UA Update: UA President Jim Johnsen resigns

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

The University of Alaska, or UA, Board of Regents confirmed UA President Jim Johnsen’s resignation by email on June 22. The board accepted his resignation, which will go into effect on July 1.

“You know we are in a place where we have to change and we have to transform the university, data shows that presidents of universities average around six years, President Johnsen was coming on his fifth year and so we are looking at the next five to ten years and how we transform the university, so it’s timely for this transition to be happening,” Board of Regents Chair Sheri Buretta said in a KTUU interview.

Jim Johnsen was appointed by the UA Board
of Regents to serve as UA president in July
of 2015. Photo courtesy of the UA website.

Vice President Michelle Rizk will be acting as president until an interim president can be appointed, according to a June 22 email. Rizk has had a 22-year career at UA and currently serves as the university’s Vice President of Relations, Chief Budget and Strategy Officer, and as the system liaison for facilities and land management. An interim president is expected to be appointed by July 15 once the board consults with the chancellors, according to the June email.

“While we understand that a change in leadership can be unsettling, we are confident this decision, though difficult, is the correct one for the university,” according to the board’s June 22 email. “We ask that all of you throughout the university community recognize that the state and university’s current fiscal situation requires significant change, and that to thrive, UA must come together to address our significant challenges. We must move forward and work together to address these challenges.”

Prior to his resignation, Johnsen was criticized for being under consideration for a president position at the Wisconsin University system, according to Anchorage Daily News’ June 12 article. He rescinded his application after students, faculty and staff in Wisconsin signed a petition to conduct a new search for the presidency. A previous petition in Alaska also called for Johnsen’s resignation following academic program cuts.

UAA Chancellor Sandeen assured the UA community that she is committed to ensuring that the universities remain strong and have bright futures in a June 23 message from the Chancellor. For more information and updates on Johnsen’s resignation visit the UA Board of Regents website.