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Catching up with Interim Chancellor Bruce Schultz
by Green & Gold News |
In 1991, midwesterner Bruce Schultz stepped onto campus as an intern to start UAA's summer conference housing program. It was a summer adventure that pulled him back to the 49th state when he was offered a full-time position a year later, and like many Lower 48 expats, he expected to stay only for a year or two to gain "work experience" before moving on. But 29 years later, Schultz has not only grown up from his days as a 20-something exploring Alaska, but the university and state have also grown up with him.
"Primarily my experience has been on the student affairs side of the organization," said Schultz. "I started in Residence Life way back when we used to house 280 students on campus and at the time there was no formal Residence Life program. At the time, it was a meaningful experience for me to be a part of building that program, which is really about maximizing the opportunities for learning and student development through those living communities."
From there, Schultz moved into the associate dean position, serving in different roles while also working closely with student leadership coordination, which led him to the dean of students position where he supervised several departments and programs that offered him the opportunity to expand his goal in providing support and diverse engagement opportunities for students. Eventually, his work led him to his most recent position, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, where he started as an interim in 2009 before being appointed the permanent position in 2010.
Schultz's newest role takes him to the Office of the Chancellor where he will serve as interim chancellor of UAA beginning in January, although transitioning to his interim position began in late fall before former Chancellor Cathy Sandeen's departure.
We caught up with him for a Q&A on what students, faculty and staff can expect in the coming spring semester.
What prompted you to throw your name in the hat when the opportunity arose for the
interim chancellor position?
I recognized that the university needed an interim chancellor who could provide some stability and understands how the institution operates and the mission. I felt this would be a continued opportunity to serve the university, just in a different capacity.
What can students, faculty and staff expect in the spring semester as you take this
position? What will be the same? What will be different?
I am hopeful for the future. When it was announced I was going to be the interim chancellor, the emails of support inspired me. We are in a position now to continue to move forward and the hopeful optimism of our employees and students for a brighter future for UAA speaks volumes of the work that Chancellor Cathy Sandeen has done over the last two years through her communication and leadership.
All of that will continue — and it's important to note that this is an interim position, it will come to an end, whether that's six months or eight — I am very aware of how employees and students are feeling. This informs my approach going forward, which is mostly centered around stability.
What are the priorities you will be focusing on in the spring semester?
I want to support the priorities that we've identified as an institution and made great progress on. I want us to be in the very best position we can be when we have finalists on campus for the next chancellor search. It's about continuity and serving as a bridge between Chancellor Sandeen and the next chancellor coming in.
We also have some significant challenges and I would like to work on closing the equity gap relating to student performance and faculty retention for underrepresented minorities, particularly regarding Alaska Natives. As an institution, we need to commit, identify plans and make significant improvements on how we are supporting Alaska Native students across the institution for their success.
Regarding communication, will the transparency of the chancellor's office continue?
Yes, we will continue with both regular social media and email communication — but there may be less video. What also may be different is I plan on calling upon members of the Chancellor's Cabinet more to help with communications. While the chancellor is the leader of the institution and critical in communicating with our communities, there are many people whose roles are important and should be sharing communications with the rest of the university as well.
What can we expect to hear regarding the university's budget?
We have to finish our budget development process for FY22 and I am looking forward to working with leadership on that. We have $7.2 million to cut from our budget for FY22.
What about COVID-19 — any updates on a plan now that there's a vaccine?
The end is near and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we need to work on a realistic resumption of an on-campus operations plan for the institution. Safety will be at the forefront, but we now need to be paying attention to how we are going to bring faculty, staff and students back to campus.
Additionally, I think it's important for us to think about developing a post-COVID-19 sense of confidence in the university's ability to provide high-quality education and instruction. We did it before COVID-19, during and have learned quite a bit on how best to deliver instruction via distance. I am committed to making sure we do that going forward after COVID-19, but it's going to take some planning to do that.
What about UAA's 2025 plan? What is in the works?
I am looking forward to working on this in January. It's a process that involved input from across the university, our community and key stakeholders. I feel like UAA 2025 represents who we are and validates our mission as an open-access institution. What we're aspiring to accomplish by 2025 are things that we have been discussing and saying are important to the institution for years and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to make meaningful progress for the coming years.
What will happen with Student Affairs?
Lora Volden, associate vice chancellor of Enrollment Services, will be taking my place as interim vice chancellor of Student Affairs. It's important to note that I wouldn't have put my name forward if I hadn't thought Student Affairs was in a good place, but it's as strong and stable as it's ever been. This is a wonderful opportunity for Lora and I'm confident that her leadership style will benefit Student Affairs and their leadership team.
When you're not serving the university, what do you do to kick back and relax?
Pre-COVID-19, it was travel — international travel in particular. When not traveling, you'll find me on the Kenai, taking advantage of Alaska's long summer days catching reds, silvers and halibut.
There's just something magical about being outdoors in Alaska. Whether it's a winter or summer's day. I love the change of seasons, they're just so meaningful to me and they're so inspiring.
Additionally, I have great admiration and reverence for Alaska's indigenous cultures and the sense of place Alaska Native culture offers all Alaskans. I feel like this is unique to Alaska and appreciates the connection and access to Alaska Native culture.