PWSC Year in Review 2020-2021

There is a lot to be proud of, including our graduates!

Students graduate with an Associate of Arts

"[PWSC] has a nice atmosphere which makes doing homework there relaxing since it's not large enough to be overwhelming... They are also good a reaching out to students." -Seinna Schaeffer, Associate of Arts

Dual Credit Spotlight

5 high schools and 225 high school students participated in our dual-credit programming. 7 of the dual-credit courses were taught at the Copper River High School and a total of 55 enrollments across the 7 courses.

Rylie and Cherubim

Rylie King and Cherubim Palomar are Valdez dual-credit students who graduated with an Associate of Arts from PWSC and diploma from Valdez High School simultaneously! Long-time friends and classmates, they were both excited to be graduating together. Riley shared, "We've known each other since elementary school and have been friends for a long time."

Cherubim (Bim) shared that completing an AA as a high school student gave her a major head start for completing a bachelor’s degree because now all of her general education credits are already completed. Bim’s career goal is to become a traveling elementary school teacher.

Rylie shared that her future career goal is to become a mathematical statistician and, “Taking Courses at PWSC was the reason that I decided to go into stats because I really enjoyed all of the math classes that I took.”

Rylie King and Cherubim Palomar both graduated with an Associate of Arts and high school diploma simultaneously!
PWSC is best at making students feel welcome and feel like part of a community. I have enjoyed the last couple of years at PWSC because everyone makes you feel like you matter. - Rylie King, Associate of Arts

Classroom Highlight

Guest speaker, Alaskan Native storyteller David Kitaq Nicolai

To broaden his students’ exposure to Alaska Native literature, Associate Professor of English Dr. Dennis Humphrey invited guest speaker David Kitaq Nicolai to present to his class. David is an Alaskan Native storyteller.

Storytelling has been an integral part of many Native cultures for thousands of years. Storytellers share myths and legends, fables, social customs, traditions, and family and tribal histories from one generation to another.

One type of storytelling is through using string figures. Each culture’s string figures vary from simple to incredibly complex. Many cultures treat string figures as puzzle games. String figures are often used to represent different scenes in local folklore. According to David, string figures, or string stories, have been found in every Indigenous culture on the six populated continents. String figures from Arctic and Sub-Arctic cultures have been considered by the International String Figure Association the most difficult string figures to construct in the entire world. He shared many string stories. It was amazing how intricate and entertaining the stories were.

"Anyone that loves the outdoors and is considering an education in this field, I think Prince William Sound College is a great choice. They will help make your dreams come true and provide you with opportunities that will make you a better leader and a better person." - Matthew Schiffner, AAS, Outdoor Leadership

Students graduate with an Associate of Applied Science,Outdoor Leadership

"Ben Rush [Assistant Professor of Outdoor Leadership] has helped me become the person I am today. He does his best to help you accomplish your goals in and outside of the program." -Joe Kay, AAS, Outdoor Leadership
There were so many outdoor skills classes and adventures, pictured above: swift water rescue, kayak scouting trip, rock climbing, rafting, and crevasse rescue!
Future millwrights

Students graduate with an Occupational Endorsement Certificate in Millwright

Jared Humphrey graduated from PWSC with an Occupational Endorsement Certificate in Millwright while graduating from high school!

Jared shared that, "I didn't have any mechanical experience whatsoever outside of this class, so many of the things covered in the millwright program were new to me." He is excited about all the new skills he has learned and the industry certification that will help him find a future job.

Virtual Commencement

PWSC's graduating class was honored in a non-traditional way, through a commencement-themed website and many graduates were featured on social media.


The nursing cohort worked hard despite the challenges of learning remotely.

Laurie Brown is currently attending UAA’s nursing program in Valdez. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has made the past two semesters difficult, she shared, “Kelly Mitchell is, of course, a great instructor. This semester is different because the lecture portions of our classes are online and we weren’t able to go to Fairbanks for clinicals. Kelly's doing great with our lab and clinicals and trying to get us as much time as possible. He is trying to make us the best nurses we can be...”

Nursing students assisted with local vaccine clinics

Nursing students assisted with giving vaccines at the flu clinic. Kelly Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Health Sciences, shared, "It is a very important aspect of the community. Especially since we are facing both the regular flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that the city is making this available is great. We need to get as many people protected to preserve our healthcare resources and staff. It's good for the students because they get to see the process in motion, they get to see the public health side of nursing. This is not just a flu clinic, It's an exercise in emergency preparedness. The pods practice mass dispensing in case there was a need to rapidly protect the public against a community threat!"

Assistant Professor of Nursing Kelly Mitchell graduated with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice

Congratulations to Assistant Professor of Nursing and Health Sciences Kelly Mitchell on recently graduating with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). Kelly shared, "At this point, the accomplishment seems somewhat surreal. I still find myself thinking I have papers or discussion posts to submit, yet, I don't! ...I feel lifelong learning is a wealth that follows you and is essential for inventing the future of our humanity; it is a necessity rather than a luxury."

Students in the Introductory Microbiology for Health Sciences course practiced treating a patient with suspected meningitis as a lab exercise.

The first baby was born at the Prince William Sound Simulation Medical Center!

Meet the first baby born at the Prince William Sound Simulation Medical Center! This baby is a part of a SIM birthing simulator that was purchased thanks to a generous gift from Providence Valdez Medical Center. Assistant Professor of Nursing and Health Sciences Kelly Mitchell explained, "The SimMom simulator can help teach and train students in preparing for many perinatal situations such as normal delivery, assessment of the pregnant patient, breech presentation, assisted deliveries, cord prolapse, eclampsia, and pre-eclampsia, and postpartum hemorrhage, etc.. This is important because we have OB patients here at our local hospital, but not in large frequencies. This simulator would allow the students and local hospital labor and delivery nurses and physicians to keep current with skills."

Allied Health Programming

Students complete the Certified Nurse Aide course offered at PWSC in Valdez

In partnership with the Providence Valdez Medical Center

Hannah, a licensed Certified Nurse Aid in Minnesota, took courses at PWSC to become licensed in Alaska. She is enjoyed her CNA course at PWSC. Hannah explains, “The class was a great experience. Learning in a small classroom environment helps extend learning to real-world practices. [I plan to] apply to the nursing program here in Valdez, work towards some guiding certifications, and someday work in the medical mission’s field.”

George Keeney taught Incident Command Systems (ICS) training at PWSC.

The first response that a community has to a fire, earthquake, or tsunami is to institute an Incident Command System team to immediately respond to the disaster. A community’s response to a disaster is only as good as the training that the ICS team receives. To help all Alaskan communities be well-prepared for emergencies and disasters, George Keeney (PWSC’s instructor of emergency services) led two courses at the PWSC campus.

Emergency management personnel from all over Alaska attended this training, which prepared students for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ICS 300 and 400 certification exams. By being familiar with the terms and approach of ICS, emergency responders can pull together using common terminology, coordinating resource management and allocation, creating a unified command structure, planning, and more.

In the past year, PWSC offered monthly CPR, First Aid, and AED classes and over a hundred students have received their certifications.

PWSC Student Internships

For many students, an internship represents a great opportunity to learn more about a field of study, develop critical industry contacts, and gain valuable work experience that can assist them with finding a job after graduation.

PWSC helped place 10 students in internships this past year at Valdez Adventure Alliance, Eskaton Senior Care and Services, City of Valdez Parks Recreation and Cultural Services, The Rescue Company, National Park Service, Providence Valdez Extended Care Center, Advocate for Victims of Violence, and Seed Media.

Andrew Bradley: Providence Valdez Extended Care Center

PWSC outdoor leadership student Andrew Bradley had an internship at Providence Valdez Extended Care Center working as an activities and nurse’s assistant.

Andrew said he was motivated to be able to use “. . . . some of the skills that I have learned through my ODL program, specifically through the Recreation Program Planning and Evaluation class. That class has helped me throughout my job in activities planning and time management. We throw all kinds of parties and play games with the residents to provide social interaction. We take them out for walks and drives; to get them outside and moving around.” He is excited to be using his ODL training working in health care and helping others. “This is a great job, and I am so honored to be working for them.”

Sarah King: Wrangell St. Elias National Park!

This is our second year partnering with Wrangell St. Elias National Park!

PWSC outdoor leadership student Sarah King is working as an intern with the National Park Service (NPS). We spoke with Sarah and NPS park planner and host supervisor, Morgan Gantz, to learn more.

King has been involved with a number of projects. Gantz explains, “Projects for Sarah span a wide variety of park planning and management concepts, she will get to work with each division to learn about the various jobs in the NPS. She will be helping me process project compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and learning about using GPS and GIS to create maps and collect geospatial field data. Upcoming plans for Sarah include having her plan a multi-day hiking trip in the park, practicing the role as a trip leader, and mentoring her how to plan for and carry out a backcountry trip for the NPS.”

For King, the experience so far has been rewarding.

Haason Scott: Eskaton Senior Care and Services

PWSC student Haason Scott finished his internship at an independent senior facility, in his home state of California, where he served as an activities assistant. For Haason, this internship helped him to get a better sense of what he wants to pursue for his future career. “It actually helped me change my career path because I always wanted to open up my own small business, but I was unsure in what area or what field, but now I want to...have it somehow helping seniors. Helping seniors become more active and provide services to seniors who aren't receiving them.” Haason doesn’t just want to work with seniors; he wants to help seniors who may not have the means to afford certain care facilities or programs.

Kira Walters: Advocates of Victims of Violence (AVV)

PWSC Outdoor Leadership (ODL) student Kira Walters is very excited about her internship/job as the Youth Services Coordinator at Advocates of Victims of Violence (AVV).

For Kira, this internship combines her academic pursuits in outdoor recreation with social work and youth services. Kira explains, “I am involved with many things; from working with victimized youth at our shelter and in our community to organizing and facilitating multiple outdoor summer camps for youth in the Valdez area.”

She continues, “It is rewarding to be using what I have learned through my ODL courses. Through my internship/job at AVV, I hope I am able to positively impact the lives of the youth I work with. I also hope I am able to grow as a person and in knowledge through this opportunity.”

Developed workforce programs

Marine Service Technology

PWSC launched the Marine Service Technology (MST) program

This program brought high school seniors from Sand Point, Perryville, Port Alsworth, Kotzebue, Fairbanks, Wrangell, and Valdez for a 12-week program where students completed 10 credits in the MST curriculum and 1.5 credits of other aligned coursework. This project opens the door for extended-length programming with Alaskan high schools in a variety of career and technical education fields. Anthony G. taught the program and we had 100% completion rate.

Construction program at PWSC

Construction Programming Continued

Students from rural communities throughout Alaska have traveled to Valdez to attend PWSC’s Construction Academy. The academy consists of a series of credit courses that will train students in the skills needed to earn a State of Alaska Handyman certification. Some of these skills include basic framing, cabinet installation, trim carpentry, installing flooring, tile work, and basic rough plumbing systems used in residential and small facility improvements and repairs.

The construction program is partially funded by a Department of Labor grant and additional support is provided by the Chugach Alaska Corporation and the Valdez Native Tribe to create training opportunities for descendants and shareholders. A recent project that this class took on was installing new flooring at the Valdez Native Tribe Community Center.

Instructors Abe Horschel and Curtis Bateman bring years of experience to the program!

New Occupational Development Certificates

We launched new Occupational Endorsement Certificates programs in Web Engineering, Marine Service Technician, and Construction!

For Teachers Programs

We had 108 teachers from all over Alaska come to our nine For Teachers offerings in Environmental Science, Computing Foundations, Marine Service Technician, Cross-Disciplinary STEM, Robots, Rockets and Drones, Computer Programming, and a cooperative curriculum project in environmental science.

The first Environmental Science For Teachers camp in Cordova!

For Laura Scott, providence seemed to be on her side when she learned about PWSC’s professional development courses For Teachers. Scott explained, “I am returning to the classroom after 22 years, and I needed some college credits to renew my teaching certificate.” When Scott found out about the PWSC courses, she said, “I enrolled in Taking Computer Foundations for Teachers immediately.”

Taking the course taught by Dr. Steve Johnson provided Scott not only with an overall review of the Microsoft Office suite of software, but also ways to create relevant lessons for her classes. Scott shared, “one of the things that I find interesting and beneficial is how the class explores ways to incorporate place-based learning, problem-based learning, and Alaskan standards into lesson planning.”

As part of the course curriculum, Scott is going to develop a lesson plan that will include Alaskan cultural standards and technology standards. For her lesson, Scott explained, “Being a first-grade teacher, I plan on doing something on bears. I want to make it relevant to our community and talking about bears is very relevant to all the students.”

We had seven faculty and staff take a course in "Integrated Studies in Education" where we learned about and discussed how we can include Indigenous Knowledge, Indigenous Science, and place-based learning into our curriculums. This course was the planning platform for our 'for Teachers' courses over the summer.

Alaska Tech Learners continued!

We had 145 teachers and students taking a course or courses as part of the Alaska Tech Learners (ATL) project. Courses in ATL lead to an Occupational Endorsement Certificate (OEC) in Web Engineering. In our first year of having the OEC, we had two students complete all 16 credits in the OEC.

SERVS became a hybrid training

Since 1998, Prince William Sound College has assisted Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in conducting annual oil spill response training under the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System (SERVS) Fishing Vessel Program by providing instructors and logistical support. The training is offered in six ports, Kodiak, Homer, Seward, Whittier, Valdez, and Cordova.

This year, PWSC developed the classroom curriculum to be taught remotely in response to COVID-19.

We had 1,148 participants take the course!

Don Bickley developing the online curriculum

Personal Enrichment Workshops

PWSC offered classes for the benefit of individuals within the community. Here are a few of the highlights:


The ceramics class, despite the covid restrictions, remained one of our most popular personal enrichment classes.

3-D Printing

3-D Printing was also a hit!

Cooking Classes

Due to COVID-19, these classes were offered virtually!

Nutrition Kitchen

PWSC worked with Dr. Alfaro (M.D.) and Dietician Kelly Lakin who are passionate about nutrition! Together they created presented a healthy cooking class offered to community members.

Other cooking classes included: Kids Can Cook (at Home) and Cooking with Jamie, both offered virtually with Jamie Arciniega!

Workshops in Copper Basin

PWSC Copper Basin hosted two virtual memoir writing outreach classes and an in-person small engine repair class.

Partnered with WISE (Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment) on 6 Webinars. Attendance at the webinars averaged 40 people with as many as 125 logging into Zoom for an individual lecture from multiple states and countries (US, Canada, and Australia).

Student and Residence Life

Student and Residence Life staff facilitated a sense of community despite COVID-19 restrictions

We welcomed Rodrigo Flores and Joe Kay to the residence life team!

New resident assistants (RAs) Joe Kay and Rodrigo Flores were responsible for creating an inviting, inclusive, and safe living environment at PWSC housing. Event planning, programming, and getting students involved are reasons that drew Rodrigo and Joe to become RAs. This year, event planning takes extra care given COVID-19. Residence Life Coordinator/Housing Manager Sam Foist-Swart shared, “One of the changes for our team has been in the way we’re approaching programming and the health, life, and safety of our residents. Whether it's talking about on-campus living policies, responding to emergencies, or planning programming, we always have an extra training discussion of the ways we implement each of these components ‘COVID-19 style’ to make sure we’re all safe.”

Programming for students, some of which included “family” dinners, outdoor activities, and movie nights meant getting creative to foster connections and build relationships. Joe and Rodrigo did all they could to foster morale and maintain a sense of community despite COVID-19. As Sam shared, “At the end of the day, it's really about relationships. We want people to be healthy, thriving, and connected.”

The purpose of student activity programming is to foster a sense of belonging and align with the university values of diversity and inclusivity.

In-person events included: Rock Climbing indoor and outdoor; Snowshoeing and exploring at the Valdez Glacier; Civic Center movie nights; Soccer and volleyball at the elementary school each week; Soccer and volleyball at the elementary school each week; Screening of "Public Lands", a film by Patagonia; Family dinners and breakfasts (lots of these!); Campfires; Hiking; Cross country skiing and snowboarding; Food bank each week; Lots of Smash Brothers; Ice climbing; Fat biking; Advocates for Victims of Violence's "Walk a mile in her shoes"; Slack-lining

Social media played a large role in cultivating an environment of diversity and inclusivity. Important historical dates, national holidays, and pop-culture holidays that aligned with the college's values and mission were highlighted. Social media also crossed over with in-person events so that the two supported and expanded each other.

National Coming Out Day
Alaska Native Heritage Month
Black History Month
We love visiting the Valdez Glacier!

Alaska Adult Education at PWSC

Congratulations to Dr. Teresa Barton for being awarded the Alaska Adult Education Grant, which runs through June 2025. This grant will ensure the entire Prince William Sound/Valdez region has access to free, quality adult education programming, including GED, ESL, College and Career Readiness, and Citizenship through PWSC. 👏

Dr. Barton has developed an Adult Distance Education program to ensure students from the entire region have access to classes. She is currently working with students in Whittier, Glennallen, and Cordova via Zoom. Classes are also available in person at our Valdez location. Interested in learning more about Alaska Adult Education at PWSC? Visit our website: https://pwsc.alaska.edu/adult-basic-education/

Congratulations to Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Rusen Meylani for receiving a UNAC Faculty Development Award to attend and present at the EDULEARN21 conference. Dr. Meylani's presentation was based on a paper that he published with them titled "Factors That Play Into the Effectiveness of Online Learning in College Mathematics in the COVID-19 Era".

PWSC's COVID19 Community Response

PWSC employees volunteered their time to help with public vaccination

Since the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, the community of Valdez has pulled together to vaccinate its citizens through vaccination Points of Dispensing (PODs). These PODs have run smoothly because of foresight, planning, and the hard work of many organizers, health professionals, and volunteers. Among these volunteers have been several Prince William Sound College employees, who have felt the call to be of service during this public health need: Mo Radotich, George Keeney, Wendy Goldstein, and Erin Hickok.

Mo Radotich shared, “Valdez has had its share of crises and disasters over the years. What I admire about Valdezians is we always rise to the challenge by preparing and responding. It has been inspiring to see how many people are willing to volunteer. We are a small town and know by association almost everyone! It has been exciting to be part of an event that helps our community members; it’s very personal.”

Dr. Humphrey served as an ICS section chief in the Valdez Unified Command

Dr. Dennis Humphrey, one of two recipients of the 2021 City of Valdez Veteran Award, which is awarded for service in the U.S. Armed Forces and service to the Valdez community.

He serves as PWSC liaison to the City Library Board and served as an ICS section chief in the Valdez Unified Command during the COVID-19 response.

George Keeney served as Deputy Chief of Planning in the Valdez Unified Command

George Keeney, was invited to be keynote speaker for the Rural Resilience Workshop hosted by the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (Alaska DHS&EM). In attendance were local leaders and emergency managers from across Alaska who participated in a week of emergency management and disaster preparedness training and exercises.

After Keeney delivered the keynote address, Fisher presented him with a plaque on behalf of Governor Dunleavy and Alaska Division of Homeland security, recognizing the work he has and continues to do for the community. Fisher said of Keeney, he is “one of the finest leaders in emergency management and disaster preparedness in Alaska.”

PWSC was presented with the COVID-19 Response Distinguished Partnership award from Providence Valdez Medical Center's Hospital Incident Command

The 28th Annual Valdez Theatre Conference

VTC Coordinator Dawson Moore

The 28th Annual Valdez Theatre Conference will took place June 19-26. Last year presented a limited slate of online activities; this year included a number of live events, though the participants and scope of work were limited to provide a safe experience. 71 playwrights were invited to present their work. Twelve of the authors are Alaskans, including participants from Valdez, Girdwood, Homer, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. California has the largest number of authors from any state, 14. For the first time, they had the option to participate from their homes. to mandatory attendance in 2022.

TBA Theatre will produce Sonny Midnight’s If, a script that was created in Valdez by the Feral Writers Group.

The play is the story of a young girl who is battling depression by embracing her imagination, going on a magical journey that helps her find peace in the perceived chaos of her life. The play was performed June 24 & 25, free of charge.

Follies Curtain Call

The curtain call from the local production of Heidi Franke and English Professor Dennis Humphrey's "That's Valdez!," which kicked off the 2021 Valdez Theatre Conference.

Featured Artists

Featured Artist Laura Gardner and Frank Collison in the Play Lab reading of Ashley Rose Wellman's 'Shrines."

H&F Center Coordinator Erin Hickock offered personal training

Before beginning any fitness program, Erin looks at everything. While weight and strength targets are very important, she also examines lifestyle goals. For example, are they able to get up and down off the floor to play with their grandkids? Or are they able to ski like they used to? Her goal for each individual person is to meet them where they are, not where they “should be”. Erin shares, “My thought process is less-is-more in the beginning to be able to maintain exercise safely and efficiently.”

The Center also launched a new app for members to manage their membership

Staff Awards and Recognition

PWSC Instructional Design and Technology Specialist Don Bickley receives UAA's Staff Recognition Award!

Service awards

Susan Harding - 20 years, Steve Shiell - 20 years, Wendy Goldstein - 15 years, Ana Hinkle - 15 years, Sandra Rake - 10 years.

Thank you for your dedication to PWSC!

UAA Affordable Course Materials Award

Associate Professor of English Dr. Dennis Humphrey and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Rusen Meylani recieved the UAA Affordable Course Materials Award. These faculty members were recognized for their efforts in supplying and creating sustainable, free, or low-cost course materials to their students.

Dr. Humphrey began looking for less expensive ways to deliver content to his students years ago. “The kicker for me was finding that my literature students were shelling out $90 for a book that was composed entirely of works available for free in the public domain…Internet sites like Project Gutenberg, OpenStax, and a host of others are easily accessible. We have partners in the brick-and-mortar world as well. Molly Good at the Valdez Consortium Library has helped me locate library resources students can access free in a variety of media.”

Like Dr. Humphrey, Dr. Meylani has made a concerted effort to lower costs for students in his mathematics courses. Students use open source, copyright-free textbooks and online scientific and mathematics utilities. Students also access free videos and other course materials in Blackboard, a learning management system. “We try to merge technology and mathematics education meaningfully in such a way that it will be beneficial for everyone, first and foremost our students."