Sealaska Scholarship Recipient Highlight – Brian James
Monday, June 29, 2020

Sealaska shareholders have told us that education and vocational scholarships are a top priority. Sealaska is proud to recognize our scholarship recipients.

Brian James is among the first class of Sealaska scholarship recipients who are attending college part time, and the expanded eligibility offered by Sealaska, “is honestly life changing,” he said.

James is 51 and will technically be a junior when he starts class at the University of Alaska Fairbanks this year. He lives in the Seattle area and works full time for Community Health Plan of Washington, a nonprofit managed care organization.

His planned course of study — to be completed through online and distance-learning classes offered by UAF — will hopefully result in expanded career opportunities to serve tribal members in Washington state.

“I started my undergrad work back in 1986, if that’s dating me,” James laughed. “I’ve gone to school off and on for a number of years and just hadn’t completed my bachelor’s degree.”

Over the years, his career has been defined by roles in health care and education. For a number of years, he ran the Education Department for Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and he is currently a scholarship reviewer for Shee Atiká, Inc. and the Indian Health Service — assessing candidates much like himself for scholarships.

“To review scholarships and see all the other college-bound students, or students bound for vocational-technical schools — to see their ambition has always been a passion of mine,” James said.

His previous experience also includes work for Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, where he received training to become a midlevel dental provider, a classification that helps fill critical access-to-care gaps in dentistry in underserved communities.

He saw the announcement about Sealaska’s plan to extend scholarship eligibility around the time he was seriously considering re-enrolling in college. Describing the timing as “kismet,” James said he also met Carmaleeda Estrada of Sealaska Heritage Institute, who manages the Sealaska scholarship program, at a moccasin-making class she taught in the Seattle area and he had a chance to ask more detailed questions.

James had hoped to receive his degree in UAF’s Rural Development program, but the class schedule didn’t mesh well with his work schedule, so he’s going to pursue an interdisciplinary degree instead. The option will allow him to take many of the classes he would have in the Rural Development program, including some focused on tribal health and tribal management. He has about 30 credits left and plans to take one class per semester until the degree is complete.

“It will take some time, but that’s fine,” he said. “What’s a few more years at this point?”

His current employer, Community Health Plan of Washington, has a tribal liaison position that requires a bachelor’s degree to qualify for the position, which was a big part of his motivation to complete his degree.

James is the grandson of Charlie Joseph Sr., a revered leader of the Kaagwaantaan (Wolf Clan). James said his Tlingit culture and language is an incredibly important part of his identity, and he is deeply committed to serving other tribal members. His other interests include traditional beadwork, and he recently completed his first pair of beaded moccasins.

Scholarship Deadlines – Important Dates (every year)

  • December 15: Application Becomes Available
  • February 1: Early Bird Incentive Deadline
  • March 1: Scholarship Application Deadline
  • May 1: Scholarship Recipients Notified

More information is available at the shareholder portal Please visit Sealaska Heritage Institute for information on the Sealaska scholarship program and others, including the Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) program.

Did you know?

  • Since 2019, part-time students are now eligible for scholarships.
  • Scholarships are awarded to students enrolled at vocational and technical schools, graduate schools, four-year colleges and other types of post-secondary programs.
  • Scholarships are funded by Sealaska and administered by Sealaska Heritage Institute.
  • Descendants are eligible to apply — not just shareholders.

Calling all former Sealaska scholarship recipients!

Are you a former scholarship recipient? Or do you know someone who is? We want to hear from you! Reach out to and let us know how education has shaped your journey. Be sure to include a photo!

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