At the beginning of 2017’s fall semester, a new strategic plan for the university, UAA 2020, was introduced. The goals defined in this plan are now being implemented.
The 2020 initiative is replacing UAA 2017, the university’s previous 10-year plan. UAA 2020 is set up for a shorter time period with goals made to be “appropriately ambitious and achievable,” according to the mission statement.
The core values named in the university’s statement include student success, excellence, access and affordability.
Academic advising has been named as a vital factor to student success by the initiative, especially during the first years at college. The UAA 2020 plan is aiming to improve in this area.
Ariana Davis, health sciences major, is currently starting her second semester at UAA. She was dissatisfied with the advising she received for the fall semester. Davis felt that the students’ academic concerns were not taken into account sufficiently.
Now, she is hoping for issues in this area to be resolved by the university.
“It is definitely important for UAA to pay attention to academic advising,” Davis said.
A major change currently taking place is the shift of Tier 1 general education requirements from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Community and Technical College.
Tier 1 GERs include the basic college-level skill courses in oral communication, quantitative, and written communication skills. The UAA 2020 initiative has identified the mastering of these courses as a fundamental premise for succeeding in undergraduate study.
Within the CTC, different units such as the Writing Center or the Math Emporium are offered to support students in their academic development. The Tier 1 GERs are now being shifted to the CTC.
It is expected that this process will be completed by the beginning of the 2018 fall semester.
A new advising program is being developed, led by Claudia Lampman, the vice provost for Student Success. This program will serve every first-time student, outlining a path they can follow into a major and advising at the college level.
Several departments have already responded to the elements academic advising and other elements of UAA 2020. Eric Murphy, director of the psychology department, is working on integrating the core values introduced by the plan.
“We’ve been able to move the advising closer to the department,” Murphy said. “We interact with [the social sciences advisers] on a regular basis.”
For Murphy, accessibility is another crucial component of student success.
“The main thing with student success is removing unnecessary barriers so that students can persist, eventually get their degree and move on to whatever their next goal is,” Murphy said.
To increase accessibility of specific courses, the psychology department has expanded its online path. Traditional delivery classes will still be taught in the future, but more and more online courses are being offered. This enables a greater number of students to have access to and succeed in UAA’s program.
As the coordinator of the master of sciences program in clinical psychology, Gloria Eldridge is overseeing the implementation of the 2020 goals for graduate psychology students. The psychology professor is also part of the plan’s data collection planning team.
She emphasizes student success both during the time at UAA and after graduation as central elements of the strategic plan.
“We want to get students to get through the program, but the program wouldn’t do them much good if… we weren’t training them for what is the coming occupational workforce demand,” Eldridge said.
Different approaches will be employed to improve on both aspects.
“The first thing we are trying to do is help students to get through the program efficiently by streamlining our course offerings,” Eldridge said. “The second thing we did in terms of student success was looking at what students are facing when they come out of the program.”
In the clinical psychology program Eldridge is coordinating, most students look for one of two special licenses which have different requirements. The objective is to make the process of getting licensed easier for graduating students.
Another major part of the 2020 plan is to produce more, highly qualified graduates to fill Alaska’s high demand job area positions. UAA’s declared goal is to supply 40 percent of all workforce in Alaska by 2020 through preparing a workforce to meet the needs of Alaska.
To implement these goals for the psychology graduate program, Eldridge and her colleagues have focused on mental health workforce development in Alaska. One of the most notable changes is an increasing demand for board certified behavior analysts.
The BCBA is a highly regarded national certification which requires a very specific set of courses and practicum experiences.
“People who are BCBAs are being hired all over the state… but there is nowhere for anybody to get that training in Alaska,” Eldridge said.
Corresponding to the 2020 objectives, Eldridge and her colleagues have begun to change that.
“What we’re doing right now is that we’re changing our master’s degree program, adding in an extra track so that students will also be able to do the BCBA track,” Eldridge said.
The necessary courses have been created by Eldridge and her colleagues to make these changes, and the approval process is underway.
More information about the UAA 2020 plan and the current status of implementation can be found at uaa.alaska.edu/uaa2020.