From left to right, students Kelby Randall, KC Abad and Sage Chavez smile as they sit outside during a lunch break Monday afternoon at the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau on the first day of the 2023 fall semester. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

From left to right, students Kelby Randall, KC Abad and Sage Chavez smile as they sit outside during a lunch break Monday afternoon at the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau on the first day of the 2023 fall semester. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

UAS fall semester kicks off with a sunny start and increased enrollment

New chancellor reports 4% increase in overall enrollment, 87% increase in Indigenous programs.

Classes are back in session at the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau as dozens of students could be seen walking across to and from different buildings on campus throughout the first day of the 2023 fall semester on Monday.

“The first day of the fall semester has always been exciting to me,” said Aparna Palmer, the new UAS Chancellor on Monday afternoon. “There’s like a special feeling in the air as we get to the first day of the fall semester and it’s really exciting for me.”

According to Palmer, this semester UAS welcomed 1,765 students across all three campuses in total, a 4% increase in enrollment compared to last fall semester.

Along with general enrollment on the upswing, Palmer said UAS saw a 87% increase in students enrolled in the Indigenous programs offered at the different three campuses.

“We’re excited — we really are,” she said. “Our goal is to build on our enrollment, to have more people come and really see the access that we are able to give, and I’m feeling really good. I think it’s a very positive sign.”

Palmer said during the new student orientation over the past few days she met students from both across the state and the country.

“We have some people from North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Texas, Colorado, Idaho, in addition to students from all over Alaska,” she said. “So it was really fun to see that.”

On Monday afternoon students were greeted in Juneau with warm, sunny weather — a not-so-common treat in Juneau as many returning students know. Kelby Randall, who transferred to UAS as a sophomore this year, said they’re happy to enjoy the surprisingly nice weather, but noted that no matter the weather they think their decision to transfer to UAS was the right call.

“I mean, you just can’t beat these views,” they said.

Randall said they are excited for the semester to get underway and begin their classes as a biology major. Randall, who originally moved to Juneau for a part-time tourism job, said one of the main reasons they stayed and chose to transfer to UAS was because of abundant opportunities to get hands-on field experience in Southeast Alaska.

“We have Biology 108, where we actually go out onto the water at some points, do testing there, and we’ll go tide pooling and learn more about the ecology of this place,” they said. “For me, personally, I came here because of how rich the ecosystem is and it’s just completely a foreign concept having grown up in the farmlands of Illinois. There are so many thriving native species here.”

KC Abad, another student who started classes on Monday, said her love for learning is what pulled her back to pursuing an education after a few years away. Abad is a longtime Juneau resident, having moved to the capital city from the Philippines when she was 9 years old.

“I’m undecided right now, but I just love learning and am interested in writing or literature,” she said, noting she had taken a few journalism classes previously during her time at a college in New Mexico.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651) 528-1807.

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