Ilisagvik College

Campus Development Plan
Completed in 2018
Barrow/Utqiaġvik, AK
Project Facts
Iḷisaġvik College is Alaska's first and only federally recognized Tribal College


Full Case Study:

Iḷisaġvik College is expanding and relocating its facilities in Barrow/Utqiaġvik, Alaska. As strategic advisor, Ascent supports the College with planning and development strategies to bring the revitalized College to fruition within five years.

Client Background
Alaska’s North Slope Borough is a regional municipality encompassing 95,000 square miles and is comprised of eight communities: Barrow/Utqiaġvik, Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, and Wainwright. Ilisaġvik College was founded in Barrow/Utqiaġvik in 1995 as an Iñupiat center for cultural heritage-based education and is focused on serving students in the North Slope Borough—it is the first and only federally recognized Alaskan tribal college. It offers several associate degrees and a bachelor’s degree, as well as certificates and training in several academic, vocational, and technical areas. The school’s mission is to provide quality post-secondary education in a learning environment that perpetuates and strengthens Iñupiat culture, language, values, and traditions. It is dedicated to serving its students and developing a well-educated and trained workforce who meet the human resource needs of regional employers and the state of Alaska.

About the Project
After becoming accredited in 2003, Ilisaġvik College doubled its enrollment. It currently operates out of 13 leased facilities of varying size, age, physical condition, and location. These buildings, designed up to 70 years ago for use by the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, no longer support the type and depth of programming offered by the College. As a tenant, the College is unable to make significant changes to the facilities to meet its needs, reduce costs, or ensure safety.

To envision what a larger, more comprehensive facility might look like, the College embarked on several strategic and programming studies: a Strategic Plan to define its vision, a Space Program study to evaluate site development, a Long-Term Facilities Master Plan to further refine the Space Program, and a Project Analysis Report to analyze site selection and program needs. The resulting vision consolidates the College into a single, 111,036 SF, modern campus that is centrally located within the population center of Barrow/Utqiaġvik.

With a clear plan in mind, the College invited Ascent to its leadership team to produce a Program Development Plan that identified steps required to develop this new, approximately $175M campus. The Program Development Plan for the College created a ‘road map’ of specific steps for advocacy, stakeholder engagement, communication outreach, a plan of finance, land acquisition, design advancement, and program management.

With clear ideas for the new campus but complex challenges around financing, timeframe, and specific steps, Ilisaġvik College engaged Ascent to support its leadership team in mapping out the steps to bring its vision to life.

How Does Ascent Help?
As a strategic advisor to the College, Ascent advises leadership on all aspects of the project from its vision phase into development, including a plan of finance, creating a broad base of public support, land acquisition, and design. Since its completion, Ascent has assisted the College in holding an international design competition to select the design team and begun concept design.

As a growing and unique center for education that is intimately tied to its region, the quality and accessibility of an Iḷisaġvik education has a direct impact on the economy and health of its residents. The new Iḷisaġvik College campus will nearly double the physical footprint of the institution, consolidate functions, and align needs and spaces. With improved space and capability, the College can attract new students and faculty and grow enrollment. Together, these improvements will help Iḷisaġvik College model best practices in indigenous education and train future leaders to drive global change.

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