December 2008

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As the sun hugs the horizon for the shortest days of the year, we are wrapping up fall semester 2008 and looking forward to a short break before the new spring semester 2009. It's been a great year with many successes among students, staff and faculty.

On Monday, Governor Palin submitted her FY2010 budget proposal to the legislature. While the Governor's budget represents a 4.2 percent increase in state general funds over the current fiscal year, it falls $6.3 million short in funding the University of Alaska's fixed costs. The Governor included several of the proposed program expansions, for example: $800,000 for K-12 Outreach (including engineering bridging activities, summer camps and ANSEP), and $1.8 million for health academic programs. All of these initiatives are very important to us -- but it will be difficult to add them without enough money to cover our fixed costs. We will be especially focused on securing at least $1.5 million necessary to operate our new ConocoPhillips Integrated Sciences Building scheduled to open in fall 2009.

The Governor's capital budget includes $10 million of UA's $50 million annual need for the Board of Regents' No. 1 capital budget priority--major renewal and renovation for existing facilities. It also includes $2.2 million for the Graduate Medical Education Family Practice Residency Program at Providence Hospital. Not included are funding for UAF's Life Sciences Innovation and Learning Facility or the $65 million needed to complete UAA's Sports Arena (last year, $15 million was appropriated for design and site development, which is underway).

As you know, Alaska has not been as hard hit as other places by turmoil in the financial markets. While the price of oil has declined, we are still seeing slow growth in our economy. However, we are not immune from economic woes. The University of Alaska Foundation's endowed funds have suffered from investment losses. These funds are used to support scholarships for students and funding certain programs. FY10 will be the first year affected by this since FY09 payouts are based on earnings through Dec. 31, 2007. We'll know more when balances are available and a full report is issued by the UA Foundation this spring.

The financial situation will also impact retirement system contribution rates, making them likely to rise, affecting our staff benefit rates. Losses in the UA Land Grant Trust Fund mean less money available for UA Scholars and campus programs and tightened credit markets may affect our ability to borrow money to construct needed campus facilities.

One additional loss to UAA, which is not financial but personal, is the retirement of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Linda Lazzell. After 27 years of amazing service to UAA Linda has decided it is time to pursue other interests. We wish her much success in her future endeavors. Thank you so much for your many years of service to our students!

Although there has been much bad news we have much to be thankful for. This year's phonathon, with students calling alumni in Alaska and all over the country, raised $62,845, exceeding what was raised by last year at this time by more than $1,000. Despite economic uncertainty, annual giving at UAA has remained steady. Thank you!

Perhaps what best puts this in perspective is a letter I recently received from a UAA alumnus who attended in the 1980s.

He writes: "There are moments in one's life that change things forever. My defining moment came when I entered the offices of a Career Counselor at UAA. There, I encountered a very compassionate woman who took the time to listen to me and to guide me. She asked simply "What do you like to do?" As someone who had tried many things in life ... this was a great question and one for which I had an answer. "I like to write words," I said. Whether it was poetry, songs, stories, didn't matter. This counselor talked some more and after awhile, out of the blue, said "Have you ever considered journalism?" I had not ... and wasn't sure it was for me. She suggested that I take an introductory Newswriting 101 Class (then taught by the very first Atwood visiting professor, B.Dale Davis, and within the department lead by my beloved Sylvia Brody.) I took the class with some trepidation and discovered very quickly that 'I could do this better than anyone in the class.' For the first time in my life I felt I was good at something, and not only good at, but enjoyed it. This lead to me completing my degree in Journalism and Public Communications, and then lead to a career in news reporting ... and then into healthcare public relations, where I have worked in academic healthcare public relations for 20 years."

While financial circumstances may be uncertain, what is certain is that the work we are doing at the University of Alaska Anchorage is changing lives. We will continue to work together to provide a place where students, faculty and staff learn, grow and reach their dreams.

Appreciation Grams Q: What was Spirit doing all over campus last week?
A: Delivering Appreciation Grams. The Human Resource Services team had a great idea -- for $3 you could let your co-workers know how much you "appreciate" them by sending an Appreciation Gram (that came with candy). The first year was a great success with more than $1470 raised. All proceeds go to our UAA Community Campaign for United Way. Thank you so much to all who participated!

Q: How is UAA working to make childcare more accessible to UAA students, staff and faculty?
A: We established a Childcare Task Force to analyze and make recommendations concerning the childcare needs of students, staff and faculty. Good childcare not only helps parents trying to finish their college degrees, it has also been shown to aid in high school graduation and later educational success of the children. The 11-member task force includes staff, faculty and students and will help us find ways to make quality childcare more affordable and available.

Q: Why is UAA launching a needs assessment of breast cancer survivors in Alaska?
A: "As a breast cancer survivor myself," says Christiane Brems, Co-Director of Behavioral Health Research and Services (BHRS), "I can attest to the fact that women in Alaska who have survived the diagnosis and treatment stages of this disease have challenges and needs that are not met adequately by existing local resources." BHRS is seeking between 600 and 1,000 women throughout Alaska to participate in a survey and help document the challenges with the goal of developing solutions. The survey is available online at Participants who do not have access to the Internet can call (907) 561-2880 to request a copy of the survey and a pre-paid return envelope. The study is funded by Providence Alaska Medical Center, the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership and Breast Cancer Focus, Inc.

Did you know?

  • UAA Women's Basketball team ranked No. 3 in the Division II national poll. On Friday and Saturday, December 19 and 20, they play host to Cal State Stanislaus. I hope you get a chance o go watch the team in action!
  • Anchorage Seawolf Rhea Cardwell became the first All-American in volleyball in school history to be named to the American Volleyball Coaches' Association Team All-America squad for NCAA Div. II
  • As of December 1, enrollment is up at UAA (19,492, up 0.2 percent) and so are student credit hours (157,552, up 1.4 percent) from the same time last year. Student credit hours are up throughout the UA system. (UAA has 61.4 percent of total UA student credit hours.)

As always, thank you for all you do to make the University of Alaska Anchorage a great university!

With best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season,

Creative Commons License "December 2008" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.