February 2015

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Seawolves Basketball ranked No. 1

Dear Community,

We are in the midst of many challenges and changes in the state's economy. With approximately one third of the University of Alaska's (UA) funding coming from the state, the projected budget deficit will impact the university at all levels. The impact of this reduction in appropriations coupled with other mandated increases leave UAA facing an $18 million to $22 million reduction in operating funds spanning the fiscal year July 2015-June 2016; this number likely will change in the coming weeks.

Though we will likely see between $1 million to $2 million in realized savings through prioritization, this exercise was not designed for cuts of this magnitude. However, what we learned from prioritization will help inform the many difficult funding decisions we'll need to make over the next several months. In order to come out the other side of this budget reduction in the best shape possible, UAA will focus on supporting our "core," the programs and services of highest demand by our students and needed by our state. Over the next few months, my Cabinet and I will host open forums for the UAA community to ask questions about the budget and how it's shaping up for the university.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights visited all three UA campuses to better learn about how we handle cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Next week, a random sampling of UA students, faculty and staff will receive an email-based climate survey on sexual harassment and assault. This is a voluntary, confidential and anonymous survey that will help us understand how we can improve campus safety, outreach, education and services. We encourage your participation, but want you to understand it is completely voluntary. The survey itself will be accompanied by information about counseling and other resources on campus, should you need them.

I expect to make a decision soon regarding the provost position and extend my gratitude to the search committee. The search for the College of Engineering dean is on track for spring candidate visits. Community & Technical College interim dean Bonnie Nygard has agreed to continue in her interim role for another year, so we have temporarily suspended the search for a new CTC dean.

I appointed a task force to develop short- and long-term solutions for Tanaina Childhood Development Center. Please follow this link for more information about the committee and its work.

In spite of the difficult budget situation we face, there is still much to take note of and celebrate. If you need a reminder of the good things happening at UAA, take a moment to look around. Watch a basketball game in the Alaska Airlines Center, see a play in the Arts building, attend one of our campus lectures, or take part in one of the many events happening as part of Winterfest 2015.

Achievement Note


Katherine Jernstrom, Brit Szymoniak, Clare Gauster and Nolan Klouda

UAA Parking Services director Glenna L. Muncy, 39, and 13 others with an alumni, student or employee connection to UAA made it into the Alaska Journal of Commerce's 2015 Top Forty Under 40 in Alaska class. The honorees include: Katherine Jernstrom and Brit Szymoniak, owners/co-founders, The Boardroom; Joe Bell, CEO, Keller Williams Realty, Alaska Group; Luke Blomfeld, principal/senior project manager, Davis Constructors; Jay Blury, VP, marketing and communications director, Northrim Bank; Charity Carmody, Beacon Hill/State Farm; Deantha Crockett, executive director, Alaska Miners Association; Clare Gauster, principal, Ravenwood Elementary School (Eagle River); D.K. Johnston, filmmaker, Tri-Seven Pictures; Nolan Klouda, UA Center for Economic Development; Ric Nelson, chair, Governor's Council on Disabilities & Special Education; Natasha Pineda, program officer, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and Tracy Runyan-Traylor, associate nurse executive, Alaska Native Medical Center. The 2015 class will be honored April 3 at the Dena'ina Civic & Convention Center in Anchorage.

UAA is one of a select group of colleges and universities to receive the 2015 Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. UAA was one of only 74 institutions to receive the initial designation in 2006; 361 campuses now have this important designation in total across the United States.

Research Note

Research Note

Researchers at UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research, cooperating with UAA's Office of Institutional Research and the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, recently crafted a report analyzing what people enrolled in UAA in the past decade did after graduating. The ISER researchers—Alexandra Hill, Gunnar Knapp and Blake Steenhoven—found that most of those UAA graduates stay in Alaska at least five years, work throughout the economy and, by five years after graduation, see their average earnings double.

Development Notes

First National Bank Alaska gave $44,000 to UAA to help fund programs the bank has long supported—the Small Business Development Center and the Business Plan Competition, both of which are programs of the Business Enterprise Institute, as well as the Celebrity Chef Invitational, the primary fundraising event hosted by the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Department of UAA's Community & Technical College.


Student Notes

A team of UAA undergraduate and graduate students, for the first time in UAA history, is competing in the annual National Aeronautics and Space Administration Student Launch Initiative, which allows teams of interdisciplinary college students to design, develop and launch a reusable rocket known as a Mars ascent vehicle. The intent of the NASA initiative is to encourage research-based, competitive and experiential exploration projects.


A UAA team prepares a Mars ascent vehicle.

Nearly 100 UAA geography and civic engagement students are helping Anchorage School District students learn English by participating in an English Language Learner service-learning project that pairs them as tutor/mentors with elementary, middle and high school students and parenting program participants at Wendler Middle School. The project began after a CCEL Think Tank with the Refugee Assistance & Immigration program in November, when two parent liaison/support teachers in the ASD's ELL program learned UAA already had a tutor/mentor program operating at East High and expressed interest in expanding it.


Alexandra West

UAA graduate student Alexandra West recently became the first student to earn a spot on the UAA Patent Wall of Fame for her hydro-powered fish waste grinder, which she developed as a way to get rid of angler-discarded fish waste that can lure bears to crowded fishing sites.

Staff & Faculty Notes


Michael Friess, receiving the Bill Rose Memorial Award in 2011

The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame recently announced it is honoring UAA running coach Michael Friess with its Joe Floyd Award, for "Significant and Lasting Contribution to Alaska through Sports," for building the UAA cross-country and track and field programs into national powerhouses. Friess received 17 Coach of the Year honors and coached his athletes to 12 league titles and five NCAA championships. He also directs the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon and Crow Pass Crossing. A ceremony to honor Friess and the other three 2015 Directors' Awards winners will be held 7:30 p.m., March 5, at the Anchorage Museum auditorium.

The National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD) bestowed on UAA's Tlisa Northcutt its 2015 Fundraiser of the Year for the College Division honor.

Sherry Simpson, associate professor in the UAA Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts, will receive this year's John Burroughs Medal for her book, Dominion of Bears: Living with Wildlife in Alaska, a set of compelling essays on bears–both wild and urban–in the 49th state. The John Burroughs Association (JBA) gives this award every year to the author of a distinguished book of natural history. Past recipients include Rachel Carson, John McPhee, Barry Lopez and Peter Mathiessen. Sherry Simpson will receive her medal at this year's annual JBA meeting in early April.


Clark Middle School principal Cessilye Williams

Dr. Terry Nelson of the College of Business & Public Policy and Clark Middle School principal Cessilye Williams (a UAA alumna) are facilitating the Clark Middle School Leadership Fellows Junior program, which pairs CBPP leadership fellows with 12 Clark Middle School leadership fellows for two-hour sessions on selected Saturdays through April 4. The goal is to develop a leadership mindset in the youths that will help them obtain scholarships, achieve admission to and success in college, excel at work and become productive community citizens.

College Notes


Glenn Massay Theater at Mat-Su College

UAA's Mat-Su College celebrated the grand opening Feb. 7 of its Glenn Massay Theater. The theater is named after a longtime educator, Mat-Su College director and first recipient of the "Director Emeritus" title in the University of Alaska System. Massay retired in 2003 and died in January 2013.

U.S. News & World Report included UAA in its 2015 list of the best online programs for master's degrees in education. UAA is ranked 30th (along with Angelo State University, Fort Hays State University, University of Dayton and University of Texas–Arlington), placing it in the top 20 percent of all 179 schools included. In compiling the 2015 Best Online Education Programs list, U.S. News ranked schools based on five general categories: student engagement, student services and technology, faculty credentials and training, admissions selectivity and peer reputation.


ANSEP students assemble a computer.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Minorities in Energy Initiative recently named UAA's ANSEP (Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program) the most exceptional program in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) educa¬tion and workforce development. More than 70 percent of ANSEP's students who go to college and begin studying in a STEM field graduate with a degree.

The College of Health's Alaska WWAMI School of Medical Education is presenting a National Library of Medicine photo and video exhibition, Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness, until March 6, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., outside WWAMI's offices on the third floor of the Health Sciences Building.

The board of directors of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business approved a five-year renewal of accreditation for the UAA College of Business & Public Policy.

Athletics Note

Seawolves Women's basketball take all the win
Freshman Jerica Nelson

Our women's basketball team this week ranked No. 1 in both NCAA Div. II national polls. The UAA men's indoor track and field team captured its first-ever GNAC title last week, and the women's team finished second.

Despite the warm weather, roads are slick; enjoy the sun but drive safely.

Best regards,
Tom Case
Tom Case