Installation brings community together at UAA

Dr. Elaine Maimon was officially installed as the university’s chancellor Feb. 5 as part of the Next 50 Years celebration. She said she feels a lot was accomplished in UAA’s first 50 years but there is still more to come for the future.

“I accepted the position because I saw that UAA was a place that was really ready for transformative change,” Maimon said before the ceremony.

Maimon’s goal to create a university of higher education promises to bring this change. A key element of her vision is making student success the center of everything, from the time they enroll throughout their education.

Maimon’s second key goal is to make the university equivalent to a public square.

“The public square means that the university and the community are fully connected,” Maimon said, citing the Science for Alaska Lecture Series as a perfect example of the public square concept.

UAA was a setting for public discourse where faculty did not lecture, they listened to students and community members to find solutions to problems that affect the public.

“A university is a public square when it is not simply located in its community but is an essential part of its community,” Maimon said during her speech at the installation.

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Chancellor Emeritus Edward Gorsuch said he was delighted when Maimon was selected as his successor because of her emphasis on the relationship between the university and the community. Maimon’s success will depend on if students, faculty and committee members feel comfortable coming to her with their goals, Gorsuch said.

“If there’s a solid trusting relationship and those people aren’t embarrassed about sharing their dreams with one another, it has enormous potential to mobilize everybody in a pursuit of what’s possible,” Gorsuch said.

One of Maimon’s first projects was to develop TV commercials let the public know about the university’s housing options and variety of majors.

“It helps you when you have a UAA degree if people have it in their mind; Oh, yeah… Wow, UAA!” Maimon said.

Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman said he believes UAA has a rich heritage because of its roots as a community college. Even Leman’s daughter attends UAA.

“It has become increasingly the institution of choice,” Leman said during his speech.

Cassie Iutzi-Mitchell, a junior at UAA, said she is excited to see the university become the first choice for nonresidents.

“(Maimon’s speech) definitely made me feel that this was an institution worth attending,” added junior Reem Sheikh.

Some partnerships Maimon mentioned in her speech are already underway. This summer, those retired from Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base will have the opportunity to complete a fast-track education program that will allow them to teach in public schools next August while they continue to take classes at UAA.

Maimon said it is important that UAA breaks boundaries and barriers between colleges, faculty, students and the community. She said she realizes that change is hard and through communication wants to ensure that UAA is excited to move forward in new ways.

Sophomore Luke Thomas said he is glad to see UAA become a nationally-known university. He said he was surprised that Maimon already adopted Alaska as her home and had a vision for it.

Maimon said she doesn’t just want UAA to be recognized, she wants to put Anchorage on the map in a new way.

“I would challenge you to name a great city that lacks a great university. UAA is Anchorage’s public university, and together we will develop Anchorage as the great Pacific Rim city it is destined to be,” Maimon said.