Alumni of Distinction: Jacki Holzman

by Matt Jardin  |   

2019 Alumni of Achievement award recipient Jacki Holzman, deputy regional administrator for the Alaska region of the Federal Aviation Administration. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

2019 Alumni of Achievement award recipient Jacki Holzman, deputy regional administrator for the Alaska region of the Federal Aviation Administration. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Jacki Holzman, M.S. Environmental Quality Science '92, will receive the 2019 Alumni of Achievement award at the Homecoming Breakfast on Oct. 4.

When people think of the Federal Aviation Administration, the safe bet is that they think about planes and airports. According to Jacki Holzman, that means the organization is doing its job.

"I love that people don't really think about the FAA a lot, and I love that when we do our job well, people don't think about needing us or wondering what we do when they get on an airplane. With this agency, we have an important job to do that goes under the radar," says Holzman.

The reality is that to keep such an enormous operation afloat, there are a plethora of tasks for which the FAA is responsible. Holzman jokingly simplifies that the main goal of the FAA is to ensure planes can take off and land safely without colliding.

To do that, however, the FAA needs to take into account that the pilots who fly planes are qualified to do so, that the mechanics working on the planes have the necessary tools and knowledge, that infrastructure and operations at airports are secure, and that international partners are also prioritizing safety, just to name a few things.

Many of those tasks intersect at Holzman, the deputy regional administrator for the Alaska region of the FAA. As she explains, her position is one of nine throughout the entirety of the FAA, and functions to connect each operation or stakeholder to address aviation safety.

"All of those different functions have a leader and have a focus, and a lot of times you need to bring them together and help them understand how what one group does impacts the other and to recognize common goals and to work toward those goals," says Holzman. "So that's what we do. We work on aviation safety inside the agency and with the broader aviation community to bring the right resources and knowledge together."

As an example of how her role interacts with different organizations and priorities, Holzman cites the construction of the wind turbines on Fire Island, located just four miles west of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and directly beneath the trajectory of arriving and departing planes. Holzman and her office spent years collecting data and coordinating with the airport and CIRI - the organization proposing the wind turbine project - in order to ensure the turbines could be built safely and operate without interfering with air traffic patterns or radar signals.

Holzman's position is the latest in a 27-year career with the FAA. Originally from the Bay Area, she moved to Anchorage to build on the bachelor's degree in geology that she received from Humboldt State University. After graduating with a master's degree from UAA in 1992, she immediately began working for the FAA.

For her first position, Holzman was an environmental engineer, which she explains was unique role born out of a peculiar scenario that began in the '40s and '50s. As she puts it, a lot of infrastructure built in Alaska during World War II was developed to support communication, navigation and surveillance. The Air Force "gifted" these facilities to the FAA and were operated by a local workforce. With advances in technology, the FAA could maintain sites from centralized locations. It wasn't until the '90s that there was a realization that a lot of contamination was left behind, creating the need for an environmental position to begin the safe cleanup of those sites.

Even after leaving UAA to begin her rise at the FAA, Holzman has remained connected to her alma mater by serving as a mentor for the UAA College of Business and Public Policy's Leadership Fellows and Leadership Fellows Junior programs.

"Those are amazing programs - a group of young people who probably have more on the ball than half the people in the working world now," says Holzman. "Sometimes, other people see characteristics in us that we might not necessarily see ourselves. So it's been really rewarding to be a mentor and watch these young people grow."

In addition to her contribution to those programs, Holzman is incredibly proud of the larger relationship between UAA and the FAA as a whole, noting the special importance both institutions have on the state.

"The FAA and [UAA] aviation department have done a lot of good work together over the years," says Holzman. "The work that is coming from the aviation department is important in a way that might not be important in other states. Being able to give Alaskans a place to come, a degree to get, skills to learn that they can use in Anchorage or anywhere else around the state - I think is something we should all be proud of."

Written by Matt Jardin, UAA Office of University Advancement

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