Strategies for Decolonizing the University Culture

  • Dr. Maria Williams (Tlingit)
  • Zach Lane (Inupiaq)
  • Dr. Richard Webb
  • Dr. Beth Leonard (Deg Xit’an)
  • Dr. Jeane Breinig (Haida)


Alaska’s Largest University

  • 19,000+ Students

    and growing
  • 2,000 Alaska Natives

    10% of overall
  • 3 mil square foot

  • 679

    Full time faculty
  • 689

  • 1431


Student Demographics

at UAA

Incoming new Alaska Native Students by year and attrition rate

  • 2010

    227 50.7%
  • 2011

    247 53.8%
  • 2012

    195 51.8%
  • 2013

    185 53.3%
  • 2014

    194 51.0%
  • 2015

    184 ?%


Indigenous Students face multiple challaenges at UAA

Alaska Native students that come to UAA are often overwhelmed with the size of the university, the bureaucracy, and maze of offices they must deal with, including:

  • Financial aid
  • Registrar’s office
  • Advisement
  • Residence hall (if they live on campus)
  • Rural students have a bigger adjustment

Support Awareness

Students are note always aware of available support

  • UAA has a large Veteran Support Center
  • Veteran Financial Assistance
  • Native Student Services
  • ANROP and Cama-I Room for residence hall students
  • 25% of all residence hall students are Alaska Native

One Solution

To Create Modules that Incorporate Native Values/Stories

  • Agatha John-Shields (Yup’ik) and Dr. Beth Leonard (Deg Xit’an) are expert on incorporating Native values into courses, curriculum and pedagogy
  • By incorporating Native values into on-line modules and making the curriculum and information relevant for Alaska Native students will provide a much better platform for success at UAA.
One Solution

Zach Lane and Liz Savage Developed a Story

  • UAA students know exactly what is needed to survive and even thrive at UAA
  • Students should help develop the modules, be included in the development/creation of modules
  • Alaska Native Faculty could contribute their stories
  • Alaska Native Alums could provide supportive guidance/words/best practices


  • Provide students with information before they arrive to UAA
  • Incorporate current students ‘words of wisdom’
  • Incorporate Alaska Native values by having Elders, students, and community individuals directly speak to the students – so they know they are supported

Bringing Courses Together

What do you think of setting aside a time, and giving students a chance to meet in cyberspace, talking to each other online… The main objective would be to allow our students to seek out an indigenous perspective from overseas.

Mercier personal communication 2007

Bring Together

Theme: Questions & Challenges

  • As indigenous people how frustrating do you find it that we have to continually argue that traditional practices are “normal”?

    J. Rodley, 19 Apr 2016
  • Do you believe that there will ever be a time where Indigenous students won’t feel at a disadvantage as they go higher into the education system?

    Tipene-Matua,19 Apr 2016

Kia ora!



Jeane Breinig

Interim Associate Vice Provost for Alaska Natives and Diversity