Cosby X two: Father and son graduate together in UAA’s spring 2023 commencement ceremony
by Catalina Myers |
When Mark Cosby enrolled at UAA, he was given his WolfCard and assigned a university username. He was surprised to discover it was “jmcosby2.”
“I beat you to the punch,” his son Matt Cosby said. Junior Cosby was given the username “jmcosby,” and Mark, despite being the senior Cosby, has jokingly been referred to in the family ever since as “the second Cosby.”
“Everytime I look at that over the years I kinda laugh,” Mark said.
It all worked out in the end, as the father and son duo graduated Sunday, May 7, in the 2023 spring commencement ceremony at the Alaska Airlines Center. It was touching as Mark Cosby walked across the stage, graduating with his bachelor’s in civil engineering from the College of Engineering (CoEng). You could hear a "whoop" ringing out from the depths of the crowd as Matt Cosby cheered on his father.
Mark Cosby moved to Anchorage with his wife, settling into life in the 49th state. While she worked in health care as a nurse, he landed in the construction industry, and the two of them raised their five sons — of whom Matt is the oldest.
As the years went by and Mark continued to advance in his career, he realized he was beginning to hit a wall. In Alaska and across the country, the construction industry had evolved. The once coveted and more easily attainable project management and senior positions within a construction company now required a bachelor’s degree. Mark, in his mid-40s, contemplated going back to school. With the support of his wife and after crunching the numbers to make sure it was financially possible, he enrolled at UAA as a full-time student.
“It was a big step but I wanted to do something interesting, I wanted to do something to challenge myself and that was related to my past career,” Mark said. “It was really hard going back to school. I wanted to integrate into my classes and campus life since I was going there full time.”
Mark’s trepidation about returning to school — a feeling many non-traditional students express when entering college in mid-life and career — was relieved to be welcomed and accepted by his peers and professors. As they say, the rest is history, and Mark made the most of his time at UAA, participating in study sessions with his classmates and late-night celebratory pizza runs after exams; he joined the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and became involved in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program. Mark said he is glad he took the time to immerse himself in the whole college experience, taking classes year-round and participating in campus life.
Matt Cosby had a similar experience, although with different goals, dreams and degree path. Initially, Matt had pursued a science degree with hopes of going to dental school but soon realized the passion wasn’t there and, for a while, wrote off college in pursuit of other endeavors and work in the Lower 48. While working as an underwater welder in San Diego, he earned his medic diving and emergency medical technician certifications.
“It was around this time that I was beginning to think that maybe I have a little more to offer the world,” Matt said. “I realized I could play an active role in my life rather than passively letting it go by.”
It took some time, but Matt had an epiphany. He realized if he channeled his energy in an efficient and focused way, he could achieve anything he put his mind to. Over the next few years, Matt and his soon-to-be wife bounced around the South, first moving to Atlanta, where he attended Kennesaw State University, balancing a full course load and working full time. He and his wife then moved to Houston, for a time before Matt realized he missed Alaska and wanted to move home.
Upon returning, Matt decided to give UAA a shot, enrolling as a health sciences major. It was a rough start. He broke his collarbone a few weeks into the fall semester but, at the same time, was given an opportunity to start a club on campus. He and a handful of students began the Health Professions Student Organization, offering Matt his first experience engaging in student life at UAA. The new club hit the ground running, gathering members and offering undergraduate and graduate students in programs across the College of Health (COH) the opportunity to participate in programs and events related to their field.
“We hosted a few blood drives and a health sciences resource fair for new students,” Matt said. “We made a lot of connections with UAA professors in COH, the first year we were active we won organization of the year by Club Council and we were as engaged as we could be with the university community.”
Throughout his entire time at UAA, Matt worked full-time, advancing his career in the transportation industry. He packed his schedule, particularly during the summer when the state takes advantage of long days to fix Alaska’s pot-holed highways.
“It’s been challenging balancing both work and school,” said Matt. “But I am happy to say that I’ve been able to excel at my career and education — but like everything, there’s a cost.” Matt’s schedule was brutal. At school, he put in long hours focusing on academics, engaging in the UAA community and providing leadership through Club Council. When summer hit, he worked around the clock.
While both father and son had a unique college experience and came to UAA with individual goals in mind, the two never passed up the opportunity to high-five each other on the way to class or catch up in the hallway and encourage each other. Mark looks forward to the next chapter of his career while Matt prepares for pre-med. Although their UAA journey has come to a close — at least for now — the opportunity to graduate together and give each other one last shoutout during commencement is a memory they will treasure for years to come.