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slideshow of the Dillingham area
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Linda Malstrom with the Bristol Bay Campus' Adult Basic Education program works on math skills with Dillingham resident Simeon Petla.

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High school students are able to take a college-level pre-calculus class using distance-delivered technology at the Bristol Bay Campus.

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Associate Professor Mike Davis leaves the Bristol Bay Campus on his way to a meeting.

Zoom in on this photo Quickbooks classResidents of Dillingham enrolled in a Quickbooks class offered at the Bristol Bay Campus.

Bristol Bay Campus unlocks opportunities

Photos and story by Todd Paris, University Marketing and Publications
March 2007

Zoom in on this photoLarhae Johnson
Dillingham resident Larhae Johnson had her picture taken in a cap and gown after earning her GED through the adult learning program at UAF's Bristol Bay Campus.

Larhae Johnson knew she'd reached an impasse. With two young children to raise, she realized her chances of finding a decent job in her hometown of Dillingham would be far greater if she returned to school and got her General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

"I didn't want to be in the situation where I was qualified for a job and be turned down because I didn't have a diploma," Johnson said a couple of months after completing the GED requirements through the UAF Bristol Bay Campus office of Adult Basic Education.

"I really wanted it," she said. "When there's something I really want, I work my hump off to get it."

Fortunately for Johnson, the services offered by the community campus were close at hand and made her leap back into the world of education less daunting.

"I wanted to show my kids that ... it's never too late to go back to school."

"I think school is very important," she added. "I wanted to show my kids that even though you're in your 20s--really no matter what age you are--it's never too late to go back to school."

Preparing local students for the GED exam is only one of the services offered by the Adult Basic Education program at the Bristol Bay Campus. Assistant Professor Maryanne Dickey heads up the office, which also provides Dillingham residents with workforce development opportunities, basic computer skills, interview and communication skills, and even offers help with residents' drivers' license tests.

"We're mandated by our charter to help people further their education," Dickey said. "That can be postsecondary, vocational or just providing help getting a job."

That kind of help played a critical role in Johnson's case.

"It was hard," Johnson said. "I thought it would be easier before I signed up. It took a lot of time and energy just to find a babysitter when I needed one.

"But Maryanne was awesome," Johnson added. "She was very patient and very encouraging. Everybody has their bad days, and Maryanne understood when I was having a bad day and she would just encourage me to keep on studying.

"When I learned I passed I was really excited and very proud of myself."

"I was really anxious to get my results after I took the final test," she said. "When I learned I passed I was really excited and very proud of myself."

The Bristol Bay Campus also plays a vital role in helping local high school students get a jump start on their college career by providing a number of dual-credit courses. Local teens can use the credits they earn at BBC both for their high school requirements and for college.

Zoom in on this photo Deborah McLean-Nelson
Director Deborah McLean stands in front of the expanded Bristol Bay campus center in Dillingham.

Campus director Deborah McLean said that last fall 40 local high school students took classes at the campus in math, science, computer applications and vocational training. She said four Dillingham high school students took a dual-credit physics course last spring that required them to travel to Fairbanks for the final week of labs and tests. Before the trip, only one was planning to attend UAF after high school. Now all four are attending classes at the Fairbanks campus.


In the spring 2007 semester the Bristol Bay Campus is offering classes in topics ranging from calculus to curling. Every night of the week, residents of Dillingham take advantage of offerings at BBC to learn topics of special interest such as beading, quilting, mushroom hunting, home furnace repair and digital photo manipulation.

Zoom in on this photoMike DavisAssociate Professor of Rural Development Mike Davis reaches his students via distance-delivery from his office at the Bristol Bay Campus in Dillingham.
Offering a wide variety of programs, the campus serves an area of approximately 55,000 square miles and 33 communities as far south as Ivanof Bay, as far north as Port Alsworth, as far west as Togiak, and east to King Salmon through distance delivery, correspondence, itinerant instructors and more traditional methods.

Associate Professor Mike Davis uses distance-delivery technology to teach rural development and other classes from his office in Dillingham. The former Fairbanks legislator recently led a group of 12 of his distance-delivery students from throughout Alaska on a one-week seminar in Juneau. Students traveled to the capital to meet with lawmakers and see first-hand how their state government operates.

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Patuk Parker

Patuk Parker, a rural development major in UAF's College of Rural and Community Development, testifies before her peers during a mock legislative hearing in Juneau.

Patuk Parker, an Inupiaq Eskimo from Barrow, attended the Juneau seminar from the UAF Fairbanks campus, where she's majoring in rural development with an emphasis in tribal and local government. During a roundtable discussion at the end of the week--which was crammed with meetings and discussions with individual legislators, the governor, lobbyists, reporters, aides, commissioners and even a Supreme Court justice--Parker summed up what seemed a consensus opinion.

"I came down here like a sponge trying to absorb knowledge about how my state government works."

"I came down here like a sponge trying to absorb knowledge about how my state government works," she said. "Now I can say without a doubt the sponge is full!"

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