Student loyalty remains close to home

The University of Alaska Southeast’s Juneau campus is small compared to the UAA campus, but to say that it is not equipped to properly educate and accommodate the attending student body is a misstatement.

The campus is beautiful. The main congregation of buildings rests on the edge of Auke Lake, which receives its waters from nearby Mendenhall Glacier, so from many classrooms students can enjoy views of the pristine lake and its surrounding natural habitat.

The learning environment is prosperous and unique, and the same can be said of the student body attending the Juneau campus. Traveling to the state capital for the Board of Regents September meeting, it quickly became apparent that Juneau’s student identity was fixed on the campus itself and not on the entire UA system.

The same can be said about UAA students. Our student body does not identify themselves with students in Fairbanks or the Southeast campuses. It is hard to, as we tend to live very separate lives, and a vast distance lies between UAA and the other campuses. The enormity of distance between each of the main campuses causes a sense of isolation in students’ minds.

Sporting events, comedy shows and the Daily Den help bring students together in Anchorage. Hockey and volleyball games are a big factor. The games help band students together, and rooting for our sports teams creates a cohesive sense of belonging to the university. This occurs despite the variety of colleges that the students are enrolled in. These events create a sense of loyalty that remains even after UAA students graduate.

Students at UAS exist in a much smaller community. Enrollment at the main campus is about 800 full-time and 1,600 part-time students. Classes vary in size, but are typically smaller than that of the larger universities; the average class size is approximately 15-20 students.

Many of the Juneau students know each other, having grown up in the capital or having quickly meant each other within the limited space of the campus. They care not if the Seawolves recently won a hockey game, for they are concerned with their own affairs, which have little to do with the sporting events taking place in Anchorage.

Students on campus were welcoming, always willing to shoot the breeze. They seemed surprised to see college-aged individuals that they did not recognize. After classes, students were seen leaving in large groups, chatting with one another about the class and discussing plans for the rest of the day. No students were spotted sitting by their lonesome. For every instance where students were spotted studying, they were doing so in groups of two to four. This tight-knit structure of students further perpetuates an identity that is separated from the goings on of UAA.

The UAA campus is much larger. The Office of Institutional Research’s headcount in Fall 2009 totaled 15,622 students. This larger student body contributes to our campus’s identity. It is hard to imagine attending a campus that manages only a fraction of the students that the UAA takes in every day.

These are the factors that separate the campuses, but do they ever band together? Students from campuses statewide certainly cooperated to fight the tuition increase. It did not matter what university a student attended, because no student wanted to see tuition rates rise as much as was being purposed. Beyond this coming together to protest the tuition hike, little exists to foster the larger UA identity.

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