July 2008

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This summer the University of Alaska Anchorage was accepted as a member institution of the University of the Arctic. UAA joins UArctic members which include the University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Washington, Dartmouth College, University of Winnipeg, University of Tromso, University of Alberta, University of Lapland, Stockholm University and many other universities, colleges and organizations committed to higher education and research in the North. Through our shared resources and expertise we will better be able to address the unique challenges of our northern region. To learn more about the UArctic, its members, and its programs go to www.uarctic.org/Frontpage.aspx?m=3

This month I was privileged to represent UAA on an Arctic Expedition to see firsthand the rapid rate of change in the high arctic. The educational expedition, by invitation only, included global climate experts and Arctic specialists along with leaders of industry, government, culture, religion and philanthropy. I was invited as a member of the Aspen Institute's Dialogue and Commission on Climate Change. Commission members include Prince Albert II of Monaco; Frances Beinecke, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Sylvia Earle, Explorer in Residence from National Geographic; James Leape, Director General of the World Wildlife Fund International; Thomas E. Lovejoy, President of The Heinz Center; Jane Lubchenco, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University; Lee McIntire, President and Chief Operating Officer, CH2M HILL; Marvin Odum, President of Shell Oil Company; and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit Advocate. During the expedition I accepted the position of interim chair of the commission and am honored to provide this service on behalf of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Click here for more information on the commission, including its mission and goals.

Although we traveled in the middle of July, the trip through the waters around Svalbard, Norway kept us in parkas, hats and gloves with temperatures mostly in the 40s. Organized by Lindblad Expeditions, the National Geographic Society and the Aspen Institute, the expedition was designed to encourage open discussion and a free exchange of ideas. We listened to scientists explain their research on glaciers, polar bears, and climate change. Entrepreneurs discussed the business success in new energy technologies and economists described the experience that other countries have had with cap and trade systems. To learn more about the expedition and read a statement issued by members go to: www.expeditions.com/climateaction.

Once again, UAA has been ranked as one of the top producers of Native American degree recipients across the nation in the 2008 "Top 100 Degree Producers" report published in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. UAA ranked in the top 10 for the 2006-07 academic year for Native undergraduate degrees with a 6th place for health professions and related clinical services (7th place last year), an 8th place for psychology, and a 9th place for engineering (29th place last year). UAA also placed in the top 50 in five other undergraduate or graduate degree categories. This is terrific and we will continue to work to make UAA a place that supports our Native American students.

Q: What is Kenai Peninsula College (KPC) doing to help the 382 students who are taking at least one class off campus become more successful?
A: KPC received a five-year $1.99 million U.S. Department of Education grant to increase student success and retention rates through technology-enhanced advising and tutoring services. The grant will also help with the development of distance-delivered courses in technical fields and general education requirements. In addition, grant money will be used for faculty development and training in classroom technology and distance delivery. What this means is that KPC will be better able to serve the rapidly expanding ranks of students who are choosing to take classes online rather than in class. In spring 2007 there were nine distance-ed classes with a total of 169 students. A year later, in spring 2008 there were 29 courses and 382 students taking at least one distance-ed class. The growth isn't stopping there. This fall KPC is offering 40 distance-ed classes. The new grant will help KPC provide support services for students who opt for online classes.

Q: How are UAA students helping high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) prepare for college?
A: Students in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) at UAA are connecting with high school students in rural Alaska in a new virtual tutoring program. This tech-savvy program pairs a high school student interested in science, technology, engineering and math with an ANSEP college student at the junior or senior level. The team meets for two hours each week in an online classroom, where live audio and video make asking questions and solving problems easier for both parties. And since math problems are difficult to translate via a keyboard, students use an electronic "computer tablet," which can be used to physically sketch out equations and symbols -- all in real time. This one-on-one tutoring is helping to get young students academically ready for university-level coursework

Q: What brought Chicago's famed Second City Comedy Show to the University of Alaska Anchorage this summer?
A: Student Activities, a branch of UAA's Student Life & Leadership Office is responsible for coordinating more than 25 events this summer, including the Second City Comedy Show. Students work with Mike McCormick, the Assistant Director of Student Life & Leadership (and also head of Whistling Swan Productions), to research and book acts throughout the year. About 100 events, large and small, are presented by Student Activities each year. This summer Student Activities is also partnering with the Anchorage Downtown Partnership to hold the Concert in the Park series. Thanks for all your hard work!

Q: How can you learn more about the history of telecommunications in Alaska?
A: The UAA/APU Consortium Library's Archives and Special Collections Department took possession of transcripts of audio interviews of some of the greatest experts in Alaska telecommunications this summer -- including those of Augie Hiebert. The Alaska Telecommunications History Project received 18 oral-history transcripts at a ceremony on July 18.

Q: What are we doing at UAA to help pilots see airfields more clearly?
A: UAA Aviation Technology Division is part of a team of universities that has come together to improve nighttime safety at small general aviation airports with an innovative, low-cost and highly portable system that uses LED lights and retro-reflective markers. UAA is partnering with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of North Dakota and Renssalear Polytechnic Institute to work on the Remote Airport Lighting System (RALS) project in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored Center for General Aviation Research (CGAR). In the RALS set-up, typical edge lights are replaced with reflective panels, similar to the technology on road signs, to assist a pilot in safely landing an aircraft. This kind of marker requires no power and is brightly visible when lit by an airplane's landing lights. The system uses low-powered LED lights to mark the corners of the landing strip, and flash in synchronization with Global Positioning System (GPS) time to give pilots improved cues for airfield identification and landing. This innovative approach is designed to combat one of the leading causes of general aviation fatal accidents: incorrect aircraft maneuvering and landing during evening and nighttime hours, especially in remote locations that heavily depend on air transportation. We are proud that UAA is on the frontline of innovations that are helping so many of our communities that depend upon air traffic.

Q: What international conference is being hosted by UAA in September?
A: UAA's Engineering, Science and Project Management Department (ESPM), chaired by Professor Jang Ra, is hosting the 4th International Project Management Conference September 15-18 at the Hotel Captain Cook. This prestigious event brings together Project Management Industry practitioners, academicians and government officials from around the world to talk about how we can develop better project management techniques to keep pace with the ever-changing global landscape. As home to one of only 15 accredited graduate Project Management programs in the world, we appreciate the opportunity to provide a forum for this important exchange of ideas.

Also, ESPM recently updated its distance delivery room in the University Center with two projectors and a flat screen polycom HDX so that UAA Project Management students in Chile, Dubai, Nigeria, Korea, Canada, Seattle, Louisiana and California, along with those in Fairbanks, Valdez, Juneau, Kodiak, the North Slope and Anchorage are better served.

Did you know?

As of the end of July

  • UAA enrollment is up 3.8%
  • Student Credit Hours are up 3.5%

As always, thank you for all you do to make UAA a great university.

Wishing you well,


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