AK Natives on the Front Line: Higher Education

Updated: Feb 3


This episode features Iñupiaq studies professor Jerica Niayuq Aamodt Leavitt and Iñupiaq studies coordinator Katie Qaggun Roseberry from Iḷisaġvik College. Iḷisaġvik translates to "a place to learn." Operated by the North Slope Borough, it is the only tribal college in Alaska and is the northernmost accredited community college in the United States. Jenna and I sat down with Jerica and Katie on the Iḷisaġvik campus in a vacant classroom. AK Natives on the Front Line is a special series of Coffee & Quaq highlighting the adaptability and resilience of the Iñupiat in the face of climate change, a project funded by the Pulitzer Center Connected Coastlines program, done in partnership with journalist Jenna Kunze. We travelled up to Utqiaġvik earlier this year at the peak of winter when the sun had returned back to the Arctic and interviewed residents about the various aspects of how Iñupiat life has changed, but also how it has remained the same. Throughout this series we explore topics like subsistence whaling practices, research, anthropological work, and more.


Iḷisaġvik College provides post-secondary academic, vocational and technical education in a learning environment that perpetuates and strengthens Iñupiat culture, values and traditions. It is dedicated to providing well educated and trained individuals who meet the human resource needs of North Slope Employers. In an effort to increase access to postsecondary education, Iḷisaġvik College offers several tuition waivers including one for all AK Native or American Indian students! This has been Episode 3: Higher Education on a special series of Coffee & Quaq titled AK Natives on the Front line highlighting the adaptability and resilience of the Iñupiat in the face of climate change. Stay tuned for more episodes.


Jerica Niayuq Leavitt is Iñupiaq from Utqiaġvik where she was raised her whole life. She holds a master’s degree in Rural Development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Niayuq works as the Assistant Professor of Iñupiaq Studies at Iḷisaġvik College. Through her work and personal life, her passion is to teach, learn, and share the Iñupiaq language, culture, and traditions to everyone around her. She enjoys picking edible and medicinal plants, sewing, Arctic photography, hunting, camping, and being on the land.

“You know how our grandparents or great grandparents have have gone through the boarding school era? Education has changed. Here we have Iḷisaġvik. While many of those cultural traditions were stripped from our people or taken away. They were shunned. They were told not to practice. But here we have Iḷisaġvik and the Iñupiaq studies department that we’re here to re-instill that knowledge into our students and to people who attend our classes or workshops. We are here to reteach them those types of traditions. Our education has definitely changed in that way.” - Jerica Aamodt Leavitt

Katie Qaġġun Roseberry grew up in Utqiaġvik, AK. Her parents are Mark and Emily Roseberry and grandparents are Arnold Brower Sr. and Emily Hopson Brower Sr. She works as the Coordinator of Iñupiaq Studies for Iḷisaġvik College. Her passions lie in traditional health and wellness, and continuously strives to learn, teach, and practice traditional knowledge concerning Arctic plants. Sharing in the love of her Iñupiaq culture, she enjoys hand sewing, experimenting with niqipiaq foods, exploring the nuna, and other outdoor adventures.




Check out the accompanying written article on this project by Jenna Kunze here: https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/what-choice-do-we-have

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