Community Corner: Sharing our mission with students

Lisa Matlock

Lisa Matlock

By Lisa Matlock Outreach Coordinator Universities, both from Alaska and out-of-state, offer field courses that can connect students to places and topics firsthand, adding a dose of reality to their academic learning and creating lifelong memories for participating students. Every year the council receives requests for presentations and educational activities to help students understand our mission, our work, and its global significance.

High school to college

For the past two years, the council has participated in one such course, an “Environmental Leadership Lab.” Rhode Island’s Brown University partners with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Kenai Peninsula College to provide exceptional high school students the opportunity to learn about the complicated interactions between natural and social systems in Alaska. Participants spend two weeks traveling throughout southcentral Alaska exploring how multiple stakeholders — corporate, governmental, native and non-native — struggle to balance consumption of natural resources with long-term sustainability. Executive Director Mark Swanson and Programs Director Donna Schantz met with the students last summer when they were touring Valdez. Swanson described the connections students made to the council’s work as “astounding in their global focus. The students were very aware of models from all over the world that address risk management.”

College field courses

Elmira College students participate in a mock oil spill cleanup.

Elmira College students participate in a mock oil spill cleanup.

For years, New York’s Elmira College has held an environmental sciences field course in the Homer area, and has included the council in its syllabus. Before this year, the council’s presentations focused on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and changes that make oil transportation safer today. This spring, we added a mock oil spill activity to help the students understand oil spill response in the Alaskan environment. Students from Vermont’s Middlebury College are planning to visit Kenai Peninsula College and Alaska Pacific University campuses this summer to study Arctic char in Alaska and the environmental issues and threats to that species. The council’s presentation will share specific Prince William Sound fisheries-related research and history with the students, along with a mock oil spill response.

Post-graduate opportunities

The council also works with graduate and post-graduate educational programs. This past spring council volunteer Jim Herbert met with Marshall Memorial Fellows in Seward. This fellowship program introduces a new generation of European leaders to different areas of the United States and helps them better understand transatlantic relations. Herbert talked to them about the Exxon Valdez oil spill and how efforts to prevent oil spills have changed since 1989. Swanson and I also met with two Seagrant legislative fellows from Washington, D.C. last year who were investigating Alaska marine systems with regard to science and law. Read more: Upcoming high school and college internships  
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