Small College America Interviews Dr. Janelle Vanasse, Pres. Alaska Pacific University

Joining us today is Dr. Janelle Vanasse, the President of Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska Pacific was established as Alaska Methodist University in 1957 and has a student enrollment of 350.
Dr. Janelle Vanasse is the President of Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska. Dr. Vanasse has been a leader in education for more than 30 years, specifically at schools and institutions that prioritize Alaska Native education. Immediately prior to joining APU, Vanasse served as superintendent in Sitka. She also held a range of leadership roles in the Bethel area, including principal.  Throughout her career, Dr. Vanasse has elevated the educational experience for Alaska Native students. She believes that scholarship and leadership are enhanced when influenced by our authentic selves.
Dr. Vanasse holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from St. Cloud State University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Gonzaga University. Her most recent academic work includes research about the power of cultural self-identity in college persistence.
  • Let’s start off by talking about Alaska Pacific University. Can you do a brief profile of APU? Tell me about your students and degree programs. What are some of the programs you are most noted for?
  • With the school located in a state with a population of less than 750,000, you can’t just depend on students coming from a 100-mile radius like schools located in states with millions of people. What attracts students to come to Alaska Pacific?    
  • About 25% of your students are Alaska native students. In your opinion, how do high school native students and families perceive higher education and the reasons they opt into or out of attending higher education
  • When we talked with you as we prepared for the show, you spoke to us about the university is working toward becoming a tribal college. Can you tell us what is a tribal college and what are the advantages?
  • Like many other Alaskans I’ve known, they seem to be adventurers.  The Bemidji Pioneer, your hometown paper in Minnesota, interviewed you, and you talked about your career as an educator, which led you eventually to Bethel, Alaska.  You first went to Fairbanks for a year, and then you said to the paper: “When that didn’t feel like an adventure enough, I moved out to Bethel, Alaska, which is a rural, off-the-road community”. You seemed to have found what you were looking for. Tell us what did you find and how did that experience attracted you to become President of APU?   
  • The school was established in the late 1950s, just prior to Alaska being the 49th state to enter the union. During these past 60-plus years, I imagine APU has established a number of partnerships that have benefited the school and the outside community. Can you tell us about a few of those partnerships?
  • A final question we ask all the Presidents in this series. Why are small colleges and universities like yours important?
We would like to thank our special guest Dr. Janelle Vanasse President of Alaska Pacific University. That concludes this special episode of Higher Ed Without Borders, Small College America.  If you would like to comment on today’s show and suggest a future guest, please go to Comments section.
On behalf of our guest Dr. Vanasse, Dean Hoke, Edu Alliance, and myself, thank you, and make sure to subscribe via your favorite podcast app. 
Small College America Interviews Dr. Janelle Vanasse, Pres. Alaska Pacific University
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