In defense of UAA

Despite our university’s diverse and non-traditional student body, students around campus tend to have one thing in common: UAA was not their first choice. Countless students came here because their first-choice college would have put them in debt or because their parents forced them to go to save money. It’s no wonder why everyone here loves complaining about UAA: a significant portion of the student body is dispassionate and resentful of the fact that they’re here in the first place.

In fact, we love complaining about UAA so much that we turned their promotional campaign, UAAmazing, into an ironic hashtag. Ticketed for a minor parking violation? #UAAmazing. Got sick from the food in the Commons? #UAAmazing. Angry about wasted money on skybridges? #UAAmazing.

It’s not that UAA doesn’t have its issues. Budget cuts continue to pose challenges and have depleted student services, wrecked university departments and raised tuition. Residential campus feels like a rip-off. Academic, health and social services are confusing and decentralized. The campus is inefficiently spread out, forcing us to drive class-to-class, or even venture into town to find the University Center. I could go on, but at the very least it’s suffice to say that UAA has a lot of work to do.

However, to consider UAA as a desperate, least-desirable, tool of last resort is a mistake. Instead, UAA should also be considered a top-choice university for students graduating high school in Alaska.

First of all, UAA students looking for academic excellence should have little to complain about. We’ve got our fair share of lazy, incompetent professors — so does every university, including ones that charge tens of thousands more in tuition per year. What we seldom acknowledge is that we’ve also got some of the most talented faculty in the country. From award winning political science professors that have been elected to international councils to justice professors that have argued in front of the Supreme Court, UAA undoubtedly attracts quality teaching.

Impressive faculty aside, there aren’t many academic departments and programs that fail to match up to other public universities our size. Besides, unless you’re sold on what you’d like to do for the rest of your life, your undergrad is relatively inconsequential in the first place.

Next, there’s campus involvement. I can’t begin to tell you how sick and tired I am of hearing that there’s “nothing to do around campus.” UAA has 170 campus clubs and six Greek Life organizations registered, all of whom constantly hold meetings, events and activities for students to participate week-to-week. There’s something for everyone at UAA, whether or not you’re a fierce advocate for reproductive rights at Generation Action or an avid knitter at Chronicles of Yarnia.

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If student clubs aren’t your thing, UAA is also home to a host of formidable sports teams and academic opportunities, including our award winning women’s basketball team and our internationally-competitive debate program.

There’s plenty to do here. The problem is that we’re so busy complaining about how futile UAA is that we fail to see the opportunities that are actually available.

Lastly, our relentless pessimism makes us unnecessarily critical of many of UAA’s services. For instance, everyone has a bad story about Parking Services issuing a frivolous ticket. Point taken. However, it’s a bit bizarre that we complain about how there’s “no parking.” Hot take: is there no parking available, or are we simply too lazy to use the parking garages and walk a few minutes to class?

To be clear, it’s not that UAA is the shining university on the hill. But we need to change the way we evaluate UAA. If you’re for an Ivy League education, you won’t find it here. But for roughly $20,000 a year, we’re getting far more than we take for granted: a quality institution full of opportunity and excellence.