Friday, August 16, 2013

Short Takes| Best college course, lifetime ...

Those who know me know that sometimes I make lists.  Top 5 concert, lifetime; best vacation, lifetime; Top 10 BBQ joints; best place to stay in Homer ...

The approaching start of the fall semester has jogged my memory about another category -- college courses.  I received a great undergraduate education at the University of Tulsa, and, in my opinion, the best career-preparing education possible at the University of Virginia School of Law.

But the single best college course, lifetime, was one I took last fall, at the University of Alaska - Anchorage. The course was taught by Willie Hensley; the title of the course was "Alaska Policy Frontiers." The syllabus says the course is about this:
"This course will focus on Alaska and its future. It will address major historical eras that shaped Alaska. These eras will provide a backdrop to understand and meet the challenges of creating policies and practical actions which will shape a livable and dynamic Alaska for future generations."
It was that, but also was more, much more.  In many ways, it was Alaska viewed through Willie Hensley's eyes.  And given where he has been, that's a wide ranging and deeply knowledgeable view.

Now, I am not saying that I always agreed with the perspective.  But I have either lived or spent a lot of time in this state for going on 20 years and know a lot about some fairly important things.  Even with that, however, I must say that during those course sessions last fall I learned more about the fundamental drivers of what makes this state tick, and is needed to keep it ticking than in all of the previous 20 (well, then, 19 years) combined.

I bring this up because I received a note from Willie the other day indicating that this coming fall might be one of the last times he teaches the seminar, and am checking my schedule to see if I can take it again.  Even if he covers the exact same subjects and uses the exact same words, it likely still would be the second best college course I have ever taken (second only to the first time).  There is a depth about Alaska covered in the course that bears listening to more than once.

If you are interested as well -- and my guess is that readers of these pages are interested in such things -- the basic information is available on the UAA website.  Go to here, search for "Alaska Policy Frontiers," Public Administration (PADM) Course No. A672, Section 602 (CRN 77892) -- trust me, you will need most if not all of that information, the UAA website is not exactly user friendly -- or if all else fails, Willie's email is whensle2@uaa.alaska.edu.