Student Spotlight – Ken Ascher

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Congratulations to our new Student Spotlight, distance student, Ken Ascher!

Ken, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you have been studying?

Hello, my name is Ken Ascher. I am 61 years old. I am single, never married, no kids. My grandparents came from Russia. During Kivgiq, many people said I looked like their relative. Accordingly, I may have relatives in Alaska, I just don’t who or where they are. Both my parents were public school teachers for over 40 years. My aapa also served as a lieutenant commander in the US Navy and Naval reserves and taught science and physics. My aaka (mother) taught kindergarten. As Iḷisaġvik College is located in the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL), it reminds me of being on base with my aapa. I also serve my country as an intermittent federal employee with a Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team. I actually just recently returned from a federal deployment. I am a firefighter, nationally registered paramedic, hazardous material technician and an electronics communications engineer. I also work as CEO at a corporation I founded years ago. When I integrate Iñupiat and other cultural knowledge while at work, it offers the ability to come up with some creative solutions to many challenging issues.

Last year, I completed 26 credit hours and four workforce development classes. I enrolled at Iḷisaġvik to study up-to-date allied health, emergency services, industrial safety and information technology knowledge and skills. By learning more, I hope to increase my scope of practice so I may serve as a public health educator, public health nurse or nurse practitioner. I usually mix work and academic study every day during the school year. To find additional time for study, as a student, you have to make some sacrifices. I gave up satellite television as I needed most of my time for my academic studies. Having additional time for academic study by not watching television is priceless.

Tell us about your experience as a distance student

Attending college as a commuter student from Michigan is expensive. So, before enrolling, I saved up my frequent flyer miles and funding for a few years so I could commute from work in Michigan while simultaneously attending classes on the Alaskan North Slope. Thanks to Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, using my frequent flyer miles I can travel from Michigan to Barrow for as low as 12,500 frequent flyer miles plus five dollars in fees if there is flight availability. Although I prefer to be learning while my butt is in a seat on campus, Iḷisaġvik College offers a wide selection of distance education classes available through online, teleconference or videoconference using c-Live technologies. As it takes one to two days to commute to Barrow from Michigan, I use the on-board “Go-go in-flight” internet service to connect to campus and complete my homework while jetting 32,000 feet above the planet with my butt-in-seat in a metal tube moving 550 miles per hour!

This semester, before returning to Michigan, I had the pleasure of visiting Anaktuvuk Pass for a few days. I hope to eventually visit all the villages on the North Slope as I am told every village is unique. While in Anaktuvuk Pass, I was able to complete my homework on the Iḷisaġvik computers located in the village liaisons office. No matter where I am connected to my online class, it is just like being on campus. I would highly encourage everyone on the slope to contact the Iḷisaġvik College recruiting office to find out how easy it is to get started with learning additional skills by taking a wide selection of college, workforce development or GED classes.

What made you choose Iḷisaġvik College?

I found out about tribal colleges when, as an emergency responder, I was providing medical care to a 16 year-old tribal patient attending a powwow. He wanted to quit school and urged him to continue his schooling. To be of service to your community, I think it is essential that everyone never stop learning and make a significant attempt to reach their intellectual potential. I had never had the benefit of receiving a tribal college education. During my research, I found information on three dozen tribal colleges online and that you do not need to be a member of a federally recognized tribe to attend. I selected Iḷisaġvik College as the traditional Iñupiaq values given to us by our Elders, matched my beliefs for residents living in harmony in hometown villages while supporting healthy, productive lifestyles. At Iḷisaġvik College, ilitchuallu puqiksiñmuktuallu atautchikun, we all learn and grow together.

What advice do you have for people thinking about signing up for classes?

With new technology, job skills can rapidly change. Now, more than ever, it is vital to take continuing education so you will always have up-to-date skills, technology and use industry best practices!

The opportunities offered at Iḷisaġvik are truly fantastic! The faculty and staff at Iḷisaġvik College are wonderful. The first class I attended was online learning through the information technology department. I have already used what I learned last semester to solve computer problems that have been perplexing to others. The distance education team has been able to quickly solve every computer issue with simple brief phone call to help me stay connected to my classes while on or off campus.  When needed, the student success center has support staff on campus and tutoring services are also available seven days a week from two learning resource centers.

Ken was also our one President’s List student for the Spring ’13 semester — awarded to full-time, program-active students who achieve a 4.0 GPA!! WAY TO GO KEN! Keep up the great work!