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Be the Change

by Ernestine Hayes

The campus grassroots cultural infusion action group hosted a spring convocation session attened by 80 staff, faculty, and administration on Wednesday, January 7, 2009. Longtime education faculty Mary-Claire Tarlow presented a talk on steps that can be taken to recognize and combat institutional privilege at UAS. Twenty copies of the illuminating book, Privilege, Power, and Difference were provided byProvost James Everett to be given to audience members.

The cultural infusion group plans to continue meetings throughout the spring semester, and their hope is to present similar seminar opportunities at fall convocation. The group extends a special invitation to staff, faculty, and administrators to join them for spring meetings. Some meetings are book discussions, some are modeled on Difficult Dialogues, and some are brainstorming/updating sessions. All meetings are in the Glacier View Room (Egan 221) unless otherwise specified.

January 21 11:45am-1pm Planning, updating
February 4 11:45am-1pm Difficult Dialogues
February 18 11:45am-1pm Egan Rm. 223 Planning, updating
March 4 11:45am-1pm Book of the Month Blonde Indian
March 18 11:45am-1pm Planning, updating
April TBD 11:45am-1pm Book of the Month TBD
April 15 11:45am-1pm Difficult Dialogues
April 29 11:45am-1pm Planning, updating

The Cultural Infusion Action Group is a grass roots organization comprised of university and community members concerned about promoting institutional equity at UAS and in the greater community. Their immediate goal is to work toward compliance with the university’s strategic plan to be the premier Alaska Native post-secondary educational institution in Alaska.
The team is focusing on four basic goals:

  • A curriculum that reflects the land and its people
  • An increase in Native faculty, staff, and administrators
  • A physical environment that reflects cultural balance
  • An increase in recruitment, retention and success of Native students

To advance these four basic goals, the team has formed itself into three segments: the action team that meets to accomplish CIA related efforts, the Difficult Dialogue group that discusses the status of cultural diversity on campus, and the book group, led by Beatrice Franklin, that reads and discusses culturally-relevant books.

UAS students are working on a television program focusing on the Tlingit memorial cycle. Developed by students who are working with Kolene James of the Native Rural Student Center, this video will be an educational and engaging resource for UAS faculty to appreciate the importance of cultural activities.

NRSC students and director Kolene James are working on beginning construction of a campus Eagle Pole, a critical component of campus balance. Discussion has been initiated on an Alaska Native Studies Center, recruitment efforts have increased. Students have posted Stall Street Journals.

During the fall 2008 semester, the book club met and discussed:

  • Another Culture, Another World, Fr. Oleska
  • Haa Tuwunaagu Yis, Richard & Nora Dauenhauer
  • Privilege, Power and Difference, Allan Johnson
  • Understanding White Privilege, Frances Kendall
  • Some Basics of Indigenous Language Revitalization, Jon Reyhner

Discussions are led by different facilitators; focus varies.

Difficult Dialogues
The Difficult Dialogues group discusses several concerns that individuals have expressed regarding UAS, such as “Why do we have a Native and Rural Student Center? We should have a multicultural center that serves all students.” Discussions on these “hot topics” continue on a regular basis. Attendance at the Cultural Infusion meetings is strictly optional and designed to appeal to individuals who hope to make UAS a place of excellence. People may choose to participate in the book club and not the action committee or difficult dialogues and nothing else, but they should feel free to come, question, learn, and contribute.

The Cultural Infusion Action Group is a grassroots effort not funded by any grant and does not keep minutes, appoint committees, or create bureaucratic layers within the group. Work is completely voluntary and self-directed. All persons committed to the concepts of Learn, Engage, Change and Hope, Action, Change are specifically invited.


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