Category: Staff

May 4, 2017 Sarah Tangog

Retirement at UAA is booming and UAA’s Human Resources Office is burdened with retirement forms.

“A lot of people will leave at the end of the fiscal year,” Michelle Yerkes and Randi Markussen, from UAA’s Human Resources offices, said. “This is the time of year where the majority of people will retire.”

Additionally, retirement trends may be increasing due to a decrease in faculty morale. According to a UAA Faculty Morale Survey taken in August of 2016, 43.94 percent of faculty morale has declined, and 28.05 percent of faculties do not feel positive about the security of their job at UAA.

Unfortunately, there are no retirement statistics set in place for 2017.

“We just don’t have [retirement statistics] at this point in time,” Yerkes and Markussen said.

Not just anyone can choose to retire, however.

“They have to be eligible,” Erika van Flein, director of benefits statewide, said.

There are two main plans at the state level for retirement: The Teachers’ Retirement System and the Public Employees’ Retirement System. Both require the age of 60 to become eligible. The TRS requires 20 years of teaching service, while the PERS requires 30 years of public service.

Both TRS and PERS also provide early retirement plans, which require being vested and the age of 55 to become eligible. TRS and PERS benefits include lifelong pension and health insurance.

“UAA employees who are in the defined benefit plans must reach retirement eligibility by either age or service, terminate employment and file an application for retirement with the Division of Retirement and Benefits. Retirement is effective the first of the month following all requirements being fulfilled,” Kathleen Lea, chief pension officer at the Department of Administration, said.

Retirement is the reward for both teachers and public employees after their years of service.

January 28, 2014 Evan Erickson

Plagiarism has been the scourge of academia for centuries. But should every culprit be punished? When does plagiarism become an opportunity for teachers to teach?

A simple Google search would reveal that the paragraph above was lifted directly from an article in the Rhode Island College News. At UAA, plagiarism this blatant can earn stiff penalties, and according to a recently released report published by the Dean of Students Office, “Students of Concern and Their Behavior,” it has.

January 21, 2014 Evan Erickson

First, take the over 300 programs and 200 or so functions that constitute UAA and have staff and faculty describe their importance. Next, assemble two respective task forces culled from staff and faculty for the purpose of evaluating the responses.

November 26, 2013 Evan Erickson

USUAA and Alaska state legislators persevered through a handsome ice storm to sit down for lunch Friday afternoon in the Student Union Den. All but two guests were able to attend the event, which was cut short by campus closures.

November 12, 2013 Suhaila Brunelle

As part of Engage Week, UAA’s Smoke-Free Task Force, Seawolf Debate, the Journalism and Public Communications Department, and the Department of Health hosted a soapbox debate about whether or not UAA should initiate a comprehensive smoke-free policy.

November 5, 2013 Evan Erickson

Faculty and administration are working to iron out the kinks in the juggernaut that is prioritization. Many details of the massive assessment of programs and services at UAA are still undecided, but several decisions have been reached following motions passed by the faculty Senate.

October 22, 2013 Evan Erickson

The bustle slowed to a murmur this past May as UAA students broke away from class loads and many faculty and staff members disappeared for the summer. While it didn’t seem like much was going on, radical changes were being implemented within the College of Arts and Sciences. Twenty-eight administrative positions were to be eliminated, and the 24 departments that comprise the CAS would be grouped under four different divisions: Humanities, Social Sciences, Fine Arts and Math/Natural Sciences. A centrally located hub would oversee the operations of each of the four divisions.

The first mention came in April, but the change was officially announced at the monthly CAS Council of Chairs and Directors meeting May 10. According to several faculty present, it was only in the final minutes of the meeting that the new hub system was announced, leaving little time for discussion.

An apology letter was emailed May 13 to the CAS chairs and directors on behalf of Dean of CAS John Stalvey.

In the letter Stalvey states, “I want to apologize for rushing out of the meeting on Friday. I made a mistake in allowing meetings to be scheduled back-to-back on Friday. … For those of you who are available, I have reserved the CAS conference room at 11 a.m. on Wednesday May 15 to provide you information on the reorganization of the CAS Academic Support Staff.”

In the meantime faculty and staff who were still on campus scheduled an impromptu meeting for that same Wednesday at noon to voice their concerns about their lack of involvement in the change.

Soon after, the various administrative assistants throughout the CAS were told that their positions would be eliminated June 30 and that they could apply for new jobs within the CAS and elsewhere in the university.

The university rehired nearly all of the displaced administrative assistants during the summer. There was a certain amount of shuffling as administrators who had worked in a single department were now dealing with entire divisions — some in entirely different divisions than they had come from. Several administrators became hub academic advisers.

According to Stalvey, along with the goal of increasing the number of academic advisers in the college, there was also a financial aspect to the change.

“The change from administrative assistants freed up approximately $325,000,” Stalvey said.

Stalvey also said about half of the money went into hiring additional academic advisers and another $100,000 went into other positions in the CAS.

CAS Academic Coordinator John Mun says the hub advising system is working on being more effective in identifying students who may benefit most from advising.

“Division-wide advisers are more aware of GER and overall requirements. It’s allowing us to do more pro-active outreach in contacting students,” Mun said.

UAA’s College of Arts and Sciences website lists the new academic advisers and positions in the hub’s and dean’s office, but the website has no mention of the hub change having happened.

Stalvey became CAS dean in 2012 and says he didn’t arrive from his previous job at Kent State University expecting to implement major changes at UAA. Stalvey explained that the budget for the CAS necessitated the change.

“By June I knew resources weren’t going to grow,” Stalvey said.

As for the model that would eventually become the hub, Stalvey says it was an ongoing process over the 2012-13 academic year.

“We weren’t settled on it in the fall. I believe it was after the first of the year. The reason I told folks in April was it was being considered by UA system-wide Human Resources,” Stalvey said.

“It was crazy to do it when everybody was away. They should have asked us in Fine Arts,” said associate music professor Karen Strid-Chadwick.

Stalvey said it would have been much more difficult to implement the changes during the school year and is clear about his responsibilities in the CAS.

“The curriculum is the responsibility of the faculty. The administrative structure is the responsibility of the dean,” Stalvey said.

The CAS is the largest college in the entire University of Alaska system as well as being physically very long. The divisional hubs for some departments are more than a half-mile distant. The problem was addressed with the addition of several satellite offices but faculty still need to adjust to not having dedicated administrative help in their individual departments.

“We have somebody working in our office who replaced (previous administrator) Erin Day. I don’t know when I ask her a question if she’s on our time or someone else’s,” said assistant journalism professor Elizabeth Arnold.

Some welcome the hub.

“I think it’s been a wonderful change. I’m one of those who thought the change was needed and that it was a good change. The position descriptions were more clearly laid out,” said biological sciences professor Loren Buck.

The last time a hub system was implemented at UAA was in 1998 with the College of Business and Public Policy, a much smaller college centrally located in Rasmuson Hall.

In its first semester, the long-term success of UAA’s most recent hub remains to be seen.

 

October 22, 2013 Suhaila Brunelle

There is no safe exposure amount to smoke. This is the message UAA’s Smoke-Free Task Force hopes to communicate. The task force was formed in response to a challenge made by the United States Department of Health and Human Services for all college campuses to go smoke and tobacco free by 2016.

October 22, 2013 Evan Erickson

In spring 2012 the Northern Light mourned the loss after seven years of the UAA Housing & Recreation Activities program in an editorial chastising the university’s budgetary reasoning.

Now a group of students and faculty is hoping to bring back outdoor opportunities — not only to students who live on campus but to everyone at UAA. This time around the money would come from a student fee.

About a dozen students and one faculty member met Oct. 11 to share ideas on the types of things that might be possible with the fee. Professor of health, physical education and recreation T.J. Miller, a veteran of the previous program, was there to lend his expertise.

“I helped create it (the previous program) in Housing & Recreation Activities. It’s sort of a revival of that idea, but available to all students, staff and faculty,” Miller said.

One of the ideas is a shuttle bus to Alyeska resort for a day of skiing and snowboarding at a fraction of the cost. There is also mention of hosting lectures by outdoor experts.

USUAA Vice President Cassie West has designated the group as an ad-hoc committee, meaning they can now set to work drafting a bill to appear on the ballot for the spring 2014 UAA Student General Election.

The committee is relying on feedback to determine whether students would be willing to pay a fee, and if so, what types of activities they are most interested in. Students, staff and faculty are asked to take part in the short survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FNXGBWL.

 

October 11, 2013 Suhaila Brunelle

Congress failed to reach an agreement last week on a budget to fund the government for the next year, which caused a government shutdown. This means all non-essential programs, such as the panda cam, will be closed, and workers will remain on furlough until an agreement is reached.

According to Eric Pederson, associate vice chancellor for Enrollment Services, UAA is holding a wait-and-see position on this right now. When sequestration began, the same thing happened, but the decision was quickly reversed.

Affected students should stay in contact with the Military Programs Office on JBER, Military and Veteran’s Student Services in the Student Union Building or Enrollment Services in the University Center for information.

The shutdown will affect certain categories of UAA students, particularly students who are relying on the tuition assistance program for active duty soldiers. This program is currently suspended for any new claims, and payments for courses that start after Oct. 1 will not be paid.

Students who rely on this program have been advised not to begin courses if they fall into this category. Active duty soldiers who are in late-starting classes have been urged to drop the courses and have until the end of the first week of class to do so.

International students could also be affected by the government shutdown and can expect a delay in all processing for every type of action UAA a student might need. One of the biggest concerns for international students is the closure of the Social Security Office. This means international students wanting to work on campus will not be able to get a social security card, which is required for on-campus employment.

International students intending to begin classes in January might also be delayed, because consular services overseas will be limited, reducing their abilities to get visa appointments. International students interested in Optional Practical Training should contact David Racki in Enrollment Services to discuss what the shutdown might mean for them. International students are encouraged to apply for this program early, because slower processing of applications is expected.

Students who are relying on federal student aid programs such as the Pell Grant and Direct Student loans are not impacted at this time. The Department of Education is saying it will keep the offices staffed so that service to schools and students continues. Students should not worry if they are waiting for last-minute aid for fall to be disbursed, nor should they worry about spring semester aid.

“Alaska state aid programs are not impacted in any way that we know of,” states Pederson.

Pederson states, “We don’t know how many students and their families might be experiencing a furlough or reduced work hours because they work for the federal government, or on a contract with the federal government. Any students who find themselves in that situation who begins to worry or have trouble paying their tuition bill should come forward and let someone know, their advisor, enrollment services, financial aid, that way we can look into helping the students. We don’t have information on where they work in a database and we want to do what we can to help them out.”

Pederson also states there could be students, staff and faculty working on projects funded by federal grants, and their funding could be significantly impacted due to the shutdown.

Students should seek help as soon as needed. The next payment deadline and late fee for students is Nov. 1. Any student who planned to have his or her bill paid by then and is experiencing trouble because of the shutdown should contact Enrollment Services this week or next.

Pederson says students can call Enrollment Services One Stop at 907-786-1480, but it might be best to visit the offices at the University Center, because students might need help from more than one office.

 

October 1, 2013 Suhaila Brunelle

“It’s about leadership and collaboration. We must focus on the students and listen to the students, even when they burst our bubble. When we think that we have it nailed, and then talk to a group of students, and they say, ‘No, that’s not where we are at. That was 10 years ago,’ we must listen,” said University of Alaska President Pat Gamble at last week’s Board of Regents meeting in Juneau.

Gamble is referring to the University of Alaska system’s Strategic Directive Initiative, or SDI.

“SDI is about collaboration,” he says. “Collaboration means incentive.”

For the university, this means building a reputation and creating an environment that nourishes both student values and academic satisfaction. In order for the university to be successful at this goal, Gamble says the university needs to create attraction, and that attraction is the incentive.

“Take service, and make it a watchword,” Gamble said. “That’s what creates retention. Retention creates enrollment, and enrollment goes to the bottom line.”

The University of Alaska system is currently in stage 3 of its Strategic Directive Initiative. The SDI seeks to change and improve the culture of the University of Alaska system and make strides to “Shape Alaska’s Future” by 2017, which is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the School of Agriculture and School of Mines, which eventually morphed into present-day University of Alaska.

According to the Shaping Alaska’s Future website, one of the “guiding principles” of the SDI “is about making our culture more focused on continuous improvement, especially with respect to student success and service to students.”

Students, staff, faculty and alumni are all welcome to participate in helping the university meet these goals. There have been 80 listening sessions, and there is an online survey that can be taken to assist the university in finding where there are problems that need to be addressed.

At present, the results of the listening sessions and surveys have yielded five key areas of improvement: student achievement and attainment, productive partnerships with Alaska schools, productive partnerships with public entities and private industries, research and development to sustain Alaska’s communities and economic growth, and accountability to the people of Alaska.

Many improvements have already been put into practice and have had positive results. Student credit load has increased, which is making a difference in the six-year graduation rate for baccalaureate degree-seeking students.

“The more credits a student takes, the most likely they are to finish their degrees,” says Board of Regents Vice President Kirk Wickersham.

Graduation rates for students pursuing associate or certificate degree programs is flat.

“The reason is, we budgeted money for an increase in baccalaureate advising, and that budget has already gone into affect,” Wickersham said.

He also says the university has a budget to increase advising for associate and certificate programs, but that budget has yet to be initiated. Once this budget is initiated, the university expects to see an increase in graduation for those programs as well.

After reviewing 64 academic programs, the university decided to suspend or teach out nine of them, which means all teaching positions for these programs will eventually be dissipated. Suspension means no new students may enroll in the program, and the university will be looking into better course materials and accreditation for that particular program.

The University of Alaska system is working on improving distance and e-learning opportunities for students in rural areas. It has also partnered with the Alaska Learning Network, whose mission is to make education more accessible. AKLN is a district-to-district program that involves 54 different school districts in Alaska and has a six-member board of school superintendents.

AKLN’s goals are to create a rigorous and creative curriculum, expand programs of study and dual enrollment, increase professional development for educators and expand on educational partnership.

An initiative was brought before the board to raise tuition by 3 percent, which would mean a $6 increase per credit hour for undergraduate credits and an increase of $12 per credit hour for graduate credits, and would be implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. This raise in tuition would bring the school $1.3 million in revenue, but it would only be one-third of the school’s operating cost. The board will vote on the tuition raise Nov. 6 in Anchorage.

Regents passed the decision onto UA President Pat Gamble to implement differential tuition for the School of Management in Fairbanks, in order to help with rising tuition costs for that program. The Board of Regents passed a motion to vote on this proposal during the next meeting, stating the dean neglected to give them more information about this motion.

Development has raised more money during Fiscal Year 13 than in years past. A total of $17 million has been raised.

Human Resources plans to address the issue of bullying among staff and faculty by implementing anti-bullying training. This training would assist supervisors to recognize bullying before getting a complaint. Human Resources is also working on implementing a hotline for staff to anonymously report bullying and other issues where reporters wish to remain anonymous.

Agenda items for the next Board of Regents meeting include the Arctic Region Computing Center, Capital Budgeting, SB241 and the Teacher Equality report.

The board approved (Source: Kate Ripley, UA Public Affairs):

  • The UAA campus Master Plan.
  • An amendment to the UAF campus master plan to allow a solar aray installation and subsequent request for proposals for the project.
  • An Associate of Applied Science degree, physical therapy assistant, at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
  • An Associate of Science degree at UAS.
  • A $10 million debt issue for UAF for partial funding of the engineering building, currently under construction.
  • A schematic design for the UAF animal quarters facility relocation.
  • A one-year agreement between UA and the 10-member Fairbanks Fire Fighters Union at UAF.

 

 

October 1, 2013 Nita Mauigoa

It was a new semester when Sarah, an engineering student, began her transition from a man into a woman.

“In the first week, there was a lot of stares and confusion. I was the guy named Sarah,” Sarah said.

With the exception of one student, she said, her classmates accepted her transition. That was three years ago. Sarah, who is now a confident woman, still recalls that first stage when adjustments were fragile.

September 24, 2013 Thomas McIntyre

Keith Hackett was officially introduced as the new athletic director at a press conference Friday afternoon. He used the event to share his vision for UAA athletics and to address some lingering questions. Hackett’s plan for the department is a three-headed monster.

The first step is ensuring they are always in alignment with the educational mission of the university. He wants to stress the “student” aspect of being a student-athlete.

May 1, 2013 Keldon Irwin

Every few years UAA says farewell to decent staff and faculty who have dedicated numerous years of service the the university. The Northern Light sat down with three professors, Robin Crittenden, Robert Crosman, and red bradley, to see what they will leave behind and what their aspirations for the future are.

February 21, 2013 J. Almendarez

Chancellor Tom Case is scheduled to attend a Q&A session with students this week, giving them the opportunity to ask questions about the future of UAA. The event is at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the Student Union, directly outside the Student Life and Leadership office in Room 218.

July 25, 2012 Evan Dodd

A recent proposal by University of Alaska President Pat Gamble would increase resident undergraduate tuition by 2 percent for the 2013-2014 school year. The proposed hike would be the smallest increase since the late 1990s and would apply to all students of the 16 campuses within the UA system.

The increase in tuition is meant to offset high operating costs as well as combat the nationwide problem of inflation. The limited hike is unusual when compared to the relatively high rate of increase by the UA system over the past decade.

“I think that this is a significant message from the President Gamble about his commitment to students and the importance of keeping costs down in Alaska,” said Bruce Schultz, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. “Students should understand that a 2 percent hike still does not cover the increased costs by the university.”

According to Gamble, the proposed hike would result in an approximate $3 increase for lower division credits and a $4 increase for upper division. For an in-state, undergraduate student taking 30 credits per year, this would raise tuition from $5475 to $5580, an increase of $105. Figures for graduate and non-resident tuition have not yet been determined.

Schultz explained that the additional income generated by the increase will bring an estimated $900,000 to UAA. Gamble says that the money will be used to cover a wide variety of academic program expenses and operating costs for the university.

“It’s important for students to understand that at UAA, tuition accounts for about 33% of the cost to provide educational service,” explained Schultz. “Just like everything else, our costs increase over time with inflation. If you look at the consumer price index increase from last year, we are actually on par nationally.”

Recent data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 1.7 percent national increase in the consumer Price Index (CPI) between July 2011 and July 2012. Additionally, the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) reported a 2.3 percent increase between 2010 and 2011, thus placing the UA tuition increase on even footing with the national average.

The UA system also remains competitive when compared to other public universities within the region. The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) reports that the University of Alaska is ranked as having the sixth lowest tuition out of the fifteen states that comprise the western region.

“In terms of Alaska’s peers in the Western Region, we have maintained an average resident tuition of 5,500, as compared to the overall average of 7,100,” explained Gamble. “We are comfortably below the average in the entire region. Additionally the average tuition increase has been 13.7% as compared to our 4.3%”

Gamble emphasized his commitment to students, explaining that he understood student’s concerns about rising tuition costs.

“The idea that we can drop a 7 or 8 or double digit increase worked when tuition was a relatively small cost, but that is no longer the case,” said Gamble. “Tuition has finally reached a point of national attention; this is something that some students are protesting in the street about. Students demand service and value for their money.”

The University of Alaska is no stranger to protests against tuition increases; in 2010 students organized multi-campus protests against a 22 percent increase proposed by former UA President Mark Hamilton.

This time however, public perception of the proposal has been generally positive.

“This is the single lowest proposed increase in over a decade, it’s important for people to remember that,” said USUAA Vice President Andrew McConnell. “Tuition increases are going to happen; it’s inevitable. As a student, I would love it if tuition would go down, but that just isn’t going to happen.”

McConnell emphasized USUAA’s role in maintaining reasonable rate for students and expressed his approval of the limited increase.

“This is actually a better outcome than we expected. We were prepared to have to fight against another 7 or 8 percent increase,” said McConnell. “We will be working with President Gamble to ensure that the increase does not go up.”

In regards to possible student concerns over the tuition hike, Gamble expressed his commitment to providing reasonably priced, quality education to the state of Alaska.

“Concerns about cost increases are always relative,” said Gamble. “The idea that we go around talking about how well some areas are doing doesn’t make people feel better. What makes people feel better is showing them that we are committed to maintaining affordable costs with a valuable education.”

The proposed increase will go to the UA Board of Regents for review in September and, if approved, will take effect in the fall of 2013.

 

July 10, 2012 Nita Mauigoa

UAA Facilities, Planning and Construction dives right into work during summer when there is less traffic and more favorable weather conditions. There are literally dozens of construction projects around campus, and we’ve highlighted the more visible projects you will notice this summer. If you plan on taking summer classes in the future, plan on facing…

July 10, 2012 Nita Mauigoa

Named after one of the first faculty members of UAA, back when it was called Anchorage Community College, the 42-year old Beatrice McDonald Hall has surpassed its intended ability to properly cater to the needs of faculty, staff and students. Now it is time for renovations. “This building was designed to last only 25 to…

June 27, 2012 Kierra Hammons

On the afternoon of June 11, buses were running late all across town as People Mover bus drivers explained a new fare box system to boarding passengers along their routes. Though the new fare boxes held back the bus schedule on that day, now that passengers are more familiarized with the process, they streamline the…

June 20, 2012 Kenneth Alexander

Make students count” was the common theme of the University of Alaska Board of Regents actions during their two-day meeting at the Anchorage campus. Consistent with UA’s mission statements, students and the Alaskan community stand to benefit from unanimous approval of the 2013 budget appropriations. Regents and top UA officials have identified key advantages that will actualize promises to students and the Alaska community at large. Increased appropriations for UA campus’ and Alaska’s business community will add to the curriculum of courses offered and therefore improve the employment rate.

After ten years of strenuous activity and vigorous discussions with state legislators and UA campus administrators, a substantial increase in the 2013 budget allocations have been approved. Facilities, land investments, and student housing maintenance and upgrades are at the forefront of agenda. Additionally, consideration of commercializing intellectual property rights by partnering with the business community for a profit with minimum risk may be pursued to further cover costs and development. Recognition for improvement of instruction-based needs and upgrades to facilities has increased over the years, and now the list of questions regarding the improvement of those issues have answers with substance. The master strategic plans implemented by the full board in 2008 called for construction of new facilities, property maintenance and overall structural improvement.

The Regents in Anchorage on Friday, June 8, 2012, gathered to approved the fiscal 2013 budget. The $925 million spending plan is up 4 percent over the current year’s budget. UA spokeswoman Kate Wattum said, “The $363.7 million operating component includes increased support from the State Legislature for Regents priority programs.”

Measures to be taken include the construction of a new engineering building at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, business partnering for profit and investment in local job training programs.  Chancellor Tom Case also reported, “Board of Regents approved accreditation to include doctoral programs such as the UAA/UAF joint Ph.D program in clinical-community psychology.”

Construction management student Gregory Jones added, “The UA Board of Regents is doing a bang-up job for students. The atmosphere of the Anchorage campus is positive and encouraging.”

June 12, 2012 Evan Dodd

Paramedic and nursing students from the Mat-Su campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage will soon have access to new opportunities in the form of a large-scale expansion to the existing Snodgrass Hall. On May 23 Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss officially cut the ribbon for the construction of the $3.5 million addition to the Mat-Su…

February 26, 2012 Teresa Kennedy

A study conducted by the Center of Behavioral Health Research (CBHR) in the spring of 2011 concluded 15.3 percent of UAA students have seriously considered suicide at some point in their lives. An additional 5.5 percent of students have seriously considered it in the last year.

January 30, 2012 Teresa Kennedy

A New Year and a new semester finds UAA’s Honors College with new leadership. Dr. Judith Owens-Manley was appointed Interim Associate Dean of the College Jan 9 and will be handling the advising, curriculum planning and programming for the college.

October 3, 2011 Matt

Ninety-eight percent of Alaska high schools use GPAs to determine which students receive the $1,375 per semester scholarship offered by the UA Scholars program.  Yet surprisingly, no one at the University of Alaska ever sees the average GPA of those graduating classes.

“We just get a list,” Executive Director of the UA Scholars Program, Linda English, said.

When those GPAs are examined, they show that location, rather than academic accomplishment,  largely affect who is admitted into the program.

Anchorage schools demonstrate this variance.

East High’s principal Michael Graham said that over the years, students who qualified for the program have had at least 3.5 GPA. At South, the GPA has been 3.8 or above for the last seven years, according to Registrar Lynda Barclay.

The average GPA for graduating classes is not readily available to the public. Schools don’t routinely update GPA information, and unlike test scores, there is no law that they post it online. It took the Anchorage School District 35 days to compile this information.

When the average GPA of Anchorage high schools are compared to enrollment information provided by the 2009 Factbook, the numbers outline a picture that UA has not discussed in their public reports: Anchorage schools with the lowest GPA had the most students enrolled in the UA Scholars program at UAA.

The majority of UA scholars come from Bartlett, and out of all Anchorage schools, Bartlett has the second lowest high school GPA, 2.64.

South, whose 2008 class had the highest GPA in the Anchorage School District, 3.08, had the second to lowest enrollment in the UA scholars program.

“These numbers don’t surprise me. We’ve actually been talking with statewide back and forth about having a cut off, because we’ve been finding that some students, even though they’re in the top ten percent, they’re struggling,” UA Scholars advisor at UAA, Andrea Alexander, said.

The goal of the UA scholars program is to encourage Alaska’s brightest students to remain here.

“UA Scholars started in 1999, and the president really thoughtfully put the program together with the main goal of getting the best and brightest students to remain in Alaska,” said English.

It’s difficult to conclude whether the program is achieving that goal with this simple data. There is no assessment of where in the top ten a student falls; with the system receiving only a list, there’s no telling if the student is a valedictorian or was barely accepted into the program.

While there is variance with who is accepted into the program in Anchorage, there is even more variance across the state.

“A lot of these students come from rural areas. Some of them might not even have a 2.0, but they’re the top ten percent of their class, so what do you do about that?” Alexander said.

Theoretically, a student with a 4.0 can get into the same scholarship program as someone with a 2.0. Though the grades of each dramatically differ, they both receive the $11,000 scholarship that’s distributed over their four years at a UA school.

English was well aware of differences between schools.

“It’s safe to say that there are some schools that are highly competitive. [At] West Valley, here in Fairbanks, there was one year where everyone on the UA Scholar list had well over a 4.0 because of AP classes,” English said.

Another issue with the program is that schools determine whether to count grades as weighted or unweighted, meaning they chose whether or not to assign extra points to honors and AP classes.

At West Valley, AP scores are automatically weighted, but at Chugiak High School, grades are only weighted when there is a tie for the final slot.

“If there is a tie based on GPA at the cut-off slot, anonymous transcripts are used to break the tie.  The principal, curriculum principal and one other staff member assign points to AP, Honors and higher-level classes.  The student with the highest point total becomes first, the second highest and so on until the tied GPAs have been addressed,” Career Resource Advisor at Chugiak High School Candice Dixon wrote via email.

“I don’t like that someone who takes AP classes may not be accepted into the program. That’s encouraging students not to take those harder classes,” incoming UA Scholar Talia Sopp, said.

Using GPA to determine the top ten percent is easily defensible, so most schools use it and the standard is unlikely to change, English said.

“Because we allow schools to dictate their own criteria, they know which students represent their community best,” English said.

September 20, 2011 Matt

Before 1974, schools could hand out student GPAs, disciplinary records, or phone numbers to almost anyone who asked.

The Family Educational Right and Privacy Act changed that. Schools now must ask students for permission before they distribute any educational data.

The protections that FERPA provides apply to all students who are admitted to UAA. For the 23 percent of students who are rejected from UAA, FERPA does not apply.

FERPA applies to many everyday concerns. For instance, professors are not supposed to leave graded papers in public, though many do. They can distribute emails to other students, but not phone numbers, or other private information.

UAA hosted a FERPA training for faculty last Wednesday and Thursday. Interim Registrar Shirlee Willis-Haslip and Dean of Students Dewain Lee, who deal with FERPA issues on a daily basis, presented.

If students offer private information in a public setting, Willis-Haslip recommended that faculty should stop them and suggest that they discuss that in private.

Shirlee Willis-Haslip recommended that faculty not transmit records to whoever wants them. Even directory information, faculty is not obligated to release unless they can see a valid educational reason to do so.

And in general, “Don’t allow students to see other students’ papers,” Willis-Haslip said.

Upon admission, students have the option to remove themselves from the directory. Doing so means that the university cannot contact the student without the student’s explicit permission and confirmation of their identity.

Often this backfires. Willis-Haslip said that a lot of students sign the option without realizing that the university cannot talk to you.

A hold will appear on the student’s account, and when the student tries to call the university to ask why, staff can only say that they don’t have the individual on file. In most cases, the student will have to go to the University Center with identification to have the hold removed.

“Confidential hold doesn’t go so far as they’re invisible, but it does protect confidential records,” Willis-Haslip said

Willis-Haslip said that she has known only two cases where students have said that their FERPA rights were violated. The university researched each case and did not find that FERPA rights were violated.

The Dean of Students often handles the release of information when pertaining to disciplinary records.

If the student is under 21, Lee’s office can release information to parents regarding violations of the code of conduct: disciplinary, drinking, etc. Lee said that there have been subpoenas for information in the past, and the office was obligated to turn over information to the police.

Some of these subpoenas have included emails.

FERPA is a big deal for schools, as not following it can result in a loss of federal funding.

UAA offers FERPA information sessions throughout the year, each tailored to students, parents, and faculty. The registrar maintains a list of relevant FERPA points on its website.

June 14, 2011 Matt

The Seawolf Drive and Providence Drive intersection is currently undergoing phase two of a $2.5 million project designed to ease traffic flow for buses and ambulances in the U-Med region, and is scheduled to be blocked until the end of June.

June 1, 2011 Matt

The Facilities and Land Management Committee met in Anchorage Tuesday to deliberate two motions, both of which were passed. They will be affirmed or denied when all of the Board of Regents meet in Fairbanks this Thursday and Friday.

The first motion would provide funding for Kenai Peninsula College’s first residential building. The original motion projected that the College Student Housing Complex would cost 16 million, but the committee amended it to 17.8 million, according to the Board of Regents Office.

The motion had several recommendations attached. It would be one of the few residential housing complex in a non-urban area, would serve the greatest non-white community of any UAA community campus, and would build the community that could increase student retention.

“The UAA administration believes that students both inside and outside commuting distance may not be attending KPC due to the lack of student housing,” the report read.

The complex would house 90-100 full time students, and is expected to save students money. Students who choose to live on campus and commute sparingly would save $7,000 over a two year period.

It will also accommodate future needs. In 2008, the McDowell group, a research and consulting firm based in Anchorage, found that there was a high demand for student housing at KPC.

“Based on the findings of the McDowell Study and the assumption by UA Statewide that the number of urban high school graduates will decline and rural high school graduates will increase over the next five years, building student housing at KPC should be considered a strategy for the university to increase the number of rural Alaskans attending UA,” the report read.

The second motion would approve the development of a 5,600 seating arena near Providence Hospital and behind the new Health Science Building. As passed in the committee, the project will not exceed 109 million.

The new complex would allow UAA to host its graduations, provide new facilities for athletic teams and improve student life, recruitment, and retention.

“This signature building will act as a beacon to local community members and signature building will act as a beacon to local community members and provide Anchorage and the Southcentral Alaska region with the mid-sized fixed-seat venue that is missing in the municipality,” the report read.

The Sullivan Arena accommodates an average of 7,500 people, depending on the venue.

The complex was originally conceived in 2009 as a smaller arena with 3,500 seats. But to accommodate growth for the next 50 years.

For Anchorage residents that wish to see the Thursday and Friday conferences in Fairbanks, UAA will broadcast the proceeds in ADM 201. The full agenda may be seen here.

March 29, 2011 Megan Edge

After seven years head ski coach Trond Flagstad is throwing in the towel and resigning. He isn’t the only memorable ski coach at UAA resigning however. Assistant ski coach, Mandy Kaempf will also be leaving after five seasons with the team.

March 22, 2011 Sean Talbot

The University is trimming the fat off of employee health care benefits. Currently, University of Alaska employees aren’t required to provide documentation for their claimed dependents to receive medical benefits. As of July 1, they’ll have to break out the birth certificates to prove that their kids are their kids. Under the new documentation plan,…