Iḷisaġvik College

Coordinates: 71°19′30″N 156°40′50″W / 71.32500°N 156.68056°W / 71.32500; -156.68056
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Iḷisaġvik College
MottoHonoring your past, preparing for your future
TypePublic tribal land-grant community college
Established1996; 27 years ago (1996)
Parent institution
North Slope Borough
Academic affiliations
UArctic; AIHEC
PresidentJustina Wilhelm
Location, ,
United States

Iḷisaġvik College (Inupiaq: [iʎisɑʁvik]) is a public tribal land-grant community college in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. Operated by the North Slope Borough, a home rule government of the Iñupiat, it is the only tribally controlled college in Alaska, and it is the northernmost accredited community college in the United States. The college is located within the boundaries of the North Slope. It is an 89,000-square-mile (230,000 km2) region of Arctic tundra. It is connected to the 414-mile (666 km) Dalton Highway only during the winter, by an ice road for local residents. The community can also be reached by plane.

The college is a member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, and it offers a bachelor's degree in business administration, associate's degrees, one-year certificates, and adult education courses for GED preparation. In 2020, the school's Alaska Dental Therapy Educational Program became the first program in the United States to be fully accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.


Bowhead whale skull in front of Iḷisaġvik College main building

Iḷisaġvik College (IC) was renamed in 2005. It had been developed in alliance with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, beginning in 1986. Like other tribal colleges, it is a result of the Native American and Alaskan Native self-determination movement that expanded in late 1960s and early 1970s. The North Slope Borough was organized as a home rule government in 1972, and with that, the Iñupiat people took other steps toward regaining control of their culture.

The college was created to satisfy higher education needs of Alaskan Natives and American Indians. IC generally serves geographically isolated populations that have no other means accessing higher education.[1] Beginning in 1986, the North Slope Borough had worked with the University of Fairbanks[2] to create the North Slope Higher Education Center.

In 1995 the Borough passed an ordinance incorporating Iḷisaġvik College as a public and independent non-profit corporation. The school moved to the facility previously used by the United States Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL).[3] In 1996, IC took over the Iñupiat Heritage Center.[4] In 1997 the school changed its name to Arctic Sivunmun Iḷisaġvik College. It was led from 1995 to 2005 by college president, Edna Ahgeak MacLean (Iñupiat) an educator from Utqiaġvik (Barrow).[5] Iḷisaġvik College was a leader in 1997 in founding the Consortium for Alaska Native Higher Education (CANHE).[5]

In 2005, the North Slope Borough established IC, the first, and still the only, Tribal College in the state of Alaska. It was federally recognized in 2007 as the 36th tribal college in the United States and designated as a land-grant college the following year.[2][6]


IC has been led primarily by indigenous educators, who have mostly been local Iñupiat people. Brooke Gondara is Northern Cheyenne, and Justina Wilhelm.[7]

US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) with students and faculty from Iḷisaġvik College
S. No. Name Term
1. Benjamin Nageak (executive vice president)
2. Edna Ahgeak MacLean 1995–2005
3. Beverly Patkotak Grinage 2005–2010
4. Brooke Gondara 2010–2011
5. Pearl Kiyawn Nageak Brower 2012–2020
6. Justina Wilhelm 2020–present


Accredited in 2003 by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the college offers a bachelor's degree in business administration,[8] associate's degrees, one-year certificates, and adult education courses for GED preparation. Academic programs at IC reflect local Iñupiat traditions, values, and culture. They are also intended to provide training for career and employment opportunities.[1]

In 2018, then-President Brower discussed the hope of expanding a current program into the school's second bachelor's degree program in elementary education with an indigenous focus.[8] In 2020, the college's Alaska Dental Therapy Educational Program became the first program in the United States to be fully accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The program opened in 2004 and, by 2017, had increased oral healthcare services via Tribal Health Services by 40,000 people, mainly in rural populations across the state.[9][10]


IC is a member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC),[11] a community of tribally and federally chartered institutions that work to strengthen and lead tribal communities in higher education.[12]


Iḷisaġvik College is sanctioned by the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS) tribal government. Iḷisaġvik College weaves Iñupiaq values into all its activities because it believes these values make its students and educational community stronger, more cohesive and more successful. Being true to the core values of the culture it predominantly serves helps to make Iḷisaġvik a valued and contributing member of that culture. By helping to strengthen the language and traditions of the Iñupiat, Iḷisaġvik fulfills its role as a distinctly indigenous institution that aims to enhance the local culture, while helping its students gain a foothold in the economy of the 21st century. Iḷisaġvik's goal is to create successful graduates who can incorporate their traditional values into modern life and, in doing so, enhances both.


Iḷisaġvik College is located in Alaska
Iḷisaġvik College
Location of Iḷisaġvik College.

The Tuzzy Consortium Library is named after Evelyn Tuzroyluk Higbee, a member of the original Board of Higher Education for the college.

The campus is located in the former complex of the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b American Indian Higher Education Consortium Archived 2012-06-14 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Thomas, Clive S.; Savatgy, Laura; Klimovich, Kristina (2016). Alaska Politics and Public Policy: The Dynamics of Beliefs, Institutions, Personalities, and Power. University of Alaska Press. p. 984. ISBN 9781602232907.
  3. ^ "Barrow Educator Picked to Head Ilisagvik College". Daily Sitka Sentinel. 10 July 1995. Retrieved 7 August 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ Oliver, Shady Grove (22 February 2019). "Inupiat Heritage Center celebrates 20 years". The Arctic Sounder. Retrieved 2019-08-07.
  5. ^ a b Larsen, Joan Nymand; Schweitzer, Peter; Petrov, Andrey (2015). Arctic Social Indicators: ASI II: Implementation. Nordic Council of Ministers. p. 235. ISBN 9789289338882.
  6. ^ "NIFA 1994s The First 20 Years of the 1994 Land-Grant Institutions Standing on Tradition, Embracing the Future" (PDF). National Institute of Food and Agriculture. September 25, 2015. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  7. ^ Minthorn, Robin Starr; Shotton, Heather J. (2018-02-27). Reclaiming Indigenous Research in Higher Education. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813588728.
  8. ^ a b c Desk, Ravenna Koenig, Alaska's Energy (2018-02-07). "Alaska's only tribal college now offering bachelor's degree in business". KTOO. Retrieved 2022-05-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "In Alaska, Dental Therapists Seen as Helping to Improve Oral Health". pew.org. Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  10. ^ "What Are Dental Therapists?". pew.org. Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  11. ^ "AIHEC: Who We Serve". www.aihec.org. Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  12. ^ "AIHEC: Who We Are". www.aihec.org. Retrieved 2022-05-17.

External links[edit]

71°19′30″N 156°40′50″W / 71.32500°N 156.68056°W / 71.32500; -156.68056