Local grads leave UAA on a high note

Friday, June 9, 2017 - 13:07
  • Courtesy photo by Philip Hall/University of Alaska Anchorage Alaska Fine Arts Academy Executive Director Lailani Cook at the Spring 2017 University of Alaska Anchorage Commencement ceremony at the Alaska Airlines Center on the UAA campus in Anchorage, Alaska Sunday, May 7, 2017. Cook is one of more than 100 Chugiak-Eagle River residents who graduated at the spring ceremony.
  • The Spring 2017 University of Alaska Anchorage Commencement ceremony at the Alaska Airlines Center on the UAA campus in Anchorage, Alaska Sunday, May 7, 2017. (Courtesy photo by Philip Hall/University of Alaska Anchorage)
  • The Spring 2017 University of Alaska Anchorage Commencement ceremony at the Alaska Airlines Center on the UAA campus in Anchorage, Alaska Sunday, May 7, 2017. (Courtesy photo by Philip Hall/University of Alaska Anchorage)

This year, the University of Alaska Anchorage’s spring commencement ceremony kicked off with a voice from Eagle River.

Lailani Cook, executive director of the Alaska Fine Arts Academy, performed the National Anthem for a crowd of thousands at the Alaska Airlines Center May 7. With a degree in music education, Cook was one of more than 100 Chugiak-Eagle River residents to graduate with the UAA Class of 2017.

“It feels very surreal,” she said in an interview the week after graduation. “When you start, four years just seems like a long time.”

The UAA graduates from Chugiak-Eagle River made up about eight percent of this year’s class, according to the university. Some came to UAA fresh out of high school. Some followed a different path.

Cook came to Alaska in the summer of 2013, moving north with her husband, who was stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The timing felt perfect, she said, so she enrolled at UAA and prepared to go back to school. She studied music and theater, pondered a photography degree and mulled over going after a master’s degree.

The Sunday afternoon commencement ceremony was overwhelmingly happy and humbling, she said.

She said she’d like to put her education back to work at work.

“Right now, I really want to focus on the academy,” she said.

Located in the heart of Eagle River, the Alaska Fine Arts Academy features a range of music and art classes and a full schedule of plays and other productions. Cook said she plans to use her newfound skills to bolster the program and deepen its impact on the local arts community. And while graduation has come and gone, she’s not done learning: Next, Cook said she plans to obtain a certificate in nonprofit management through the Foraker Group, then – eventually – back to school to earn her master’s.

After four years of juggling school, the academy and motherhood, she’s ready for a break.

“I feel like everything I do now probably won’t amount to how busy I used to be,” she said, laughing.

2017 Chugiak-Eagle River area UAA graduates:

Barnes Anna

Barnes Brooklin

Barnett Stephen

Bethka Jon

Blaum Adam

Blaum Adam

Boling Garritt

Brewer Kenneth

Brown Elizabeth

Bunag Jessica

Burns Christopher

Campione II Robert

Cannamore Jonathan

Carpenter Hailey

Carroll Chelsea

Cartland Christa

Clifford Jamie

Clift Christa

Cook Lailani

Daniels Adele

Darbyshire Eric

Dennis Michelle

Esparza Daniel

Essary Angela

Field Daniel

Fraser Shawn

Gassmann Dylan

Gearhart Rachelle

Gerritsen Nicole

Gil Jasmine

Gonzalez Jonathan

Goodwill Kristin

Gryting Terry

Guthrie Hunter

Hagensieker Brandon

Haken Tracie

Hansen Daniel

Hargraves Maclaine

Hattenburg Brenna

Hessert William

Hoback Mitchell

Hodes Olivia

Hoger Stephanie

Hoops Breanna

James Kristin

Jurewicz Andrea

Kalkowski Melody

Khodra Nial

Kingrey Brittany

Kinney Jared

Kuaiwa Christopher

Kubitz Casey

Leibach Chelsey

Lewis Alexis

Linton Megan

Martinez Telena

Milette Brandy

Morrisett Joshua

Muller Kimberly

Murphy Kelby

Murray Cameron

Newkirk Matthew

Novak Sabrina

Nys Melissa

Pascale Desirae

Payeur Sierra

Petroccia Olivia

Pierce Jennifer

Pifer Alexander

Post Shannon

Price Kalyn

Quinn Murphy

Rearick Alex

Rink Daniel

Roberts Zachary

Robinson Jeremiah

Rogers Austin

Salazar Joshua

Schwichtenberg Candace

Sedlacek Jedidiah

Siebenthal Kerry

Singson Andrea

Smith Brittany

Smith Christopher

Snyder Chelsea

South Rebecca

Stangl Kaeli

Swiderski Ryan

Talbot Ian

Tarner Theresa

Thornton Jade

Travis Britney

Triplett Brianna

Tsunemori Hannah

Tubon Ryan

Velazquez Hannah

Wallen Cameron

Walters JoEllen

Weir Gary

Weisner Leif

Wendoloski Elizabeth

White Holly

Wood Erin

Wood Samantha

Woodard Jessica

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