University Center: Reconnecting

The University of Alaska Anchorage offices at the University Center Mall are slowly making their way to the main campus, reconnecting students, staff and faculty with the main campus.

Located about two miles from the main campus at 3901 Old Seward Highway, the offices house a variety of departments and student services, including Enrollment Services, the WOLFcard offices, Financial Aid Services, the Advising and Testing Center, the Community and Technical College, or CTC, and the Engineering, Science and Project Management department.

UAA entrance to the University Center office. A sign above the University Center that says UAA University Center. Offices are located on Old Seward Highway.
Located at 3901 Old Seward Highway, the University Center is a one-stop service center for student needs. Photo by Jason Herr.

Though much attention has been focused on the fiscal needs of the University of Alaska and UAA, the benefits of this move go beyond money, and restore stronger connections between students, staff and faculty.

At a meeting of the UA Board of Regents Facilities and Land Management Committee on May 30, a recommendation was given to pursue the option of leasing and eventual de-acquisition of the UAA office space within the University Center.

The move will relocate the various offices back to the main campus, allowing for money to be saved and for the offices to be closer to students. 

Planning is key, and it is important to minimize the impact of the move on students as much as possible, according to Ryan Buchholdt, the director of sustainability for UAA Facilities and Campus Services. 

“We want to make it so that students don’t necessarily have to go to 12 different locations to get something done,” Buchholdt said. “One of the values of the student services currently at the University Center is there really is one stop in order to access the services that you need.”

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Though the University Center is fortunate to currently have space for a one-stop location, finding a similar location will be difficult on campus, according to Buchholdt.

“We don’t want to chop them up and move them to different places around campus, and then make it so students have to walk everywhere in order to get the work they need done, and there’s not a lot of options for locations to put all that,” Buchholdt said.

Though money and fiscal matters are a concern in a time where the overall budget is uncertain, the benefits of the move go beyond money saved.

“One of the big strategic goals is student success, and part of that is ensuring easy access for students to get the services they need,” Buchholdt said.

A few offices have already moved to the main campus, and have felt their connections to the campus reforged. This past spring semester, the office of Denise Renge, the Dean of the Community and Technical College, moved to room 214 in the Social Sciences Building.

The move has been integral in reconnecting with the main campus, according to Renge.

“It’s huge for us. Even though our name is the Community and Technical College, about half of our students are pursuing a baccalaureate degree in everything from construction management, safety and health, aviation technology and hospitality administration,” Renge said.

So far, only the Dean’s office and staff that supports the CTC have moved, but the move has already shown changes in establishing connections. The programs offered by the Community and Technical College will benefit from the proximity to other programs offered at the main campus.

“Frankly, our students miss the connection opportunity. For instance, a lot of our programs just naturally connect with engineering, when our students graduate they are going to be working with engineers every day,” Renge said.

Renge is positive about the move, for both her offices and for CTC students.

The move back to the main campus is necessary to maintain a relationship with the student population, and access to financial services is a vital piece of promoting student success, according to Lora Volden, the vice chancellor of enrollment services.

“We do a ‘we miss you’ survey every semester to find out why our students stop, why aren’t they continuing to work towards that dream of getting a certificate or a degree,” Volden said. “The number one reason, repeatedly, is financial reasons for why they stop out.”

Enrollment Services oversees several programs, such as the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, the Registrar’s Office, Military and Veteran’s Student Support Services, International Student Support Services and National Student Exchange Services. Students will have contact with at least one of these entities during their time at UAA. By moving, these services become more accessible.

“I think [moving is] really important. You think about these areas, to me these are core student services. These are ways that most individuals interact with the university,” Volden said.

Having the offices off campus, students are sometimes burdened by trips between the two locations.

“We see it all the time, students are constantly going back and forth between us and the main campus. We’re almost two miles off of where they are taking classes and where they are doing the rest of their interactions. It’s just not a good way to serve your students,” Volden said.

During student orientations, Enrollment Services is represented by a table at Howl Days, as the University Center is too far to be part of the introduction to the university.

“I think if we were right there, it gets a little harder for students and for others to forget about us, so we don’t become out of sight out of mind. We become part of that integrated student experience,” Volden said.

Volden is excited for the return of her offices to the main campus.

“To me, it’s always about the students, and what I love, is that I really believe my staff is all about the students,” Volden said.

By removing a distance of two miles, the relocation of the University Center offices brings the campus community much closer.