Board of Regents discuss UA changes

“It’s about leadership and collaboration. We must focus on the students and listen to the students, even when they burst our bubble. When we think that we have it nailed, and then talk to a group of students, and they say, ‘No, that’s not where we are at. That was 10 years ago,’ we must listen,” said University of Alaska President Pat Gamble at last week’s Board of Regents meeting in Juneau.

Gamble is referring to the University of Alaska system’s Strategic Directive Initiative, or SDI.

“SDI is about collaboration,” he says. “Collaboration means incentive.”

For the university, this means building a reputation and creating an environment that nourishes both student values and academic satisfaction. In order for the university to be successful at this goal, Gamble says the university needs to create attraction, and that attraction is the incentive.

“Take service, and make it a watchword,” Gamble said. “That’s what creates retention. Retention creates enrollment, and enrollment goes to the bottom line.”

The University of Alaska system is currently in stage 3 of its Strategic Directive Initiative. The SDI seeks to change and improve the culture of the University of Alaska system and make strides to “Shape Alaska’s Future” by 2017, which is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the School of Agriculture and School of Mines, which eventually morphed into present-day University of Alaska.

According to the Shaping Alaska’s Future website, one of the “guiding principles” of the SDI “is about making our culture more focused on continuous improvement, especially with respect to student success and service to students.”

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Students, staff, faculty and alumni are all welcome to participate in helping the university meet these goals. There have been 80 listening sessions, and there is an online survey that can be taken to assist the university in finding where there are problems that need to be addressed.

At present, the results of the listening sessions and surveys have yielded five key areas of improvement: student achievement and attainment, productive partnerships with Alaska schools, productive partnerships with public entities and private industries, research and development to sustain Alaska’s communities and economic growth, and accountability to the people of Alaska.

Many improvements have already been put into practice and have had positive results. Student credit load has increased, which is making a difference in the six-year graduation rate for baccalaureate degree-seeking students.

“The more credits a student takes, the most likely they are to finish their degrees,” says Board of Regents Vice President Kirk Wickersham.

Graduation rates for students pursuing associate or certificate degree programs is flat.

“The reason is, we budgeted money for an increase in baccalaureate advising, and that budget has already gone into affect,” Wickersham said.

He also says the university has a budget to increase advising for associate and certificate programs, but that budget has yet to be initiated. Once this budget is initiated, the university expects to see an increase in graduation for those programs as well.

After reviewing 64 academic programs, the university decided to suspend or teach out nine of them, which means all teaching positions for these programs will eventually be dissipated. Suspension means no new students may enroll in the program, and the university will be looking into better course materials and accreditation for that particular program.

The University of Alaska system is working on improving distance and e-learning opportunities for students in rural areas. It has also partnered with the Alaska Learning Network, whose mission is to make education more accessible. AKLN is a district-to-district program that involves 54 different school districts in Alaska and has a six-member board of school superintendents.

AKLN’s goals are to create a rigorous and creative curriculum, expand programs of study and dual enrollment, increase professional development for educators and expand on educational partnership.

An initiative was brought before the board to raise tuition by 3 percent, which would mean a $6 increase per credit hour for undergraduate credits and an increase of $12 per credit hour for graduate credits, and would be implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. This raise in tuition would bring the school $1.3 million in revenue, but it would only be one-third of the school’s operating cost. The board will vote on the tuition raise Nov. 6 in Anchorage.

Regents passed the decision onto UA President Pat Gamble to implement differential tuition for the School of Management in Fairbanks, in order to help with rising tuition costs for that program. The Board of Regents passed a motion to vote on this proposal during the next meeting, stating the dean neglected to give them more information about this motion.

Development has raised more money during Fiscal Year 13 than in years past. A total of $17 million has been raised.

Human Resources plans to address the issue of bullying among staff and faculty by implementing anti-bullying training. This training would assist supervisors to recognize bullying before getting a complaint. Human Resources is also working on implementing a hotline for staff to anonymously report bullying and other issues where reporters wish to remain anonymous.

Agenda items for the next Board of Regents meeting include the Arctic Region Computing Center, Capital Budgeting, SB241 and the Teacher Equality report.

The board approved (Source: Kate Ripley, UA Public Affairs):

  • The UAA campus Master Plan.
  • An amendment to the UAF campus master plan to allow a solar aray installation and subsequent request for proposals for the project.
  • An Associate of Applied Science degree, physical therapy assistant, at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
  • An Associate of Science degree at UAS.
  • A $10 million debt issue for UAF for partial funding of the engineering building, currently under construction.
  • A schematic design for the UAF animal quarters facility relocation.
  • A one-year agreement between UA and the 10-member Fairbanks Fire Fighters Union at UAF.



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