The annual spring flurry of graduation begins at the top, as last Wednesday students from Kachemak Bay Campus received certificates, diplomas and degrees in everything from General Education Development to associate of arts to — in what may be a first for Homer — a doctorate.
At the ceremony on May 8 at the Mariner Theatre, nine students received GED diplomas, 12 received associate degrees, three received bachelor’s degrees and one, Emilie Springer, received a doctor of anthropology.
Springer, a Homer resident with Ninilchik roots, got her doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks but chose to walk at KBC commencement. She is believed to be the first Homer student to receive a doctorate at commencement for the local branch campus of the Kenai Peninsula College, University of Alaska Anchorage.
In another ceremony at South Peninsula Hospital, 19 graduates received certification as Certified Nursing Aides.
“We may be at the end of the road, but we’re the heart and soul of the university system,” KBC Interim Director Paula Martin said in her welcoming remarks of KBC’s place in Alaska’s public university.
Noting the family and friends in the audience who came to celebrate the graduates’ success, UAA Vice Chancellor of University Advancement Megan Olson said, “Tonight is an opportunity to reflect, but also a chance to express gratitude to family and friends who supported you on this journey.”
KPC Director Gary Turner also presented former KBC Campus Director Carol Swartz with an award of Director Emerita for her service to the college. Swartz retired last year.
Turner also made the closing remarks. Abigail Ensign gave the valedictorian address and Zobeida Rudkin, KBC Student Association President, gave the student leader address.
A KBC alumna who graduated 15 years ago, Catie Bursch, gave the keynote address. A setnet fisherman and a 2018-19 Alaska Humanities Forum Salmon Fellow, Bursch also received a bachelor’s degree from Alaska Pacific University.
She works as a scientist and educator with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve.
Bursch acknowledged the support of her family in getting her degrees.
“In my graduating class, there were people without support, and they worked a lot harder than I did,” she said. “To anybody who has been going at it alone, congratulations.”
Looking back at her KBC graduation 15 years ago, Bursch thought about where this year’s class will be in 15 years in an ever changing, fast paced world.
“Where do think you will be in 15 years?” she asked. “Do you have to move faster and faster to keep up, spin on a dime, make decisions quickly?”
Noting the statistic that says most people will work 15 or more jobs in their careers, Bursch said she thought about her own personal and professional transformation.
“When I look back at my own life, the times I made really valuable changes came after some kind of break in what I had been doing,” she said. “By a break, I mean, I had time to lift my head up and look around, or I was in between jobs and had time to reflect on things besides the day to day stuff. … The new directions in my life that worked out the best were not spur-of-the-moment decisions.”
A degree gives people more earning power — but also more options, Bursch said.
“There is opportunity between those jobs,” she said. “Try to have some money saved up so you don’t have to immediately jump into that new job right away. Take some time to make wise and thoughtful changes. Maybe go sit in a cabin. Travel to a new country. Volunteer at something that’s really exciting to you.”
True, society moves faster and faster, Bursch said.
“But I think that the person who steps aside and observes, takes time, will see unique opportunities they are looking for,” she said. “Taking time does not mean being left behind.”
Reach Michael Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emilie Springer is also a freelance writer for the Homer News.
2019 Kachemak Bay Campus diploma, degree and certificate recipients.
Kenai Peninsula College Associate of Arts Degree
Associate of Applied Science – Paramedical Technology
UAA Associate of Applied Science – Fire & Emergency Services
UAA Bachelor of Science – Natural Sciences
UAF Bachelor of Social Work
UAS Bachelor of Elementary Education
UAF Doctor of Anthropology
General Education Development high school equivalency diploma