UAA suspends chemistry degree program enrollment

Last month, the College of Arts and Sciences announced it will suspend the admission of new students into the chemistry degree program at UAA based on fiscal challenges and a shortage of faculty. The program has approximately 90 students enrolled, and the university is taking steps to ensure all enrolled chemistry students will be given a fair chance to complete their degrees at UAA despite the suspension.

“The College of Arts and Sciences made a commitment to help students graduate — to offer the classes that they still need to get down the finish line,” said David House, an academic adviser for the CAS Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.

Despite a few classes that will be phased out over time, the program suspension will not affect the chemistry classes required for other degree programs.

“There’s no plan to suspend or quit those permanently at all, because those are all GERs or other programs require them,” said lab coordinator Adeline Schlabaugh. “So all of the 100-level classes plus the organic sequence plus the biochem sequence, all of that’s supposed to just go on as usual.”

The CAS Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences emailed users subscribed to the chemistry student Listserv Dec. 16, announcing informational meetings that would “provide accurate information, discuss ways in which the college will assist (students) in mapping out a degree completion plan and answer any questions (they) may have” regarding the suspension.

The meetings were held last Monday and Tuesday. Those who were unable to physically attend had the option to call into each meeting session via phone. Despite this option, few students attended.

“There was only about 20 or 30 people that showed up,” said Rachel Lee, CAS’s administrative assistant for social media and graduate affairs in math and natural sciences.

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To bring absentees up to speed, video footage of each meeting is available online. Lee said technical difficulties prevented her from posting the video last week, but it is now available to view on the UAA Chemistry Department webpage.

In addition to viewing the video, House advises chemistry students who are unable to make the meetings to visit an academic adviser in person, because each person’s academic situation may require a different approach for degree completion.

He said fellow academic adviser Deborah Duricka is organizing a project to create groups of students that have a similar sequence of classes remaining to complete their chemistry degrees, which will help keep course enrollment numbers consistent. Fred Rainey, associate dean of the CAS Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, says the department has a master spreadsheet logging which courses each student has yet to take. Department advisers use this information to suggest which classes a student should take next.

While this enrollment management gives each student a chance to attempt each required class, House cannot guarantee that all students will be able to repeat failed courses along the way.

“If you’re one of the last few students (finishing a chemistry degree) and you fail a class, you might not be able to graduate because they’re not going to run a class with two people,” House said. “You just can’t do it. No college will.”

Despite the suspension, Rainey said the chemistry program may reactivate in the future, depending on a few factors such as upcoming prioritization decisions.

“When economic times are better and maybe after the prioritization results are implemented, then the university might be in a situation that we (can) invest in some of those (suspended) programs,” Rainey said.

For more information about the chemistry program suspension, and to watch the informational video regarding the change, visit UAA’s Chemistry Department webpage at http://http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/chemistry/.