APU launches Alaska Native executive leadership program
Willie Hensley, seen at left in this Journal file photo, helped kick off a new program at Alaska Pacific University to train the next generation of Alaska Native executives at a Sept. 14 event. Hensley, a longtime Alaska Native leader, was one of the key figures in the crafting of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Alaska Pacific University has launched the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program, a corporate leadership development initiative that is a partnership of five Alaska Native corporations and APU.
Classes began in mid-September on APU’s campus in Anchorage. The university is a private, four-year college with a 170-acre main campus in Anchorage. It is 54 years old, opening in 1960 as Alaska Methodist University.
The year-long Native Executive Leadership Program has students spend two days per month in class, with additional coursework to be done out of class, according to Tracy Stewart, APU’s academic dean.
About 20 students are enrolled, most of them mid-to-senior management in Alaska Native corporations, although there are also students from Native nonprofits.
Stewart said the program is aimed at preparing managers in Native organizations to assume higher levels of responsibility in their careers. Courses include metrics for monitoring organizational performance, evaluation of risk and diversification, corporate strategy, working with boards of directors, and federal government contracting. Most Alaska Native corporations are engaged in Small Business Administration 8(a) minority contract support work for the government.
Stewart said the first classes in September included sessions on the history of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which led to the creation of Native corporations in the state.
“Since their start in little more than 40 years ago, Alaska Native corporations today are shaping the state’s economy in nearly every sector, and in nearly every corner of Alaska,” Stewart said. “It’s an honor to include these high-potential leaders among our students.”
Afognak Corp., the Aleut Corp., Cook Inlet Region Inc., Chugach Alaska Corp., and Bristol Bay Native Corp. are supporting the program, which is approved by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.
“Developing the next generation of Alaska Native leaders is among the key concerns of corporations and organizations that trace their history from the 1971 (Alaska) Native Claims Settlement Act,” Stewart said.
Students in the nine-month program will also complete the elective units that are part of APU’s Master of Business Administration program, and these credits are transferrable to other institutions.
“Many students in the program already had advanced degrees but we’re already seeing interest in pursuing an MBA among those who don’t,” Stewart said.
Tim Bradner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.