As of July 1, Samuel Gingerich has stepped into a temporary role of interim chancellor, all while continuing service in previous roles as provost and executive vice chancellor. Gingerich has been at the University since 2015 when he accepted a then-temporary position as provost and executive vice chancellor. When he first came to Alaska, it was as a retiree, while his wife Erin Holmes joined the UAA community as associate vice provost of Institutional Research.
Gingerich said his main goal while serving as the interim chancellor is to propel the University forward and help new leadership in their transition process.
“One of my jobs is to sort of manage the institution forward, to lead the institution forward, so that when the individual selected shows up, I can, if I may, help with the transition as need and as desired, and then I can peacefully and gracefully go away,” Gingerich said.
Before coming to Alaska, Gingerich had served in several other academic affairs positions. While he was at Mesa State College, now Colorado Mesa University, he served in a similar position to UAA’s Interim Chancellor but as interim president and vice president of Academic Affairs. He has also served as vice president of Academic Affairs for college systems or universities in South Dakota and Mississippi. Gingerich said his experiences with other institutions similar to UAA will help him in his current position.
“Having lived and worked in the Lower 48 for a long time, I do understand the challenges of leading institutions through periods of declining resources… Too often when there are few resources people start focusing solely on cutting… No organization has ever cut itself to success,” Gingerich said. “The challenge is to focus on priorities. Institutions, organizations must be willing to make strategic investments, because we need to be building towards or building forward to something.”
Gingerich said he has been committed to education, informally or formally for the majority of his life. When former Chancellor Tom Case announced his retirement, Gingerich said he did not want to create a vacuum in leadership at UAA, but instead he wanted to help the institution during this transition.
“UAA as an institution does face challenges, but we have strengths we can call on and we need to continue to focus on quality in all we do. We need to focus on supporting and promoting student success, and we need to continue to focus on making sure we are in tune with the needs of the Alaskan region,” Gingerich said.
Though he’s made a career out of academic affairs, Gingerich’s background is in chemistry. He has a bachelor’s degree from Goshen College, a masters from Cornell University and a doctorate from Montana State University, all in chemistry. Gingerich said his chemistry background has helped him interpret and communicate numbers in a way that can be useful to a university.
“It’s the skill set that comes from chemistry or physics that is critical,” Gingerich said. “We can look at numbers or other indicators, and then we make up stories and that’s what we are trained to do and that’s what we sort of do as administrators… One of my skills that’s been important here at UAA, because given the sudden sharp change in the fiscal status of the state and the system and of UAA, it’s that ability to talk about numbers, to use numbers.”
After a new chancellor is appointed, Gingerich said he is open in helping however needed in the transition process, but that he came to Alaska to fish. In his retirement he hopes to catch both a grayling and an Arctic char.