Outer Coast Summer Seminar 2018

Outer Coast Summer Seminar 2018 brought together sixteen incredible students from across Alaska and the Lower 49 to Sitka, Alaska for a four-week exploration of Outer Coast’s three pillars of Academics, Service & Labor, and Self Governance. Read what the student body wrote about the program here or check out the following recap below:


Students spent their mornings in the classroom, discussing ideas of freedom, authority, and polarization, and engaging with both Indigenous and Western literary texts. They began and ended the class with a reflection on two questions: “what does it mean to be free?” and “why do we tell stories?”

The course opened with an exploration of “Raven Stories,” led by faculty member X’unei Lance Twitchell which the students thoroughly enjoyed. They read eyewitness accounts of the Battle of Sitka; delved into classic philosophical works by Plato, Aristotle, and Sophocles; read Shakespeare and presented interpretations of King Lear; and led discussions on Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. They also read and analyzed works by Summer Seminar faculty members: Sharon Schuman and Ishmael Hope.

X'unei Lance Twitchell
Faculty X̱'unei Lance Twitchell
Sharon Schuman
Faculty Sharon Schuman
Ishmael Hope
Faculty Ishmael Hope


During the afternoon, students participated in meaningful service projects throughout Sitka. They developed new skills, challenged themselves physically, and gained an appreciation for serving community.

Service projects included:

  • Working alongside the Forest Service to maintain Indian River Trail –– which included a seven mile hike each day!

  • Supporting the Sitka Fine Arts Camp by shingling a garden shed and staining an administrative building.

  • Assisting the Alaska Raptor Center by dismantling 100 yards of boardwalk.

  • Volunteering in support of historic building and boat restoration with the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society. The students were featured in their recent newsletter!

Over the course of the Summer Seminar, students logged a total of 84 service hours per person and 1,344 hours as a student body. And perhaps most importantly, they began to realize what is possible when a small group of people work together to achieve something beyond themselves.

OCSS 2018 Students Painting

OCSS 2018 Students Painting the Rasmusson Building on the historic Sheldon Jackson campus.


At the close of the program, students reflected that self-governance was both the most rewarding and challenging aspect of the Summer Seminar. After much deliberation and discussion, students adopted and refined a consensus-based decision-making process through which to govern.

Over the course of the seminar, students continued to refine the skill of making group-based decisions. In addition to selecting and planning weekly service projects, they also chose local speakers from around Sitka to participate in a biweekly Community Hour, created a values document, and reviewed and passed a number of motions pertaining to community policies. These policies included cell phone use and their curfew at night. Students learned from their mistakes, resolved internal conflict, and took responsibility for making lasting decisions for the program.

OCSS 2018 Students Voting

OCSS 2018 Students voting in a Student Body meeting.

Overall, we are glad to report that the seminar was a success. If you want to learn more about Summer Seminar 2018, check out the Program Overview here.