An alternative to Strategic Pathways

A new vision for the University of Alaska has been proposed by UAF neuroscience professor, Abel Bult-Ito. He calls it an alternative to the infamous Strategic Pathways.

Bult-Ito’s plan proposes an administrative restructuring of the University of Alaska system to strengthen the academic mission of research, teaching and service while reducing and eliminating administrative functions that are not directly correlated to his end goal.

The mission of Bult-Ito’s alternative is to raise the academic and research standing of the UA system, to increase student enrollment, retention and degree completion, also to increase research grants and contracts by investing in new tenure-track and research support, academic support staff and new tuition scholarships. This plan is estimated to generate over $900 million of additional revenue in a 10-year time period without any additional costs to the University of Alaska or the State of Alaska.

The planned restructuring includes condensing the UA Statewide office from about 150 positions to 60. This would include administration positions in the faculty and staff at the three UA campuses; University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast.

There will be an estimated 198 staff and faculty positions eliminated from the UA system by the end of year three. Some of these employees may be placed in new academic programs or departments.

Despite the impact that these reductions will make on current employees, Bult-Ito is determined to positively influence future revenue. He trusts that our state university system will function well without an expanded system-wide office.

The savings that this plan will accumulate are predicted to be reinvested in 72 new tenure-track and 101 new STEM research faculty members, 31 new teaching and research staff and roughly 450 new tuition scholarships. The revenue to be gained within these departments will significantly impact the state-wide system as a whole.

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The 10-year plan is projected to bring in additional revenues including tuition, which will exceed $104.3 million, tuition scholarship funds will exceed $35.3 million and research revenues will exceed $813.6 million. This amounts to a total exceeding $918 million, which is envisioned to be spent on UA, the State of Alaska and local communities.

Bult-Ito has been a professor of neurobiology and anatomy at UAF for 18 years and has been notably involved in research management at UA and in STEM fields. He believes that the faculty and academic research support staff are the core of the UA administration and that teaching students the concept of research is more than crucial to advance a functioning academia.

“This is just a plan, it’s not set in stone. It’s like an open document,” Bult-Ito said. “I realize it’s highly conservative, it’s because I don’t want to be too aggressive.”

Bult-Ito is confident that pursuing his alternative plan is the answer to future success both academically and financially for the University of Alaska.

“We are reinvesting in our university and reinvesting in our students. Just imagine what we can do with a positive student-centered approach like this. We have to be committed to the students first,” Bult-Ito said during his on-campus presentation, Wednesday, Nov. 2.

The Board of Regents have discussed Bult-Ito’s alternative, but continue to support the Strategic Pathways framework. Roberta Graham, a representative of the UA Board of Regents considers Strategic Pathways as the most effective option in increasing enrollment, reducing costs and improving quality.

“The regents have put their support behind Strategic Pathways as the initiative that will best serve the university. The regents would prefer that Dr. Bult-Ito work in concert with President Jim Johnsen with the regent-approved Strategic Pathways model, but appreciate his energy in seeking a prosperous University of Alaska,” Graham said.

Although Abel Bult-Ito’s alternative plan challenges Strategic Pathways — and UA President Jim Johnsen — Bult-Ito admits to continually reaching out to university administration and Johnsen himself to gain their support, but has been rejected. Bult-Ito expressed that although he did not receive an invite to the next Board of Regents meeting, he will be attending anyway. He feels passionately that the system has to collaborate and come together for this plan to bring success to the universities.

Bult-Ito has set up an accessible petition for UA students, staff and any other supporters to contribute in spreading his alternative 10-year proposal. He demands a new vision for the University of Alaska.

You can sign the petition and learn more information about A New Vision for the University of Alaska at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/543/762/046/demand-a-new-vision-for-the-university-of-alaska/