Presidential finalists interact with the community

The presidents had a chance Tuesday to hear from UAA stakeholders. Luckily, they seemed ready for it.

Deep into their second day of meetings with students, faculty, staff the three candidates had a chance to meet one-on-one with the public at large in the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center.

At one point Alaska Railroad Corporation and President and CEO Patrick Gamble began to address the issue of resource allocations to the multiple universities before the question was even posed.

“I know you’re going to ask me, so I’m just going to tell you now,” Gamble said.

The turnout was lighter than expected, and instead of using the three reserved rooms, the 11 or so people who came each had an intimate, 45-minute question and answer session with each candidate.

Moderated by Regent Mary K. Hughes, candidate Lisa Rossbacher started the night off, pulling a chair up in front of the speaker’s podium. Each candidate gave the audience a brief introduction before taking questions.

Several people from the Kenai Peninsula Community College were in attendance. They asked Rossbacher and other candidates how they would deal with the growing extension campuses around the state.

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Rossbacher said that while her university didn’t have a system with as many extended campuses as UA, her current position at Southern Polytechnic State University allows her to work with multiple universities and campuses across the state of Georgia.

She also received questions on coming from out of state. Of the three candidates, she is the only one who has not lived in Alaska.

Rossbacher, cited extensive travel “above 60 degrees” working as a geologist. She said that after years in places like Finland, she was used to “lots of dark during the winter and lots of daylight during the summer.”

Rossbacher has also visited Alaska four times before.

Tina Neal studied with Rossbacher’s husband in the 1980s. She came to the reception to not only reconnect with Rossbacher, but to hear what the other candidates had to say.

She thinks that who ever takes over will have a serious challenge ahead of them.

“It boils down to resources. It’s going to be tougher and tougher without increasing fees,” she said. “Looking for ways to bring in funding are going to be important.”

UAS chancellor John Pugh followed. Unlike Rossbacher, Pugh has lived in Alaska for the last 40 years. He said the main reason he want to be president of the university is that he wants to see more Alaskans go on to higher education.

When asked about the inclusion of community campuses Pugh cited the close relationships between UAS and their extension campuses in Sitka and Ketchikan. He also talked about how the UAS school of education is all delivered via distance education courses. While the courses have been successful, he said that you have to be careful to strike a balance between offering traditional teaching methods and the distanced based ones.

“People still want face to face interaction,” Pugh said. “Studies have shown that a big part of the higher education is the socialization of young people. “

He also answered questions about the importance of Alumni. He said that at UAS he saw the alumni association passed around. After revamping it he saw more involvement, something he thinks is important in increasing the amount of donations coming in.

“Here 30 percent (of donations) comes from people, 70 percent comes from corporations.” Pugh said. “We need to change that.

The last candidate to speak was Gamble. He quickly addressed the thinnest part of his resume.

“I’m going to tell you why that’s not important,” Gamble said.

He then explained his background as an Air Force general and experience with the Alaska Railroad. While in those positions he said that it was important to surround himself with highly educated people.

He also discussed how the core relationship at the university is the faculty to the student. He discussed that the statewide system should do little to meddle with that.

He also discussed that as the state economy changes education may be facing big cuts.

“To get through that period will be one heck of a challenge,” he said.

But he said that his credibility in Juneau and Washington D.C. will help as the university faces challenges from the legislature.

“If I can walk in as an A-political guy and talk about how to work things out, that’s what I want to do.”

The Regents will be discussing the candidates at their March 15 meeting in Dillingham. After a candidate is the selected, the next president will be announced.

The Board of Regents is looking for feedback. A form can be found online. The form can be either e-mailed to [email protected] faxed, or mailed.