UA Strategic Pathways introduces Phase Three

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

University of Alaska administration is currently working on implementing the third and final phase of Strategic Pathways.

The Strategic Pathways system involves the review, implementation and revisitation of methods to ensure that all UA programs support mission goals, are of high quality, are cost effective and enhance the student experience, according to University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen.

“Strategic Pathways is the process we are going through to understand how we can organize the University of Alaska to more effectively meet the state’s higher education needs while our budget is being cut,” Johnsen said.

Strategic Pathways focuses on adjusting and improving the University of Alaska through the statewide budget crisis.

Each of the three phases are analyzed by review teams, who present pros and cons of the process to the UA Summit Team. Johnsen takes the information presented and introduces it to the Board of Regents, who ultimately have the final say.

After each phase is approved by the Board of Regents and university administration, implementation teams establish goals, timelines and further details to best apply the strategies to the university.

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Over 250 faculty, staff, students and community members have served on review teams and have come up with over 100 options in 22 administrative and academic areas.

Phase Three aims to achieve better coordination and leveraging in the social and natural sciences, arts and humanities and mine training academic programs. Administrative services such as finance, land and risk management and university facilities will also be of focus.

John Davies, vice-chair of the UA Board of Regents believes that the university will benefit from this long-term assessment of priorities, but only on the suggested 10-year timeline.

“This process can impact the decisions about how to allocate the near term budget cuts made by the legislature, but it is a longer term in focus and would better be implemented with more time to plan than is allowed by the necessity to deal with yearly budget cuts,” Davies said.

Sine Anahita, professor of sociology at UAF, says she has “faith” in Strategic Pathways.

“Strategic Pathways has identified the necessity to gather data about costs and benefits of changes, and drives us to make decisions based on data, not untested assumptions,” Anahita said. “Strategic Pathways has encouraged [members of the university] to be creative, both in designing the process and in determining the outcomes and the implementation.”

Anahita believes that the proposed methods in Strategic Pathways have great potential to improve the University of Alaska in the near future.

“I think that Phase One got off to a rocky start, where participants in the teams were mandated to secrecy. President Johnsen has indicated his willingness to improve the process at every step of the way, and Phase Two was much improved,” Anahita said.

Strategic Pathways provides potential benefits such as identification of areas for cost reduction and process improvement through collaboration, consolidation, outsourcing and automation. It also ensures a look at Statewide Administration.

Although Statewide has taken deeper cuts than the university overall, Johnsen believes there are always opportunities to improve support services to the campuses.

“[Strategic Pathways] is a process that brings people together to develop and suggest options for strengthening how we serve our students and our state during tough times,” Johnsen said.

Options involved in Phase Three were presented to the Summit Team on April 11, and will soon be reviewed by the Board of Regents. Feedback meetings will continue to take place through September, while President Johnsen says the implementation is expected to take place in the fall.