Lacie's Big Adventure; WSC senior wins achievement award from National Student Exchange
April 2, 2010 -- Lacie Richardson puts meeting Sarah Palin and starting an open-mic poetry club at the top of her list for her year-long National Student Exchange (NSE) experience at the University of Alaska, Southeast (UAS).
Richardson, a Western State College of Colorado (WSC) senior from Falcon, Colo., was recently honored with the Bette Worley NSE Student Achievement Award. The award is given to two students every year from the NSE. Richardson was selected from the 3,000 students who participated in the program. Along with the honor she received a cash award of $500.
The NSE program was offered through Western, which provides exchange and study abroad opportunities at reasonable costs among member colleges and universities across the United States and Canada.
Richardson was given the honor because of her efforts at UAS during her exchange. She was there for the 2008-9 school year. She is an English major with a creative writing emphasis.
UAS is located in Juneau. Richardson described her initial reaction of Juneau as “Crested Butte on steroids.”
“I got off of the plane with two suitcases and thought to myself, 'What am I doing here?'” she said.
An avid outdoor enthusiast Richardson quickly sought out the opportunities of the area. She sea-kayaked, fly fished, hunted and hiked; occasionally she did these things as part of her coursework. She took a fly-fishing course and had classes at nearby cabins that the students hiked a few miles to get to.
While the outdoor opportunities rivaled what the Gunnison Valley had to offer, she found that the school’s English department offered very few extracurricular activities.
“At Western, I’ve been inspired by WordHorde, our English club,” she said. “I was impressed by all the creative talent by the students at UAS but they had no outlet.”
Richardson decided to team up with another fellow student to create, The Beatnik open mic club, an English club that organized performances for students to showcase their talents in storytelling, spoken-word poetry and music.
“At Western, I’ve always enjoyed seeing other sides of my fellow students and even my teachers at WordHorde open mic events,” she said. “It’s always an encouraging and creative atmosphere.”
Her greatest joy in the experience was to watch other students break out of their shells.
“It’s incredible to watch someone who can barely talk in class to go up and share themselves on a microphone in front of a captive audience,” she said.
And how did she end up meeting Sarah Palin?
Richardson was chosen to be the UAS representative at the 2009 Republican Convention commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. Palin spoke at the event and Richardson had the opportunity to meet her during the celebration.
So what was her impression of the former vice president candidate?
“She was super personable and bubbly,” Richardson said. “She was really nice.”
Now in her final semester at Western, Richardson balances a full course load and participates in as many extra-curricular activities as possible. She writes for the “Top O’ the World” student newspaper, participates in WordHorde and is an assistant editor for the “Pathfinder” yearly student magazine.
She shared that she has a newfound confidence after her Alaska adventure.
“In order to understand what we are capable of, we need to put ourselves out there and try new things,” she said. “I would say do things that make you uncomfortable. That is what makes us grow as human beings.”
When Richardson walks in the commencement ceremony in May, she will have visitors from all over, including Alaska.
“I call them my Juneau family,” she said.
After graduation, Richardson will venture back to Alaska to work for the summer as a fly-fishing guide on the Aniak River. She’ll be the first woman to hold such a position for the company.
Story by: Luke Mehall, assistant director of public relations and communications