Meet the Provost: James Chapman, Ph. D

The desk of University of Alaska Anchorage Provost James Chapman faces the impressive and protecting Chugach Mountains. Scattered about his office are personal guardians: a gargoyle statue, a leprechaun and a statue of Apollo, the Greek god of reason and good judgment.

Chapman, who holds a doctorate in higher education, was hired as UAA's new provost in mid-August. He said he was excited to join the administration because, he says, UAA is community oriented, diverse and technologically sound. “This university is on the forefront of what I would call the new American university. It's a really exciting place to be,” Chapman said.

Chapman is fond of UAA because it is a public university. He says he feels like it is engaged in its community and he likes that it has such an urban feel.

“You are not going to find a nicer group of people than what we've run into here,” Chapman said. He and his wife were able came to Alaska together in June. Before coming north they worked at separate universities hours apart. His wife is now on leave and is able to be with Chapman here in Anchorage.

“That was very important to us,” he said.

Chapman worked in administrative positions at the University of Kentucky for 27 years before becoming president of Shawnee State University in Ohio three years ago. “It was time to make a change,” Chapman said.

Chapman had never been to Alaska and is impressed by its beauty.

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On a recent flight from Fairbanks he was able to reflect on the landscape below. He said that he enjoyed the aesthetic environment of shadows on the mountains and the beauty of the water when landing in Anchorage.

“It is a great adventure,” he said.

Chapman received his Ph.D. in Higher Education from Indiana University in 1972. He also received a Master of Arts in Classical Languages and Literature and a Master of Science in Education and College Student Personnel Administration from IU. Chapman obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Languages and Literature at St. Meinrad College of Theology in Indiana.

He studied for the priesthood early in his academic career. His college was stricter than UAA, he says, all he could do was study and play basketball.

“It was a very stringent time, Chapman said. “What I got out of it was a chance to do some reflection.”

Chapman says he learned the value of campus life and having the chance to interact with people and talk one-on-one.

“For learning to take place, you have to have transmission of information, interaction and reflection,” he said.

Chapman unloaded boxcars in the summer. He says it wasn't a pressing job and gave time to think. All he did was grab and stack boards and reflect on his life.

“My goal in life is to try and understand who I am,” he said.

After receiving his master's degrees, Chapman went into the army medical service corp. As a captain in the army he went to Vietnam, leaving his new bride at home. He saw the conflict first hand as the chief of supply and services at area hospitals. Chapman said that he saw a great camaraderie develop.

“It was a very good experience if you came out unscathed,” he said. It also had traumatic experiences that stay with you all of your life.”

Chapman faces new challenges as UAA's provost. He says five of the eight academic units that report to him are “losing their leadership,” due to retirements. He is tackling the job by meeting with faculty and staff. He says some of the staff asked him to have the search committee look in Alaska first.

“That makes sense,” he said. “We really want people who will be happy here and stay here.”

Chapman would like to see the university improve its communications. He says he would like to work on making sure UAA is more accessible to the entire state.

“This university has a good solid base, its got a lot of potential and seems to be moving forward.”