Local grads leave UAA on a high note
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:
Campione II Robert