Category: USUAA

June 12, 2017 Alec Burris


Summer has arrived. For most, this signals a release from grueling classes and a momentary pause in the endeavor to complete a degree. For others, it is simply a change in scenery as they take on their five and ten week courses during the summer semester. For me, it is a chance to meet with administration as I transition in to my new role as your student body president. The past month has been a blur of meetings and events as I have established contacts, prepared USUAA for the upcoming academic year and begun to deliver on the goals which I promised you during my campaign. While the work is not complete, I am glad to report that meaningful progress has been made in four strategic areas: security cameras, student fees, advocacy, and Title IX.

1. Security cameras – Following a meeting with Vice Chancellor Pat Shier and UPD Chief Brad Munn, costs to add security cameras in certain areas such as the West Parking Lot and the MAC Parking Lot are being assessed. This project should be completed in the near future and I am confident that we can cut down on the amount of car thefts that occur on our campus.

2. Student fees – On Friday, June 16, I will be meeting with the all the directors of the mandatory student fee areas. It is my hope that we not only reduce the number of unnecessary fees, but increase transparency in how those fees are spent.

3. Advocacy – On May 6, I sent out a press release on behalf of USUAA and the UAA student body to the Alaska State Legislature advocating for a University of Alaska budget of $325 million. Actions such as these ensure that we are an active stakeholder in our future.

4. Title IX – Working closely with Bridget Dooley, the UAA Title IX Coordinator, USUAA is dedicated to guaranteeing that students on our campus feel safe always. UAA has implemented new resources such as Standing Together Against Rape in Rasmuson Hall and USUAA will help to ensure that our students know where they can get help and information.

Though the academic year has not yet begun, USUAA is working to represent students on our campus, at the Board of Regents, and at the Alaska State Legislature. While the University of Alaska’s budget situation may be unresolved, our ability to advocate and promote student leadership has not been affected. I believe that students play a key role in shaping their environment and there is no better time than now to prove that.

Alec Burris, Student Body President

Phone: (907) 715-2177


May 30, 2017 Sarah Tangog

Spring semester of 2017 brought new faces to stand as senators within the UAA community. As a senator, these students play an integral role within the USUAA government.

“I am the summer speaker, so I run the meetings during the summer assembly. And then I’m just a senator, so I represent the student body at large when we make decisions,” Alex Jorgensen, political science major, said.

Jorgensen joins two other political science majors, Morgan Hartley and Caleb Berry, in trying to make a difference in the student experience at UAA. Jorgensen, Hartley and Berry all have different roles aside the common goal of representing the student body.

“Each senator is required to serve on two committees. The two committees I serve on are the Legislative Affairs Committee and the Activities Committee,” Berry said. “We plan homecoming, we participate in the campus kick-off.”

Most senators also plan to do a senator project.

“This is sort of an unofficial way to categorize a particular senator’s pet project which can range from the revamping of parking services to a new campus activity,” Hartley said.

Each senator also has a different goal in regard to bettering the campus. As a peer health educator in the Student Health Counseling Center, Jorgensen believes that bystander awareness programs should be more widespread throughout the community.

“One of my main goals is to use my senator position to make the campus safer as it relates to sexual assault and violence,” Jorgensen said.

Berry hopes to use his position as a senator and Greek life member to pursue his project.

“I want to do my best to make sure we expand Greek Life on campus,” Berry said. “I’ve got several ideas to improve life on campus, increase the revenue of fraternities and sororities… I have a lot of great ideas that will help.”

Hartley simply hopes to represent all students at UAA in his actions.

“My goal… [is to] adequately represent all students of UAA in every legislative action I take, and do my best to ensure that administrative decisions are made using the same criteria,” Hartley said.

On top of their duties, the senators stress the importance of hearing from the voices of fellow students.

“We love hearing from people, and we typically don’t. They don’t know we’re a thing. Or, that we’re just people that sit in a semi-cool office behind some glass. We want to connect,” Jorgensen said.

USUAA members reside in an upstairs office at the Student Union, allowing anyone to walk in and talk to their senators.

“The student government room is a public place and that any time the door is open everyone is welcome to come in and say ‘hi’ or voice a concern,” Hartley said.

Each senator is different and has different goals, but in the end, they are one voice that represents thousands.

May 4, 2017 Chance Townsend
Burris and Bat-Erdene
Geser Bat-Erdene Alec Burris pose for a picture for their USUAA campaign. Photo credit: Alec Burris and Geser Bat-Erdene

The USUAA elections are over, and Alec Burris and Geser Bat-Erdene have won the positions of president and vice president for the 2017-18 academic year. This election also turned out to be highly successful, as it had higher voter turnout than the last three USUAA elections.

Burris is a freshman majoring in biology and has always had a deep interest in student government.

“I would travel the 45 to 1 hour drive from Wasilla to Anchorage so I could go to their bi-weekly meetings to see what their student government is like,” Burris said. “Once I learned that the current president wasn’t going to run, I felt that somebody needed to step up and run the organization, and that I knew it well enough to run.”

His running mate, Bat-Erdene is a foreign exchange student from Mongolia majoring in finance, and has been a USUAA senator for over a year.

“The opportunity to work with people who truly care about the university and work hard to achieve mutual goals is why I ran for vice president,” Bat-Erdene said. “Becoming a [vice president] is a great honor for me. I was truly happy that the students of UAA are very open-minded, and the fact that an international student was elected for a USUAA leadership tells how diversity is welcomed on the campus.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene are both deeply involved with student government around campus and are excited to start their new positions.

“I’m very excited to start delivering on the promises we made during our campaign,” Burris said. “We are going to try to start working on the issues with security cameras, working with the administration about Title IX, and looking at assessing fees.”

Sam Erickson, USUAA president for the 2016-17 academic year, believes that the two successors will learn by seeing him and vice president, Johanna Richter, in action.

“There is a relatively well-established process for transitioning leadership in USUAA, but in this case it’s made even easier since Alec has significant experience in the organization already… I’ll begin having him shadow me in USUAA meetings, introducing him at events, meeting administrative, faculty and staff leaders, and bringing him up to date on the projects I’m currently working on,” Erickson said. “Johanna will be doing the same for Geser, and the goal is to be able to completely turn over the organization. Obviously, I will still be around and able to give advice for the next year, but I am confident that Alec will be able to pick right up where Johanna and I left off.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene both look forward to serving the students of UAA.

“You can definitely [be] looking for student government to be active on campus,” Burris said. “Oftentimes we are in the background doing a lot of work that the students don’t see. I think looking forward you’re going to see us in the forefront, because we really care about students seeing that their student fees are being used to best of their ability. That’s what we are going to do for the student government.”

Burris and Bat-Erdene’s term as USUAA president and vice president began on April 28 and will continue through the 2017-18 academic year.

February 27, 2017 Victoria Petersen
President Jim Johnsen held an open forum last September discussing Phase 1 of the university's Strategic Pathways plan with students and faculty. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

In a speech describing the state of the university, UA President Jim Johnsen announced Feb. 16 that the University system was going “strong” despite a decline in state funding and enrollment.

Johnsen expressed optimism in the university system, noting that strong leaders in the UA board of regents and his implementation of Strategic Pathways are increasing productivity and money management since a lack of state funding.

“President Johnsen’s address had the incredibly difficult job of honestly stating the needs of the university at a time when those needs, primarily more money, are at direct odds with the ability of the state to provide,” Sam Erickson, USUAA President, said. “However, I do believe that being honest about the real challenges faced by UA, such as the deferred maintenance backlog of close to $1 billion, was the best move, enabling a transparent plea to be made to the state based on the realities of funding needs when the university system has already absorbed cuts of almost 14 percent.”

For a university system that has seen nearly 10 percent of UA’s degree and certificate programs eliminated or suspended, a $52.7 million budget shortfall and the elimination of 923 university jobs in the last three years, UAA students are finding it hard to agree with Johnsen’s state of the university statements.

“I’d probably disagree. It seems like UAA struggles a lot financially. I’ve gone here the last two years and have seen a really high increase in tuition. It’s sad to think that Nordic skiing was almost taken away from UAA strictly from budget cuts. I think it’s pretty obvious UAA isn’t really doing that well considering there is constantly something else the are trying to get rid of,” Andrea Brainerd, a UAA health sciences student, said.

Johnsen mentioned a possible five percent, or $16 million, cut to UA funding when the legislature passes their budget for the next fiscal year. Cuts to UA funding are not included in the current budget at this time.

“I don’t think we’re doing that well, but I think we’re doing well considering that we haven’t been doing so well in recent years you know? Like, we’re in a bit of a weird spot and we could be doing a lot better. But we could also be doing so so so much worse,” Hannah Dorough, UAA English student, said.

With possible cuts in the future, university leaders are devising ways to save the UA system money, while maintaining a “strong” quality and efficient education.

USUAA’s Juneau advocacy trip was successful in gaining support from legislators and spreading the word of UA’s need for state funding.

“If Alaska is ever to transition to anything beyond a mere extraction-based economy, UA will play a vital role. We sink or swim together, and the job now falls to us as students and student advocates to press that point home,” Erickson said. “USUAA’s Juneau advocacy trip was already met with significant success and support from many of the new class of freshman legislators, but we won’t stop there.”

Erickson is urging students to call legislators and notes that the best way to get legislators to fund what’s important is to make calls and tell them.

April 7, 2015 Kjersti Andreassen

For the last few weeks, USUAA student government has been running a postcard advocacy campaign to fight back against the state legislature’s threat to cut the university budget. “I think the potential benefit is huge,” USUAA President Stacey Lucason said. She explained how the cut has moved from $53 million to $35 million to $25…

October 28, 2014 Brett Baker

[youtube url=”” autoplay=”yes”] TNL Spotlight: Devin Johnson discusses his new role as a USUAA Senator James Evans meets with Devin Johnson to discuss his new role as a Senator in UAA’s student government, USUAA. USUAA: @USUAA

October 7, 2014 Stephen Cress

USUAA has officially established a rules committee as of its Sept. 26 general assembly meeting. According to the bylaws of the USUAA constitution, a rules committee should be formed within the first two weeks of the new semester.

The members of the rules committee — Jonathon Taylor, Samantha Reischer, Amanda Boger and Parker Dahl — were appointed Sept. 19 and will serve on the newly formed committee. The USUAA Rules Committee will primarily be responsible for establishing standing rules for the assembly while ensuring that all USUAA rules are followed according to the USUAA constitution.

In addition to creating and interpreting rules, the rules committee is also responsible for making sure senators are doing their respected jobs; examining conflicts between the constitution and bylaws to ensure both documents work in harmony; working on and dealing with any charges filed against an assembly member that pertains to his or her job performance; and lastly, appointing assembly members to other committees.

USUAA has faced obstacles during its fall 2014 meetings due to ambiguities concerning how to properly interpret certain bylaws in the USUAA Constitution. USUAA hopes to avoid such hang-ups in the future with the new rules committee in place.

Senator Stephen Warta said the newly appointed committee will make USUAA’s general assembly meetings more efficient than they have been this semester.

“We don’t want to spend valuable time discussing issues that could probably wait until another day,” Warta said. “Ideally, the rules committee will establish how to properly interpret things so we don’t waste a lot of time with personal biases. Also, with the committee in place, we can start to move ahead within our discussions of the needs of students and concentrate more on finding solutions.”

Senator Samuel Doepken said a rules committee is typically appointed within the second week of school.

“The establishment of a rules committee was a little delayed, but I’m glad they’re up and running, so now we can have the rest of the committees actually working towards their assignments and get the ball rolling on other things.”

USUAA general assembly meetings are held Fridays at 3 p.m. For more information on how to get involved with USUAA, please contact USUAA at 907-786-1203, or stop by the Student Government office located in room 201 in the Student Union.

April 15, 2014 Suhaila Brunelle

The USUAA Rules Committee held an impeachment hearing last week to oust Student Body President Drew Lemish. Charges include lack of attendance at assembly meetings, inappropriate behavior at assembly meetings, taking vacations without proper notifications and not responding to communications from other assembly members, students, staff and faculty regarding official USUAA business. Lemish was unable…

February 23, 2014 Audriana Pleas

The USUAA student government Advocacy Team returned from the state capital after a slew of productive meetings with state legislators between Feb. 1 and 4. Along with their other University of Alaska associates, the advocacy team met with senators and representatives in an effort to garner a bigger budget for UA projects.
The UA Coalition of Students advocated for larger budgets for the UAA and UAF engineering buildings, the UAF power plant and high-demand academic programs. The platform encompasses the needs of all schools in the UA system. An agreement was reached on Feb. 2 before meeting with legislators the following Monday and Tuesday.
Chancellor Tom Case asked USUAA to advocate for funds for the Alaska Airlines Center because it can only operate for 6 months on present funds.
UAA representatives thought it was more appropriate to focus on the UA system as a whole and directed their attentions elsewhere. USUAA is planning to head back to the capital to advocate for UAA-specific needs sometime next month.
USUAA President Drew Lemish, who is part of the Advocacy Team, says his decision to refrain from advocating for UAA-specific topics in this past advocacy meeting was welcomed by the UAA participants.
UA President Pat Gamble gave a budget presentation last Tuesday about the UA systems and the projects that need extra financial attention. UA students were granted the chance to provide testimonials and further explanation on topics that included advising.
Younger Oliver, a member of the Advocacy Team, says this is the first time a platform has not been organized beforehand. This was Oliver’s third and final trip as a UAA advocate. Her experience allowed her to lend advice to her team members.
“Everyone from around the state was on the same page,” Oliver said. “We all had the same goal, and when we actually went in to meet with legislators on Monday and Tuesday, we were all on point and we knew what we were talking about and we had done our research.”
Lemish agreed with Oliver.
“At the end of Tuesday evening, I would say that we accomplished everything we went down to accomplish. And I couldn’t have asked for a better team to go down with. And I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Lemish said.
However, Lemish recognizes the need to return by to Juneau to ensure what UAA needs is conveyed in meetings.
“I think there is an opportunity, and I hope this opportunity is taken advantage of when we go down to advocate for UAA-specific needs, such as the sports complex operating budget,” he said.

February 4, 2014 Audriana Pleas

In the next few weeks, important decisions about issues affecting students will be made. Students will be able to vote on the issues such as the smoke-free initiative and the introduction of a $6 recreational fee. For other issues, such as the funding for building operations, students are dependent on USUAA student government for representation.

Student representatives were in Juneau after battling flight cancellations last Friday and brief delays Saturday morn- ing. The annual advocacy trip officially commenced Saturday afternoon.

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 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


September 11, 2013 Tim Brown

In the wake of former USUAA President Andrew Lessig’s resignation, former Vice President Drew Lemish has taken over the position. Lemish explained the transition at a press conference on August 29th.

Andrew Lessig had cited an inability to keep up with the demands of being USUAA president as a reason for stepping down.

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.

December 3, 2012 Keldon Irwin

In collaboration with the Union of Students of University of Alaska Anchorage and the potential fraternity TKE, the department of Student and Academic Affairs have started their first Toys for Tots toy drive at UAA.

November 12, 2012 J. Almendarez

Some of the newly-elected legislators in the state will be attending an open luncheon to mingle with students and answer questions in a panel format from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday in Room 307 of the Consortium Library.

Government Relations Director Terri Draeger said at the USUAA meeting Friday that she encouraged all students to attend the luncheon or submit questions that can be asked to legislators on their behalf.

She said after the meeting that the event is free and a taco bar, chips and dip, cookies and beverages will be provided to attendees.

Senator Andrew Lessig will begin asking the legislators questions at about 2:30 p.m. and give them about 2-3 minutes to respond to each question.

The Lunch with Legislators event has been taking place since 2009.

Questions can be submitted to Draeger at uaa_grd@uaa.alaska. edu.


USUAA President Alejandra Buitrago nominated air traffic control Professor Sharon LaRue to be the faculty representative serving on the Green Fee Board.

She said USUAA adviser Paula Fish emailed faculty members in mass to solicit interested people.

Buitrago said six people responded, three were ineligible to serve in the role and LaRue was the only one to immediately respond to her when she tried to make contact with them. She also said LaRue wrote a thoughtful essay saying why she wanted to serve on the committee. She has experience with sustainability, such as starting a community garden, teaching about sustainability at Eagle River Elementary and serving on the UAA sustainability committee paper reduction work group. She has also worked to create a recycling guide for the UAA community, and devotes a week to sustainability in upper level classes she teaches.

Buitrago said, “I think she’ll become a great addition to the students we already have in the group.”

Senator Victor de Carli, who is also chair of the Sustainability Committee for USUAA, said, “I wonder how much we actually searched for people.”

He said while he realizes there is a deadline to fill the position on the committee, he thought there might be more people interested in being the faulty representative. Buitrago said she thought the faculty was well-informed about the position and expects them to follow up on filling positions they’re interested in. LaRue was voted into the position with eight people for, one against and two abstaining.

Carli and Senator Seen So abstained from the vote and Senator Max Bullock voted against.

Bullock said after the meeting that he voted against the appointment because he also thought there might be more qualified or interested faculty members who want to fill the position but might not have known  about it.

Bullock also updated the union about the bike share program he has been working on. He said it was approved and endorsed by the sustainability office this week and that he would be meeting with Bill Spindle, Vice Chancellor for administrative services, Wednesday to talk about the next step to making the program a reality.

The bike share program will provide bicycles students can rent for free with their Wolfcard from a kiosk for two hours at a time. Bullock started the program with the hope of assisting students commute across campus.

Carli also updated the union about the “Green and Gold H2O” bill. He said the Sustainability Committee is in the process of fine-tuning their proposal and gathering more signatures for support of the program.

He estimates the proposal should be perfected by next semester.


While there were no speakers signed up in advance of the meeting, Larissa Villar, community relationship manager for the American Cancer Society, informed the union that the society would be hosting a Relay for Life event sometime in the spring, possibly the second week of April.

She said, “The idea is cancer never sleeps,” so she hopes to host the relay for a span of 24 hours, possibly in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

For more information, Villar can be contacted at 907-273-2070.


Election Results and Provost 

Fish said the number of students who voted in the election are up to 519 from 322 last fall.

Vice President Andrew McConnell said official results will be verified by 5 p.m. Tuesday, and can be seen on the USUAA website posted on the door of their office in Room 201 of the Student Union.

Buitrago also encouraged students to stay up to date about Provost and Vice Chancellor for Affair candidates who will on campus throughout the month of November. Charles Bullock, Deborah Hedeen and Elisha Baker are final applicants for the post.

For more information about each candidate and to find out more about their visits to UAA, go to chancellor/provost-search.cfm.