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Fisheries degrees become more accessible to rural Alaskans


With a just a phone line and Internet access, a student anywhere in Alaska can now earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in fisheries at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

The school offers the only Bachelor of Arts degree in fisheries in North America and this year adopted two new concentrations within the degree program that will provide students a more focused undergraduate experience. Incoming students will now select a concentration in either rural and community development or business and social sciences.

The rural and community development track is being offered through a partnership with UAF College of Rural and Community Development and is designed to provide a full degree program to rural Alaska residents. Courses are delivered through a combination of audio conference, videoconference and e-learning avenues. Students also can attend classes at UAF rural campuses.

“I feel really fortunate that we have this option out here,” said fisheries student Jennifer Peeks, who lives in Bethel and has opted for the rural and community development concentration. “I like that it provides a focus on rural involvement and things that affect rural communities, it was a good fit for my goals of working with subsistence issues and communities here.”

The program will provide a broad background of knowledge for students interested in fisheries business, administration, and leadership in rural and indigenous communities in Alaska and the circumpolar North. This degree program will focus on increasing cultural awareness, strengthening leadership capacity and fostering community development, with an emphasis on the sustainable management of fisheries.

“The goal is to train students to be community leaders while they are in their communities,” said Trent Sutton, fisheries professor and associate dean at the school. “There will be a lot of fish classes and a lot of rural development classes.”

The fisheries business and social science concentration is designed for students interested in opportunities in seafood or fisheries business fields, or a social sciences facet such as anthropology or political science.

All incoming student will need to decide on which concentration to pursue by the end of the second year. Students can gain further subject matter depth through their choice of minor. The UAF fisheries BA degree was first created in 2009 and currently has 18 students.

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