Student Life, Leadership Director retires after over 30 years

Director of Student Life and Leadership, Annie Route, retires after over 30 years at UAA. Photo credit: Jay Guzman


Student Life and Leadership Director, Annie Route, is retiring June 30 after almost 31 years at UAA. Route has been recognized for her service to students with the 2009 Staff Make Students Count Award and the 1998 UAA Outstanding Contribution to Students Award. Route has been an integral part of several programs at UAA including the Martin Luther King Student Luncheon, she started the first orientation program at UAA, she was the driving force for putting interpreter logos on event posters, and she changed the name of the Student Gallery to honor Hugh McPeck.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Bruce Schultz, has known Route since 1991, and he said Route is an icon around campus with a big heart.

“Annie was one of those champions who said we need to do a better job for disabled students, and she was pretty persistent about that,” Schultz said.

One of Route’s first jobs in Anchorage was as the Interpreter Referral Line Coordinator, where she was able to use her talents as an ASL interpreter. While employed there she would continue to look for employment at UAA. With a Masters of Arts in College Student Personnel: Administration in Higher Education, Route knew she wanted to work in Student Affairs.

“I came to UAA to look for jobs, and the way jobs were posted was they were really posted on a bulletin board with a five by eight card, typed up, the department, the title of the job, how much it paid, some basic duties, what you had to do to apply. There really wasn’t anything. There wasn’t really Student Affairs at that point,” Route said. “But I kept watching the University and going back to that bulletin board, and finally there was an opportunity as a Career Counselor.”

Route applied and received the Career Counselor job in 1986, and from there Route has worked a series of jobs that eventually culminated in her employment as Campus Life Director in 1998, a position that is now called Student Life and Leadership Director. Route describes her staff at Student Life and Leadership as a family.

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“I would say that a success in our institution really depends on the relationships that you can build, certainly with the staff you’re working with,” Route said. “We all have lives beyond UAA and we need to recognize that, and yet we are a family here because we spend so much time together.”

Paula Fish, assistant director for Student Leadership, has worked for Route for the past seven years and she said Campus Kick Off “is what it is because of her efforts.”

“Out of all the people I’ve worked for, Annie is someone who is not afraid to do any job of any kind,” Fish said. “She’s all about doing what needs to get done.”

Route was at UAA before the 1987 merger between the Anchorage Community College and the Senior College created the University of Alaska Anchorage. Schultz said it will be a void for Student Affairs to lose someone with those early memories. Because Route has been at UAA since it’s initial development, she has been able to foster new programs like student orientation.

“When she started that [student orientation] program there was no additional funding available. No one else at the university said we’re going to, this is the right thing to do, we’re going to invest in it, Schultz said. “But she made the right decision anyways without any additional resources.”

Student Affairs is currently in the process of hiring a new Student Life and Leadership Director, and Schultz said he is optimistic about the new Director.

“Change is an opportunity. The professionals that we are looking at for Annie’s position, they will bring different characteristics and experiences to this University and students will continue to benefit from them,” Schultz said. “But nobody can replace Annie’s big heart for students.”

In her retirement Route plans to travel more, and one of her first trips will be to Armenia to visit her daughter, who is currently serving in the Peace Corps. Route will continue to be around campus to teach an ASL class at UAA, but she will use her newfound free time to become more involved in the theatre and art community in Anchorage.