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time serving on USUAA and hope that I can keep making a difference,” Dale said.


GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at benefits.va.gov/gibill.

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