Happy Fourth of July from UA President Jim Johnsen

by Michelle Saport  |   

Dear UA Colleagues -

Just as the Declaration of Independence, signed 242 years ago, set forth confidence in a new nation, I want to celebrate this Fourth of July holiday by expressing confidence in the direction and the future of our university.

My optimism stems from the recent passage of a $327 million operating budget appropriation by the state legislature - the first increase for the university in four years. Legislators heard our story and agreed that UA is a worthy and important investment for the state's future. I also am buoyed by the confidence that Alaskans expressed in the university as documented in a recent McDowell Group public opinion poll, UAF's recognition as a leader in energy research at our recent National Lab Day, UAA's partnership with the Anchorage School District and the Rasmuson Foundation for the new ANSEP Acceleration Academy, and the advent of the Alaska College of Education at UAS.

In Anchorage, we look forward to welcoming a new chancellor, Dr. Cathy Sandeen, who brings with her a wealth of energy and experience to UAA and its several community campuses. When she arrives in September, she will find a strong university growing even stronger, with exciting developments in many areas.

I recently had the good fortune to attend the 2018 Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference where Anthony Doerr, author of the award-winning book All the Light We Cannot See, shared his energy and knowledge with faculty and guests. This nationally recognized conference, hosted by the UAA Kenai Peninsula College's Kachemak Bay Campus, featured a wealth of workshops, readings and panel presentations, and exemplifies the best of our community campus programs.

I also attended Professor Terrence Cole's last lecture. What a master! Terrence has been a key member of the UAF faculty for many years. We celebrate his many accomplishments as he retires from the university.

At this week's "Vitalize Alaska" conference, co-hosted by UAA's Business Enterprise Institute, more than 250 Alaska innovators and entrepreneurs took part in a day of discussions and brainstormed creative ideas about how Alaska can develop a more entrepreneurial ecosystem. Innovation and commercialization also are vibrant undertakings at UAF where the Center ICE is fostering new businesses founded by faculty and working to commercialize student and faculty innovations.

UAF recently hosted National Lab Day, attended by Senator Murkowski and representatives of America's national laboratories with the intent to foster greater research collaboration between federal research programs and the university. The national laboratories are the leading institutions for scientific innovation ranging from understanding climate change to discovering the origins of our universe, and for translating basic science into practical innovation. There were partnerships and new collaborations established, and I agree with the sentiment that the day was a great success.

Also a great success is the development of the new Auke Bay Marine Station at UAS to co-locate academic programs in the natural sciences and promote the development of interdisciplinary program convergence on the Juneau campus.

All across our system we are investing in smart classrooms, in a new UA website, and in our people and programs. We are creating a future for the university that is vibrant and in sync with the needs of our state. As members of the UA community, you work hard every day to ensure our values and mission are honored in our classrooms, laboratories, studios, field camps, research vessels, and every other venue where we seek and share knowledge. Your efforts to maintain a rich and diverse learning environment impress me every single day, and I am appreciative and proud of all that you do for the university.

So as we begin a new fiscal year and then a new academic year, I hope you, too, are energized by our successes and our future. Let us celebrate the holiday by taking in the beautiful Alaska summer and letting it renew your spirit for our important work to come.

Happy Independence Day!

Jim Johnsen

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