Not perfect, but better than we were

Unlike many students roaming around this campus, I chose to come to UAA. Day after day, I run into people who are less than excited about their college. For them it was a last chance effort. Maybe the only school that would take them or the only place they could afford. Or it’s an interim activity along the way to bigger and better things, which, obviously, aren’t happening around here.

But I chose UAA.

And I fought hard to get here. As an international student, I chose to leap stacks of paperwork and wrestle through a mess of red tape to get past the border. I chose permanent non-resident tuition, U.S. customs and immigration headaches, international long distance phone bills and a city that doesn’t even have a Tim Hortons, (the choice donut shop of every pure-blooded Canadian).

But I also chose an athletic department that works hard to give their athletes the best. I chose an aviation program that ranks among the top, with flying opportunities and resume experience that is unattainable elsewhere. I chose a journalism department that boasts Pulitzer Prize winning professors and a bounty of internship prospects

Just because it wasn’t your first choice, doesn’t mean it is a not a first rate place.

Look around you. This school offers close to 50 undergraduate degrees, not including the plethora of certificates, minors and associate diplomas. On top of that there are more than two-dozen graduate programs.

It has the benefits of being a big university: lots of programs, lots of facilities, lots of support, direction and choices. But it keeps the advantages of a small town college. The classes are limited in size, which means professors get to know you, which in turn potentially means they care more about your education. UAA happenings are newsworthy in the eyes of the local media. People come to the sporting events, and whole-heartedly support the college teams.

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UAA is continuously working hard to improve its physical structures. Since I arrived, only three years ago, they have added a parking garage, upgraded the sports facilities, renovated the campus center, painted several buildings, started the Seawolf Shuttle system, added the University Center and have almost finished a state-of-the-art library.

Did you know that UAA boasts one of only two 360 degree air traffic control tower simulators in the entire United States? Know who has the other one? NASA.

I love UAA for the small things. Pizza busters and ice cream socials are offered throughout the summer. Family movie nights go on throughout the year. I love our Seawolf mascot and logo. I love that we have a professional looking Web site. I love how beautiful our campus looks during the summer, full of flowers and color.

As a UAA athlete, traveling around the country over the past few years I have seen my share of educational institutions. And ours is nothing to scoff at.

So what if the hockey team doesn’t win all of their games yet? We have an athletic department invested in helping them do so.

So what if the science building doesn’t have the needed research facilities yet? Construction has already begun on the new Ecosystems/Biomedical Health facility.

So what if UAA doesn’t have the best sports center yet? Plans are in the works for a better facility, and meanwhile renovations are being done to make what we have as good as can be.

UAA isn’t the perfect college. Neither is Harvard, for that matter – its prices are a little lofty. Nor is UCLA – they don’t have any aviation programs. The Seattle media couldn’t care less if a University of Washington sports team won a championship. And I am pretty sure Michigan State isn’t giving away free pizza and car washes to their summer students.

But I didn’t choose UAA because it was a perfect institution. I chose it because it reflects the core of my personality – it is a place that always strives to be better than it was. And that makes it a university of first choice.