Meet the Staff
Graduate School Dean
Mary Jo Finney, PhD
The Graduate School Dean, in their role as the Chief Academic Officer for Graduate education at UAA, has the responsibility for leadership and oversight of all graduate programs and issues. The Dean has administrative management of graduate programs, policies, program review, and program standards and supervises all elements of the Graduate School. The Graduate School staff, Graduate Academic Board (GAB), Graduate Council carry out the functions of the Graduate School based on his/her authority.
As a full professor with 12 years of administrative experience at the University of Michigan-Flint (UM-Flint), Dean Finney has had significant experience working in graduate programs across the full range of academic units. Notably, she served as chair of the Education Department (now in her third term), dean of the School of Education and Human Services, and director of the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching (TCLT) which is the faculty development center for all academic units on campus. In each of these roles, she had the privilege of building and stewarding graduate programs and faculty success within them.
Mary Jo is devoted to working with marginalized populations that has extended to remote Alaskan villages of indigenous populations living a subsistence lifestyle where teacher shortages are staggering and opportunities for transformative experiences are abundant. Forging this progressive pathway of teacher preparation in rural communities is producing teachers who are skilled in working with those who struggle, adept at incorporating the power of place in learning, proficient in preserving culture, and able to honor alternative ways of knowing.
Mary Jo has taught almost exclusively at the master’s and post-master’s degree levels while also serving as chair of numerous doctoral dissertation committees. She has experience with curriculum and course development in secondary urban teacher preparation, an education specialist degree program, and nurse educator program. She has overseen eight graduate degree programs in the Education Department and, as chair and member of the UM-Flint Graduate Advisory Board for over ten years, She is well acquainted with graduate programs from nearly every academic department and all academic units on campus.
Leading in an environment of transition is where she thrives. Adaptability and flexibility have been a way of life for her both professionally and personally. As dean, she has seen times of transition embraced, avoided, and even blocked. What she has learned is that when transition or change feel like loss, the resistance that sets in is hard to repress. Change in the academic culture is particularly challenging because of faculty ties to their life’s work and beliefs.
In Mary Jo's experience, leading during times of transition has required her reassurance, mutual trust and respect, and a pledging of shared commitment to continuous improvement. In all of her administrative roles, she has drawn upon her listening skills to identify intersections of values and goals that help propel the unit forward through times of transition while keeping relationships intact.
Leading the Graduate School demands the utmost diplomacy in working with both internal and external constituents to advocate for and secure resources while maintaining sound relationships. Given that Mary Jo has been regularly called upon to serve in an advocacy role, she has considerable experience and demonstrated skill in doing so. Her communication skills are highly adaptable as she has conversed with Elders in remote Alaskan villages, conducted workshops in Spanish (with my limited Spanish language proficiency), collaborated with a pastor in inner-city Flint, and asked CEOs of foundations for financial support. She values the privilege of serving as a spokesperson and advocate for the UAA Graduate School across numerous venues and plans to meet with success in each of these interactions.
Empowering innovation and growth is invigorating and she possesses great skill in inspiring creative thinking, smart risk-taking, and progressive program creation. Mary Jo has had first-hand experience establishing off-campus locations for new graduate-degree academic programs to expand enrollment. Strategizing optimal locations, securing facilities, finalizing contracts, and writing the requests for Higher Learning Commission approval of off-campus locations are all part of my skills ensuring the viability of new revenue opportunities. She has negotiated articulation agreements with community colleges, cultivated memorandums of understanding with high schools and middle schools, and secured affiliation agreements with agencies and schools to facilitate internships and pathways to college.
Since all of her work is rooted in relationships, the call to establish and develop partnerships with the community, industry groups, and advisory boards for workforce development is one of her strongest capabilities. UAA's commitment to underrepresented students suggests a stance toward higher education that she shares and welcomes.
Graduate School Director
Elisa Mattison, MA
As Director, Ms. Mattison's responsibilities include efforts to design, deliver and improve services that support graduate students from entry to completion of their degrees. This includes oversight of graduate student life at UAA. She collaborates with graduate programs and student organizations to enhance the academic, social, personal, and cultural needs of graduate students. She oversees the day to day management of the Graduate School and the development of recruitment and retention initiatives that promote graduate student success by tracking student milestones in their programs. She is the first advisor with whom most future graduate students interact. Ms. Mattison oversees the design, development and delivery of training programs for graduate students, faculty who mentor graduate students, and staff who work in graduate programs. She serves as director of Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs at UAA and the Graduate Health Insurance Program for graduate assistants. She is also the "go-to" person for thesis advising regarding formatting, electronic submission and training, and thesis process. Ms. Mattison contributes to Graduate Academic Board and Graduate Council.
Ms. Mattison served as President of the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and an ex-officio member the Board of Directors of the national Council of Graduate Schools. As president, she was responsible for hosting the WAGS Annual Meeting in Anchorage in March 2015.
Ms. Mattison has worked for the University of Alaska Anchorage since 2000. Her experience with UAA has included positions as Adjunct Faculty, Enrollment Advisor, Program Coordinator, and Training Manager, in addition to being with the Office of Graduate Studies/Graduate School since 2006. She was Adjunct Faculty in Psychology at Anchorage Community College, and Assistant Director of the Degree Completion Program at Alaska Pacific University. She worked for the Career and Student Employment Services Center and the Office of Financial Aid at Western Michigan University.
Ms. Mattison's graduate degree from Western Michigan University is in Organizational Psychology and her current research interest is in Neuro-leadership.
BOC3 Suite 368
Graduate School Student Administrative Support
Temporary Telephone: 907-786-1569
BOC3, Suite 368
Summer Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm PDT (1 hour behind Alaska)