The best stories are always about people, and a university is a great place to find these tales because of its ripe environment for change and transformation.
Most readers won't realize that UAA has an alumni army of 40,000 graduates from all its different programs, many of them serving important roles in Anchorage and the state.
A new feature series highlights these personal stories, called "I AM UAA." Here are links to two:
SHARING HIS GIFT
B.A. Music Education ’13
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Fun Fact: Plans to pursue an advanced degree in music therapy
Not many people are as lucky as Mark Williams to find their passion so early in life. For Mark, the light bulb flickered on in middle school when he realized he would pursue a higher education and eventual career in music.
He started playing the bongos at the age of 6, and over the years learned to play the trumpet, baritone, piano and tuba—his main instrument. “I found that music was my own special talent,” Mark says.
By the time his senior year of high school rolled around, Mark was busy creating audition tapes and putting in applications to music schools across the country, including UAA. He was accepted into all of them and was even offered a full-ride scholarship to a university in Alabama.
But there was something about his hometown university that felt right to Mark. “All the signs pointed to UAA,” he says. It was about the time of his high school graduation that UAA received an anonymous $7 million gift, which established the Seawolf Opportunities Scholarship. He put his name in the hat for the scholarship and was thrilled to learn he was selected as a recipient. “I took it as a sign that this was where I was supposed to be,” he says.
SECOND CAREER: ENTREPRENEUR
Alumni Spotlight: Amber Christensen Fullmer
B.A. Sociology ’03
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Fun Fact: Her oldest son starts in the civil engineering program at UAA this year.
Alaska grown Amber Christensen Fullmer spent 13 years working in law enforcement as a probation officer in both Alaska and Colorado before deciding it was time to try something new. “I was burnt out,” she admits.
Last November, with the support of her husband and kids, she opened Amber’s Olive Company, selling top-quality olive oils, balsamic vinegars and an array of complementary products from Alaska producers, like barley flour from Delta Junction, honey from the Valley and pickled salmon and halibut from an Anchorage company.
Amber’s Olive Company carries products from Alaska-based businesses in addition to their international oil and vinegar selection.
So how did she make the leap from probation officer to entrepreneur?
“There was a store like this that we used to go to in Colorado,” Amber says. “The last time we went, I was really bummed out because we weren’t going to have access to it anymore.”
A military family, they were stationed in Colorado until just last year when they made the move to Alaska—home for Amber, but a new world for her husband, a Californian.
Her husband, who holds master’s degrees in business administration and emergency management, encouraged her to think big, saying, “You know, you could do this,” referring to the olive oil and balsamic vinegar store.