Letter from the Chancellor: Looking forward

Some memories stick with you. For me, one of those memories begins as I’m sitting in an airplane taking off from Ted Stevens International Airport, having just finished my campus interview at University of Alaska Anchorage. I looked at the mountains and ocean, and I did not feel like I was departing from a short trip to a new city, I felt like I was departing my home. I was hit by a major revelation that I was meant to be at UAA. I know that UAA is where I want to be because I know that it’s where I can make the greatest impact.

There is a growing trend throughout the U.S. education system. In regions, like Alaska, where factors such as declining birthrates and migration predict significant declines in university enrollment, urban/metropolitan universities are thriving.

Urban/metropolitan universities are located in highly populated areas and commercial centers. They were initially safety schools and commuter schools but, in these select regions, they have become first choice schools.

They provide open access with a focus on student success and serving diverse populations. They offer relevant degree programs, credentials and skills that serve current and emerging workforce needs. They focus on community service and applied research activity to stay connected and socially embedded in their communities.

Examples of these kinds of universities include University of Texas San Antonio, Portland State University, University of Nevada Las Vegas and, proudly, the University of Alaska Anchorage.

UAA is located in Alaska’s largest population center and is open to anyone seeking greater opportunity through education. We have a relentless focus on student success and it has paid off. UAA increased standard completion of bachelor of arts degrees by 6% in one year.

The programs offered by UAA (ranging from credentials and certificates to Ph.D.s) are relevant to what our city and state workforce needs. We graduate the largest number of students in health care, engineering, business and management, social sciences, hospitality, aviation and diesel mechanics.

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The degree programs we offer are a direct bridge to UAA’s commitment to community and social responsibility. Programs like the Surgical Technology program, which was created in partnership with (and funded by) local healthcare leaders, help fill community needs. Our nursing program delivers degrees to Alaskans here in Anchorage and, as the University of Alaska’s lead university for health education, we provide our programs in locations across the state.

Other examples of UAA community partnerships are the UAA Institute of Social and Economic Research, which is at the forefront of public policy research and often the first place that elected officials turn when they need data to support law and policy, and the ConocoPhillips Arctic Science and Engineering Endowment, an $11 million endowment that supports research projects that directly benefit our state.

Because of projects like these and UAA’s dedication to community service (Seawolf Athletes alone donate over 2,700 hours of community service every year), UAA was recently commended by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities for its community engagement.

UAA is not the “ivory tower,” it never has been. We are proud of who we are, a university of place. UAA is accessible, engaged and connected and we care about our communities, region and state. Our people embody our mission and we are positioned to do even more in the future. I invite you to share the greatness that I have come to see at UAA. Attend one of the many open events on campus, use our library, hire a graduate, support a scholarship or take a class. That is what attracted me to UAA from my first campus interview. I took the job and I haven’t looked back.