Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship recipient profile: Chris Thompson

November 18, 2009

Photo of Chris ThompsonChris Thompson came to UAA to build a better life for himself, his fiance and their 18-month-old daughter. After graduating from Seward High School in 1999, he worked many different jobs, eventually landing a gig in the construction field. “Finally, I found a job that was more to me than just a paycheck,” Thompson said. “I found something that I really enjoyed.”

But in January 2005, Chris fell off a roof while on a job and was badly injured. He broke both of his wrists and feet, and injured several vertebrae. The incident put him in the hospital for three months, but that was just the beginning of his recovery.

Between June 2005 and February 2007, Chris traveled to and from Seattle for a series of intense surgeries in the attempt to rebuild his badly damaged feet. “I had a different surgery every month,” Thompson said. Even after all the surgeries, his left ankle ultimately had to be amputated. He now wears a prosthetic foot.

“I can do everything that I did before,” said Thompson, who’s a fan of snowboarding and mountain biking.

Despite his injury, Thompson made the decision to pursue a career in the construction industry. “I had a lot of time to think about my career path while I was in the hospital,” he said. “I love the construction industry.”

Chris moved to Anchorage in 2006 to work toward a degree in construction management. His original plan was to earn an associate’s degree and go straight to work, but he decided to continue his education and earn a bachelor’s degree. “I started looking at earning potential over time and decided that having a bachelor’s degree would be a better option for me,” Thompson said.

“UAA is the complete package,” he said. “It’s convenient and affordable, and the construction management program is one of the best I’ve seen.”

Chris didn’t think he’d be eligible for scholarships due to his workman’s comp payments, but he put his name in the hat anyway. It paid off and he was awarded the Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship this fall. “I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for everything anymore,” said Thompson. “It’s one less expense I have to worry about.”

With a full course load of 17 credits, he is happy to have a busy schedule. “I want to take full advantage of this scholarship.” Since the scholarship pays for a certain amount of tuition and expenses, he’s been able to save enough money to start a college savings account for his daughter. “My parents never did that for me, so I wanted to be sure to do it for my daughter.”

Chris hopes to one day become a job site superintendent, where he’d be responsible for coordinating project logistics and supervising workers. “I like to visualize how all of the project details will come together,” said Thompson.

The Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship is the result of the generous anonymous $7M gift that UAA received in the spring of 2009. Conditions of the gift stated that the majority of the money was to be used for student scholarships, particularly benefiting women and minorities. The $6M designated for scholarships enabled UAA to establish an endowment to provide needs-based scholarships to students.

This new needs-based scholarship will be awarded incrementally, up to four years, for students working toward an associate’s or baccalaureate degree from UAA. This special feature is designed to provide an incentive and reward to students who persist in their studies toward a degree. Recipients of the Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship will receive money for tuition and housing or childcare each year — all very important for student success.

This donation has already had a significant impact on the lives of UAA’s students; 50 students have been awarded this special scholarship for the 2009-10 academic year.

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