Last month, Iḷisaġvik College launched a new program which offers short-term, non-credit workshops based solely on community interest. Funded by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture, Iḷisaġvik’s Cooperative Extension program seeks to tailor-learning opportunities to the interests of North Slope communities. “We are very excited about it” said Dean of Instruction and Workforce Development Birgit Meany. “It’s a great venue for delivering instruction to a part of the population that are not studying for work or academic-related goals, but really just for the fun of learning.”
So far this new and developing program has generated curriculum primarily by word of mouth. Program Coordinator (and retired teacher) Dawn Weyiouanna also works with local organizations and village liaisons to find out what kinds of things North Slope communities want to learn. “We hope people with skills will continue to come forward,” says Weyiouanna, speaking to the goal of meeting community needs with local resources. “We want to have local teachers—to draw on local talents to share their knowledge.”
The program got off to a great start on November 17 with a two- hour beading workshop at the Iñupiat Heritage Learning Center in Barrow. Community members Ruth Aiken, Susan Hope, Pauline Adams, and Tonya Hastings worked with nearly 30 participants on various types of beading including flat felt designs, edging, barrettes, and jewelry. As a result, many expressed interest in continuing weekly informal beading circles and five other villages have talked about setting up similar events.
Other events on the horizon include a qupak bias design workshop in Barrow on December 7 and a cooking and nutrition workshop, which is currently in the works. All Cooperative Extension events are for individuals age 16 and up.
Already a great resource for academic, vocational, and cultural trainings on the North Slope, Iḷisaġvik College aims to cater to the needs of North Slope residents even further with the Cooperative Exchange program. “It’s a good medium for establishing a different level of communication with the community” says Dean Meany. “It’s new and different for the college, but it also complements our other offerings really well.”
For more information, or if you have suggestions for future workshops, contact Birgit Meany at 907.852.1825.