There's no place like a dance group to help Bax Bond feel at home
When it came to choose where to go to college, Bax Bond followed in his mother's footsteps.
"My mom earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from UAF," said Bax, who is from Tununak, a village of about 250 people on Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. "I was already familiar with UAF so it helped me with the transition."
Bax is working on his second bachelor's degree from UAF. Last year, he graduated with a degree in Yup'ik language. Now he's working on one in mechanical engineering.
Coming to UAF wasn't Bax's first experience with studying far from home. As a high school junior, he attended the boarding school at Mt. Edgecumbe near Sitka, more than 1,000 miles southeast of Tununak. After high school, he enrolled at UAF.
Mechanical engineering major Bax Bond performs with the Iñu-Yupiaq Dance Group during the 2013 Festival of Native Arts. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.
Bax said getting involved with Alaska Native programs and student organizations helped him become a part of the campus community.
It didn't take long for many of those strangers to become his friends. He said the Iñu-Yupiaq Dance Group, a student club that performs many Inupiaq and Yup'ik songs and dances, helped him feel more at home. He has since become the drum leader for the group. The group has performed at UAF commencement, community gatherings in Fairbanks and the Festival of Native Arts.
Bax credited the kindness of the Rural Student Services staff for helping him enjoy his UAF journey. The advisors also clarified graduation requirements that differed between catalog years. Bax said his advisor made sure he got the classes he needed and graduated on time.
"The advisors are great," said Bax. "I've been able to have a fairly organized class schedule through their help and research."
After reflecting on his experiences at UAF, Bax had some words of wisdom for other Alaska Native students.
"Don't try to go at it alone," he said. "Going through college and adult life is pretty intimidating when you try to do everything yourself and take on all of the load. Don't be afraid to ask someone for help. It could be asking for a ride to campus when your car breaks down."
Bax said he has watched some friends try to manage their college experiences on their own. Many have fallen through the cracks.
"There is no shame in asking for help," said Bax. "There is no reason to try to prove anything. Everyone wants you to succeed, and there are resources available that help rural and Alaska Native students succeed."