Iḷisaġvik College - About Us

About Us

Welcome to Iḷisaġvik

Iḷisaġvik College provides educational opportunities to all who wish to pursue their post-secondary education, with an emphasis on the needs of North Slope residents. Iḷisaġvik believes that learning is a continuing, life-long process. The college has designed most of its courses and programs to allow each piece of knowledge to build upon the others. Most courses offered can be applied towards a certificate or degree.

A Brief History

Iḷisaġvik College was founded to primarily serve the residents of the North Slope Borough, America’s largest and most northern municipality. The intent of its founders was to provide an education based on the Iñupiaq cultural heritage. The basis for all  Iḷisaġvik’s educational programs is the rich foundation of a subsistence culture in harmony with the land and seas that give it sustenance.

Iḷisaġvik College is a direct outgrowth of the Native American self-determination movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. With the formation of a home-rule government called the North Slope Borough in 1972, the Iñupiat people took their first steps towards regaining control of their lives and destinies.

The founders of the North Slope Borough were acutely aware of the importance of education to their dreams of sustained self-determination and local control for their people. While overseeing the rapid transformation of the North Slope Borough from small subsistence communities into modern villages with modern amenities, they also looked towards the development of a post-secondary educational system that would allow local residents to further their educational goals while remaining close to the culture and lifestyle that sustained them.

In 1986, the North Slope Borough created the North Slope Higher Education Center, a cooperative effort between the North Slope Borough and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The North Slope Higher Education Center’s Board and the North Slope Borough Assembly changed the institution’s name to Arctic Sivunmun Iḷisaġvik College in 1991 to reflect its transformation into a community college. Arctic Sivunmun Iḷisaġvik College merged with the Mayor’s Workforce Development Program in 1993, adding facilities and resources to support the growing number of vocational education opportunities available at the college. In 1995, the North Slope Borough established by ordinance the Iḷisaġvik College Corporation, an independent, public, non-profit corporation with full power for governance of the college vested in the Board of Trustees.

Iḷisaġvik achieved accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities in 2003 and is authorized by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education to operate in the state of Alaska. In 2006, it also became the first and only federally recognized tribal college in Alaska.

Values, Traditions, and Culture

Iḷisaġvik College weaves Iñupiaq values into all its activities because it believes these values make its students and educational community stronger, more cohesive and more successful. Being true to the core values of the culture it predominantly serves helps to make Iḷisaġvik a valued and contributing member of that culture. By helping to strengthen the language and traditions of the Iñupiat, Iḷisaġvik fulfills its role as a distinctly indigenous institution that aims to enhance the local culture, while helping its students gain a foothold in the economy of the 21st century. Iḷisaġvik’s goal is to create successful graduates who can incorporate their traditional values into modern life and, in doing so, enhances both.