A dream comes true in Alaska


Corey Christian ’00 remembers as a kid, he used to go out to the airfield near his childhood home in San Francisco and watch the airplanes take off. He knew then, he just had to have a career in aviation.

This dream was further nurtured at PLU, when a friend there, introduced him to his father, who worked for Northwest Airlines. After graduating with a business administration degree, and a minor in sports administration, Corey worked for a few years in professional baseball, but then decided to get back to his first love of flying and aviation. He was hired at Alaska Airlines in 2001 and has been there ever since, first working in customer service and then working his way up to become the regional manager for six airports in Alaska’s Arctic region.

Corey loves the lifestyle and scenery in Alaska, but he noted, it can get very cold there, as much as 60 degrees below Fahrenheit.

PLU taught him how to be humble and how to be a leader at the same time, he says.

“PLU teaches you leadership combined with service,” he said.

As for his dream job, well at that he laughs. He’d like to run Alaska Airlines someday, but he’ll have to wait in line for that behind another Lute, CEO Brad Tilden ’83.

Photos by John Froschauer, Edited by Barbara Clements


Alaska 360!

Here are some great shots by PLU photographer John Froschauer as he visited Lutes in Alaska last week (say that real fast!). The first is of Lute teachers working in circle time with children at summer school in Akiachak. The second is a wonderful view outside of Anchorage.

Akiachak: http://360.io/HbtqCj

Anchorage: http://360.io/XPZkPK

That would be me after I stopped to talk with Ickley Charles about his steam house, the summer school students decided to tag along at Akiachak, Alaska on Sunday, June 9, 2013. (Photo/John Froschauer)

That would be me after I stopped to talk with Ickley Charles about his steam house, the summer school students decided to tag along at Akiachak, Alaska on Sunday, June 9, 2013. (Photo/John Froschauer)

Following a vocation that lead from Iowa, to Ireland to north to Alaska!

Erin McLaughlin Sutterer '05 and husband, Mathew Sutterer never thought their Wild Hope would take them to Alaska for the last five years.

Erin McLaughlin Sutterer ’05 and husband, Mathew Sutterer never thought their Wild Hope would take them to Alaska for the last five years.

Growing up in Iowa, Erin McLaughlin Sutterer never quite imagined she’d be now living in Alaska. But looking back on her path recently with PLU Photographer John Froschauer and with hubby, Mathew Stutterer (whom we will make on honorary Lute!) the journey all seems to make sense now.

Erin graduated in 2005 with degrees in political science and anthropology, and came to PLU via Waverly Iowa, where her mom worked in the alumni-development office at Wartburg College, which is part of the ELCA. While at PLU, Erin was very involved, from working in residential life, the alumni office, the Residence Hall Council, Diversity Coalition, Ultimate Frisbee and Crew. And the list goes on. Erin now works at Hope Community Resources in Anchorage, working with developmentally disabled individuals succeed at home, at work and in the community.

When she graduated, Erin didn’t quite know how she was going to use her anthro degree, but now, she uses it every day in one of the most culturally diverse areas in the US. She appreciated the training, both practically and spiritually she received at PLU.

“I knew that God was calling me to Alaska,” she said, relaxing in her Anchorage home  with Matthew and awaiting the birth of their first child. She appreciated the deep, caring community she found at PLU, and has now found again in Alaska. Listen here for more of her story.

-Photo by John Froschauer, Edited by Barbara Clements

Recap of the week in Akiak and prepping for Fathers’ Day!

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This week in Akiak has been quite eventful due to the passing of the smelt over the weekend and the anticipation of the king salmon on their way.

Akiak is blessed to have lots of support from the elders in our community, and this week we had one of the elders come in and teach our students how to string smelt. The students each were able to string at least five smelt!

This week we also learned about Yupiit masks and made masks of our own, and we went on a nature walk, gathering leaves to create mobiles fom our leaf rubbings.

On Thursday we made Father’s day cards that said, “Fishing You a Happy Father’s Day!” and then the students modge podged their fish. However, the favorite activity of the week has been playing “The Smelt Game” in which the smelt swim around the fishermen until the teacher claps her hands and then the smelt swim to the hula hoops around the gym for safety.

If the smelt are tagged by the fishermen, then they also become fishermen. This game was introduced on Tuesday and ever since that afternoon, the students ask to play that game regularly!

– Suzy Olsen

Reflections, pics from the Lutes in Tuluksak

Linnea Olson, Alyssa Johnson, and I are working in Tuluksak. When we first arrived in the village, we quickly saw similarities to the
Namibian communities we worked in.  Pulling up to the school we were amazed by the beautiful building. Unlike Namibia we were excited to see the resources we had available to us. Quickly, we started advertising and getting ready for summer school to start in one day.

At 10 a.m. we meet our students at the front door. First our children eat breakfast and then they are ready to go! We have designed our lessons to be as hands on as possible. We have seen our numbers fluctuate each day as smelt is coming down the river. Lots of our students are working with their families to catch fish and store for the year. We take them as they come and make the most of the time we have together! –Kari Olson

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A day in summer school in Akiak

These are some photos of the summer school in Akiak, where the school day starts with Akiak elders talking with the kids during breakfast before the classes start. The elders are Ivan Ivan,  wearing the blue jacket, and Moses Owen. Pictured are Lutes Kelli Peterson ’13, wearing the vest, Megan Aarsvold ’13, with the scarf, and Suzy Olsen ’13, in the cardigan sweater and lavender top. – John Froschauer

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Plucking fun

After taking the five minute plane ride from Akiachak to Akiak we headed to the school to drop-off our gear and see if we could find the three Lutes – Megan Aarsvold’13 , Kelli Peterson ’13 and Suzy Olsen ’13 – who are teaching in the summer program here.

Even though class had been let out hours before the teachers were in their classrooms preparing for the next day. We should have guessed that. It was the same in Akiachak.

The three young women invited us to go to the house of one of the paraeducators – Faith Owen. The day before they had been to one her family’s fish camps to hang and dry smelt. (A fish camp is a base of operations to prepare and process fish during the fishing season)

This time, they’d try their hands – literally – at plucking birds. Walking to the house some of the differences between the villages become apparent. The dirt is made up of more silt and the river doesn’t run parallel to the town, but rather bends around one side of it. The banks and the dirt, in particularly, remind me of river banks in Washington.

We get to Owen’s home and sure enough there are five birds lined-up ready for plucking. The Lutes dive right-in. Listening how they need to put the feathers from between their thumb and forefinger to best pluck. Success happens in varying degrees, but they keep plucking until the birds are clean.

“It’s so real,” Suzy Olsen says, when she first puts fingers to feather.

“It is real,” Megan Aarsvold replies.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Olsen continues.

All three spend the next hour or so, plucking their birds.

The game collected here are duck and black bird (swan is also typically hunted, but there’s none to pluck on this day). Birds are the generally hunted in the Spring and then in the Fall, following migration, said Elena Owen — Faith’s mother and and expert guide on plucking for the Lutes.

The villages then go for fish, which has just started with a few days of smelt runs. Someone caught a King salmon in Akiachak though, Elena Owen tells us.

In the summer, salmonberries, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries are picked. One way to eat the berries is as akutaq (a-goo-duck), which is a mixture of berries, lard (or shorting), mashed potato and sugar. After plucking, the Lutes are offered blueberry akutaq and gobble it up.

After berries, comes moose season, said Elena Owen. The village, like Akiachak and Tuluksak, rely on subsistence living. They hunt and gather their food to survive. There’s much sharing that is involved among families in the village. Whatever is caught or gathered is shared among elders, widows, and families without hunters.

After leaving Faith Owen’s home the three Lutes show us where they strung smelt the day before. While walking to the fish camp, the group suddenly becomes larger, as students from the summer program tag along.

“They are so welcoming here and willing to show you,” Aasrvold says.

– By Chris Albert