Public Affairs

System News Releases

For Immediate Release
July 28, 2015

University of Alaska Names Johnsen President

With a unanimous vote of all regents participating, the University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents appointed Dr. James R. Johnsen as the 14th president of the UA system. The vote took place during a special meeting of the board on July 28.

Johnsen, a former University of Alaska executive, currently serves as Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Process Transformation at Alaska Communications. Johnsen will succeed Patrick K. Gamble effective September 1, 2015. Gamble announced his retirement in December 2014 and in April agreed to extend his resignation date to the end of August to allow sufficient time for the Board of Regents to conduct a thorough review before making a final decision.

“Dr. Johnsen is an experienced and thoughtful leader with diverse experience in higher education, government, and business. Earlier this month, during visits to UA’s three main campuses, he demonstrated that he listens and solicits input from the campus community, speaking with 32 groups representing faculty, staff, students, alumni and interested community members,” said board chair Jo Heckman. “We asked for UA constituents to provide feedback and were very pleased with the responses.”

 “It is humbling to be entrusted with the presidency of Alaska’s State university system. I intend to bring a passionate commitment to the importance of our colleges and universities, a strong personal belief in the power of education to transform lives, and the understanding that excellence and diversity are inextricably linked to our core mission. I certainly promise to do my best to live up to the university’s highest ideals in serving our people and our state. I will work with the university’s many stakeholders to expand access and affordability, drive cost effectiveness and promote academic excellence in everything we do,” Johnsen said.

The new president’s contract is for five years and provides for an annual salary of $325,000 for the duration of the contract.  An annual performance bonus of up to $75,000 will be tied to mutually-agreed upon metrics which are to be determined by September 30. Those performance standards will be communicated to university stakeholders and the public. 

Board chair Heckman shared the board’s rationale for determining Johnsen’s compensation, “The base salary is comparable to what the current president receives. The board spent considerable time discussing the need to meet some very challenging goals to ensure an efficient, redefined university that is positioned to meet the expectations and needs of Alaskans in the face of general fund reductions and a rapidly evolving higher education environment. A performance bonus will not be given unless the goals we establish are met.” 

The new president has committed to travel to all 16 University of Alaska campuses during his first year. He plans to listen to all those who are involved with or who are interested in the University and sharing ideas for how to strengthen it in tough fiscal times. 

A broad-based search advisory committee made up of regents, faculty, students, staff and community members reviewed the resumes of twenty-four applicants generated by a national search. Four candidate names were forwarded to the full Board of Regents earlier this year, one of whom withdrew in June. After interviewing the recommended applicants, the Board determined that Dr. Johnsen was by far the best suited to lead UA during the current challenging times, but also felt it was important to hear stakeholder feedback. Thorough consideration was given to comments generated from 32 meetings involving faculty, staff, students, alumni and the public in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks.

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For more information: Kate Wattum, Asst. Director SW Office of Public Affairs, kate.wattum@alaska.edu 907-450-8104
Photo: http://www.alaska.edu/files/opa/Johnsen-Jim.jpgResume: http://www.alaska.edu/bor/presidential-search/candidate/

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