Chancellor addresses student problems

Photos by Corey Hester
Photos by Corey Hester

About 30 students gathered Tuesday to get answers from Chancellor Tom Case about their concerns regarding the university.

USUAA hosted the event and provided free food and drinks for attendees, who nibbled while they partook in the conversation.

History junior Kaela Hartman said she’s concerned with the transferability of scholarships at this university. She said she was awarded a four-year scholarship at UAA but decided to go to school out of state. When she returned to UAA the scholarships were no longer valid, but she earned two additional one-year scholarships. Those, however, also became invalid because she’d previously been awarded a four-year scholarship.

“Short of pushing my way in (people’s offices), I’ve done everything I can,” she said.

Case said despite efforts by the university to combat those kinds of technicalities, there are still stories like hers on campus.

He referred her to a vice chancellor for help solving her specific situation.

Political science freshman Kiana Morris said scholarships are also a concern for her.

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She said she has a 4.0 GPA and was still unable to earn merit-based scholarships. She questioned whether UAA is offering enough merit-based scholarships and whether offering more would increase retention rates.

Case said the university often looks at ways to tackle obstacles to student success on campus.

“If we can meet your needs, you’re going to stay,” he said about retention rates.

Provost Elisha Baker said that 20-30 percent of merit-based scholarships offered by the university annually are not claimed.

Rebecca Stapleford, undeclared sophomore, said she was concerned with the availability of liberal arts degrees offered. She said the university has expanded its science and engineering programs, but she feels liberal arts have been left out of expansion efforts.

“Let’s just say I feel like it’s lacking,” she said.

Case said the university works to provide degrees based on student interest and the availability of jobs in the Alaska workforce.

While he said he personally supports growth in all areas of study on campus, the economic climate does not show signs of prosperity for expanding programs.

“That’s a tough reality,” he said.

Biological chemistry senior Charles Benson said that while some science programs have grown, there is a strong need to develop others.

He said some classes, such as physical chemistry, have not been offered to students in about five years, and it is required for graduation.

Students gather in the Student Union to listen to Chancellor Tom Case speak Feb. 23.
Students gather in the Student Union to listen to Chancellor Tom Case speak Feb. 23.

He said while a class is being taught this semester to meet that credit requirement, it’s stressful for students because they know failing the class could mean falling behind on a graduation plan for years. He said advisers are suggesting that those interested in chemistry should consider transferring to the University of Alaska Fairbanks because the school has facilities to accommodate their needs.

Baker said the university is aware of the shortage in chemistry classes. He said there is currently not a process for organizing class offerings to meet student demands from an administrative standpoint and understands that’s a problem. He said he would ideally like to see course offerings scheduled years in advance to allow students to adequately plan for graduation.

“It’s not a simple problem,” Baker said.

Scheduling took a back seat for a while because of the rapid growth of the university over the past ten years.

While there is no current plan to revise class scheduling, Baker said he hopes that will be different a year from now.

“You’ll recognize that there are changes coming,” he said, noting that just because there isn’t currently a plan for correcting the problem doesn’t mean that the univer- sity can’t move in that direction.

Hartman also asked about the potential for married student housing on campus.

Case said he spent time in married housing at the University of Idaho when he was a student and understands how convenient that would be for people.

Baker said there are potential plans for married student housing in the future, though no plans are confirmed at this time.

Another issue discussed at length was the new sports arena.

Dimitrios Alexiadis, economics and political science sophomore, asked why the facility didn’t include plans for an ice hockey rink.

He also wondered whether money spent on the project could have funded more merit-based scholarships or courses such as the black and Latino history courses proposed by political science sophomore Mabil Duir.

Case said, “The arena is not only for athletics.”

He said it would also be used for community functions such as festivals and concerts.

Bill Spindle, vice chancellor for administrative services, said the arena has 5,000 seats and people will be pressed to find a place with better sound in Anchorage.

He also said the Sullivan Arena already serves the purpose of hosting hockey games for UAA and the Wells Fargo Sports Complex has not been updated in about 45 years, suggesting the university is in need of a more up-to-date facility. But he did say the university’s Master Plan accounts for possibly bringing an ice hockey rink to campus in the future.

Alexiadis also asked about the possible increase in the university’s advising budget and where that money would go exactly.

“We’ve made that a priority in our budget,” Case said.

He said the funds are being allocated to programs such as MAP-Works and e-learning programs to help people achieve their graduation goals.

Bruce Schultz, vice chancellor of academic affairs, said some of that funding will also go toward hiring more advisers to accommodate the university’s plan to make advising mandatory for all incom

ing students this fall. Currently, there are about 500 students for every one adviser on campus.

“It is a right as a student — that you have — to see quality academic advising,” he said.

At the end of the Q&A forum, students gathered around Case to ask him more personal questions and some walked with him back to his office as late as 20 minutes after the session ended.

To watch USUAA’s recording of the chat, visit accounts/2678081/events/1895246.