Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. and Holland America Line Inc. have joined forces to donate $1 million to the University of Alaska Foundation for research and education critical to the health of sea, tourism and hospitality industry training and student scholarships.
“This very thoughtful gift is a shining example of how a major private industry in Alaska and the University of Alaska can work together as partners for the benefit of Alaskans across the state,” said UA President Pat Gamble. “The reach of this donation is impressive and will leave an indelible mark on the lives of many UA researchers and students.”
Bruce Bustamante, Princess’ vice president for community and public affairs, said the company’s commitment to the environment, from recycling aboard ships to using compostable cups on rail cars, is a part of its core values. “This donation will help us further that goal by funding research and fostering awareness for our oceans and marine systems. Alaska is our home, and we are dedicated to investing in the health of our communities, both land and sea,” he said.
Ralph Samuels, Holland America’s vice president for government and community relations, said the scholarships will help young Alaskans learn the tools of the trade to start a career. “Many of our managers started in frontline positions serving guests or moving luggage. Today they are a part of the executive team making a career in the tourism industry–they also volunteer at our schools, they serve in the National Guard and they are raising their families here. This is an investment in the next generation of workers we want to hire.”
A large portion of the $1 million gift ($585,000) provides a portion of the funding needed for the second in a three-phase renovation of Cuddy Hall at UAA, including the repurposing of office space back to dedicated classrooms, mechanical upgrades and improvements to the retail food service area. Phase III of the project will allow for the expansion of the Cuddy Hall dining area, increasing the seating capacity from 320 to 400. Phase I of the project, completed in August 2008, included the addition of the Betty Cuddy Atrium. Cuddy Hall supports the UAA Community and Technical College’s Department of Culinary Arts, Hospitality/Dietetics and Nutrition’s various programs, and is integral to meeting the workforce development needs of the tourism and hospitality industry in Alaska.
The program currently graduates an average of 40 students per academic year—with a 100 percent career placement rate. The industry could easily absorb double the amount of graduates.
The gift also will benefit the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program (MAP), a statewide outreach and technical assistance program designed to help Alaskans wisely develop, use and conserve Alaska’s marine and coastal resources.
In addition, the companies’ generous donation will help support “Arctic Odyssey: Voyages of the Research Vessel Sikuliaq,” a yearlong exhibit at the University of Alaska Museum of the North commemorating the new oceanographic, ice-navigating research vessel. The exhibit will feature a six-foot physical model and virtual 3-D tour of the ship, exciting footage of the vessel in operation, interviews with chief scientists, a webcam tracking the Sikuliaq’s travels and more. A portion of the gift will help underwrite the ship’s commissioning in Seward in spring 2014. The R/V Sikuliaq is owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by UAF.
Another portion of the gift helps fund the Entrepreneurial Edge program at UAA, which hosts an annual business plan competition and monthly entrepreneurial speaker series.
The Alaska Region National Ocean Sciences Bowl is yet another beneficiary of the gift. The “Tsunami Bowl,” as it’s known, is a rigorous marine science competition for high school students sponsored by the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Due to federal budget cuts, the Tsunami Bowl lost funding this year. The generosity of the company’s gift will provide support for this year’s event and into the future.
The companies’ gift isn’t just limited to UAA and UAF. It also provides scholarship money to the University of Alaska Southeast for rural students seeking STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees.
Princess Cruise Lines and Holland America Line, the two largest tour operators in Alaska, approached the university last spring with a desire to collaborate with the UA Foundation in a way that will bolster the state’s tourism industry. Together, the two lines employ nearly 3,500 people during the summer season and support more than 1,000 businesses in Alaska.
Gov. Sean Parnell made the gift announcement at the Downtown Anchorage Rotary Club today. Gov. Parnell supports the workforce development aspects of the gift, and he lauded the two companies and the university for the collaboration.