Outer Coast Summer Seminar 2019

Outer Coast Summer Seminar 2019 brought together 23 incredible students from across Alaska and the Lower 48 to Sitka, Alaska for a five-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!


The historic Sheldon Jackson campus. Photo Credit: Berett Wilber


This summer, Outer Coast offered three fast-paced, college-level academic courses:

Students in class

Imagining Otherwise: Utopia and Apocalypse in a Changing World

Sol Neely

Sol Neely, Associate Professor of English and Philosophy, University of Alaska Southeast

Many of the world’s problems today are the result of a collapsed political imagination, which occasions a fundamental inability to imagine society otherwise than what we’ve inherited. This course asked students to identify contemporary social problems in their genealogical contexts and boldly imagine projects of social transformation that address these issues.

The Most Important Question

Jenell Paris

Jenell Paris, Professor of Anthropology, Messiah College.

This course relied on the inquiry method of anthropological study to guide students toward asking important questions and seeking answers. Students reflected on the social construction of knowledge and societal priorities by reading works that explore nature, indigeneity, and self-reflection in several cultural traditions.

Tlingit Language & Indigenous Studies

X'unei Lance Twitchell

X‘unei Lance Twitchell, Associate Professor of Alaska Native Languages, University of Alaska Southeast.

This seminar taught students the Tlingit language and also introduced a number of critical concepts in the field of Indigenous Studies. The daily activities of the class were divided between language learning and use, and the exploration of topics in Indigenous Studies in a place-based and safe learning environment.

Service & Labor

Students participated in meaningful service to the Sitka community, each completing an average of 84 hours of service over the course of the program. Students were also entrusted with the necessary, often unglamorous work of the institution, including custodial responsibilities, building maintenance, groundskeeping, and dishwashing.

Students doing service

OCSS 2019 Students doing service.

Their largest projects included:

  • United States Forest Service - Students spent time on the Indian River Trail working in partnership with the local USFS trail crew to lay boulders, rocks, and gravel in order to enhance the original trail.

  • Pioneer Home - Students collaborated with the recreation coordinator of the Pioneer Home in order to host events for the residents. Students prepared a barbecue meet-and-greet at the beginning of the Seminar as well as an end-of-summer talent show where both students and residents showcased skills, talents, and hobbies.

  • 4-H, in collaboration with the Sitka Conservation Society - Students worked with elementary and middle school students in the 4-H summer program to harvest local berries and made jam to share. Through self-governance, the Student Body independently organized and executed this service opportunity.

  • Mt. Edgecumbe High School - Students helped to beautify the MEHS campus by clearing out two flower beds.

  • Sitka Fine Arts Campus - Students beautified the campus. Projects included painting buildings, trimming shrubbery, and doing a campus clean-up.

Other volunteer organizations included: Sitka Volunteer Fire Department, The Cloud (Sitka Teen Center), The Sitka Sound Science Center, The Sitka Sound Science Center (Education), The Hames Center, The Raptor Center, and Raven Radio.


OCSS 2019 Students

OCSS 2019 Students in a Student Body meeting.

The 2019 Student Body was vested with responsibility to help govern their own community. Their first order of business was to develop a community values policy: a written document that outlined how students wanted their community to function — what values to uphold, how to resolve conflict, and how to make collective decisions. Students refined their own student life policies and created three committees (Service, Budget, and Fun), through which they managed their own budget across the five-week program, initiated and executed local service projects, planned a retreat to Halibut Point Recreation Site, and designed a festive Commencement Ceremony.

With the desire to help develop Outer Coast’s future, students further codified resolutions for their continued involvement in Outer Coast post-Summer Seminar, notably around faculty hiring, student admission, and overall program design.

Big thanks to all of the organizations who sponsored the 2019 Summer Seminar!

Credit Union 1
AK litho
north pacific
sitka rose gallery
sitka charitable trust
sitka vision
sitka women
whites pharmacy