Completion degrees meld UAA history as university and community college

Heather Brekke worked at Alaska Airlines for 15 years before the airline outsourced her job and dislocated Brekke’s entire department. At the time, she decided to go back to college for her Associate of Applied Science in computer information and office systems at UAA.

“I was scared to death,” Brekke said.

In two years, Brekke earned her AAS and was back in the workforce. In 2014, Brekke was offered a position as Alaska Middle College School Coordinator and Student Success Coach for the Chugiak-Eagle River campus, but the position preferred candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

Since Brekke already has an AAS degree, she qualified for a program at the Community and Technical College called the Bachelor of Science Applied Technology Leadership. The BSATL program is considered a completion degree. Any student with an AAS is able to include those credits towards their bachelor’s degree.

“This degree is perfect for a certain population of students,” Brekke said. “If you are an associate’s degree student and you want to get your leadership skills without losing all the credits towards your major, this is the perfect degree.”

Brekke has been making steady progress on the degree and is now even planning to take a geology class and lab with her son in the fall.

Darlene Gill, assistant professor of applied technology leadership, teaches many students like Brekke.

“[The BSATL] really enables students to apply for jobs that require a bachelor’s degree and be a viable candidate for those types of positions,” Gill said.

Gill said her average student is 30 to 40 years old. Since the degree has a leadership focus, it can apply to students in a variety of industries.

Denise Runge, dean of the Community and Technical College, said many CTC students start their college experience seeking an associate’s degree but complete a bachelor’s degree.

Currently, the CTC offers several AAS degrees that flow directly into a bachelor of science program like construction management, aviation administration and occupational safety and health.

“Where we have both an associate’s and a bachelor’s, we try to make that completely lineup, so that if you start out in the associate’s and then switch to the bachelor’s, you don’t have a different set of requirements, you haven’t lost anything,” Runge said.

Since the Anchorage Community College and the University of Alaska Anchorage merged in 1987, students have been able to attain both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree at the same institution.

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“I’ve worked in community colleges and I’ve worked in universities in the Lower 48, and to see how Alaska just took that problem off the table by putting the two together… from the student’s end, it seems so smart,” Runge said.

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Runge said it’s “extremely rare” to see a single institution that offers two-year and four-year degree. At UAA, it’s so common for students to work towards the associate’s and then bachelor’s degree that her office calls the phenomenon, “two plus two.”

The CTC’s completer degree options are also a good fit for military students who have earned an AAS, but want the four-year degree. The BSATL degree is approved for Air University students as well.

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