Capitol Report: Outreach and Engagement Update

Government Relations

The Capitol Report: September 27, 2019

The Government Relations team has been busy engaging state and federal policymakers on behalf of the University of Alaska. With support and assistance from local campuses, we created exciting opportunities for political leaders to observe, engage and experience the important work of our university system. We are pleased to provide this update from a very eventful summer.

Budget & Organizational Update
Governor Dunleavy signed the final FY20 Operating Budget in August, including a three-year budget agreement reached with the University of Alaska. The compact includes a $25 million budget cut this year, and an expected additional $45 million reduction in the next two years. The budget also contained language directing the Board of Regents to study transitioning UA from three separately accredited institutions to one single accredited institution. The intent language instructed the board to provide a report to the Legislature by December 1.
The Regents appointed a special subcommittee of the board to oversee structural reorganization. At their meeting earlier this month, the Regents formed 13 inter-university teams to conduct program reviews across the UA system this fall. You can find out more about this process on the New UA website.

Congressional Recess Brings Washington, D.C. to Alaska
During the congressional recess in August, UA hosted a number of senior federal officials including cabinet members, members of congress and key staff at UA campuses and research sites. Government Relations worked with faculty and staff from all over the system to develop these opportunities. Getting policy makers to Alaska and onto our campuses is a top priority. There is no better way to demonstrate the caliber of our people, programs and assets than through hands-on, direct experience. These visits also build relationships essential to UA’s future. Thank you to everyone who helped us organize these opportunities, and for your personal contributions to this critical component of our year-round advocacy effort.
Secretary of Education Visits UA
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made two visits to the University of Alaska. First, UAA

DeVos visits ANSEP

Chancellor Sandeen and Vice-Provost Herb Schroeder welcomed the Secretary and Senator Dan Sullivan to the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). The Secretary participated in a Q&A session with students attending ANSEP’s high school bridge program, and learned about the innovative program’s success in the area of STEM education.

The Secretary also visited Fairbanks to meet with UA President Jim Johnsen to discuss important issues in higher education.  She participated in a roundtable on workforce development co-hosted by UAF and the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. UAF Chancellor Dan White welcomed the Secretary to campus, and Provost Anupma Prakash co-moderated a dialogue with industry and community stakeholders. The event showcased UA’s important role in career and technical education.

Congressional Delegation comes to UA
Alaska’s congressional delegation made several visits to the university this summer. Senator Lisa

US Array

Murkowski and Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette flew to the west side of Cook Inlet to see the volcano and seismic monitoring stations on Mt. Spurr that are operated by the  Alaska Volcano Observatory at UAF. The organization's network of sensors is a vital part ofgeophysical research and disaster preparedness in Alaska. Thank you to Dr. David Fee for arranging the site visit, and providing context to the Senator and Deputy Secretary regarding our continued advocacy for the U.S. Array network.

Murkowski also traveled to Delta Junction to visit the Mining and Petroleum Training Service’s (MAPTS) facility. The underground facility is a one of a kind training center. The Senator met with students, faculty, and industry partners to see how UA prepares Alaskans for jobs in resource industries. Thank you to MAPTS director Bill Bieber for showcasing this outstanding UA asset, and giving a first-hand look at what UA is doing to meet Alaska’s workforce needs.

Young UAV

Both Senator Murkowski and Congressman Don Young also visited UAF’s Geophysical Institute to learn more about the university’s work in the area unmanned aviation. The tour showcased technology being developed by the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI). The center is one of six FAA test sites for unmanned aircraft systems, and has a special emphasis on Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Thank you to center director Dr. Cathy Cahill for highlighting this cutting-edge research and its numerous applications for government, industry and the scientific community.   

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited Fairbanks in August to hear about air quality and regulatory issues. At the invitation of Senator Dan Sullivan, UAF faculty presented testimony to the EPA at a public meeting on the air quality emissions known as PM 2.5. The testimony helped highlight an issue important to Fairbanks, and how UAF manages its own energy needs through its coal-powered Combined Heat & Power Plant.

Federal Agency and Congressional Engagement
Throughout the summer, the university also hosted a number of informative visits for the Department of Energy, congressional committees, and professional staffers. Here’s a few examples of the good work being done across the UA system to strengthen partnerships with congress and our federal funding partners.

  • UAF welcomed Dr. Chris Fall, Director of the DOE’s Office of Science, for two visits to Alaska to engage with faculty and researchers. Dr. Fall’s office has primary jurisdiction for the U.S. National Laboratories, and plays a major role in the Department of Energy’s research and program funding. Nettie LaBelle-Hamer, Deputy Director of the Geophysical Institute, took Fall and staff from Los Alamos, Sandia, and Pacific Northwest Laboratories to the North Slope. The group visited the Oliktok Point Research Facility and discussed on-going and potential scientific collaborations between the national labs and the university.

  • Dr. Fall also attended the Chena Hot Springs Renewable Energy Fair, and received a briefing from UAF Vice Chancellor for Research Larry Hinzman and Gwen Holdmann, Director of the Alaska Center for Energy & Power (ACEP), on UAF’s work with the Department of Energy. Vice Chancellor Hinzman also hosted Department of Energy Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dwayne Bolton on campus and other locations around Fairbanks to highlight the university’s energy-related research.  

  • Staff from Senator Sullivan’s office toured UAA’s aviation training facility at Merrill Field. The program trains Alaskans for aviation careers including professional piloting, maintenance, and air traffic control. Its first-class facilities include state-of-the-art simulators, and numerous aircraft including a Boeing 727 cargo jet donated to the university by Fed Ex. Thank you to Denise Runge, Dean of UAA’s Community & Technical College, and her team at the aviation technology program for arranging the visit. The staffers also visited the Arctic Domain Awareness Center (ADAC), and learned about its important mission in the area of homeland security from director and retired Air Force General Randy “Church” Kee. They later visited UAA’s Business Enterprise Institute (BEI) and found out how to UA grows small businesses and expands entrepreneurship in Alaska from director Christi Bell and her team.

  • UAF hosted staffers from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for an in-depth look at a number of university research programs. The group spent several days on campus learning about UAF’s preeminent role in polar studies, and the nexus of Arctic and energy related research. Vice Chancellor Larry Hinzman was instrumental in facilitating the meetings and conversations. These engagements are critical as the Department of Energy considers reconstituting an Arctic Energy Office in Alaska.

  • Dr. Brad Moran, Dean of the UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences (CFOS), hosted a VIP tour of the R/V Sikuliaq and the Seward Marine Center. CFOS welcomed staff from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Murkowski’s office. Sikuliaq is one of the newest vessels in the U.S. academic fleet, and one of the most advanced research vessels in the world. The visit was an excellent opportunity to showcase one of UA’s premiere research assets and to meet with the ship’s scientists, researchers and crew. In addition to the Seward visit, Dr. Aaron Dotson hosted the group at UAA to present NSF funded research in Anchorage.

These are just a few examples of the outreach and advocacy that has been happening over the last several months. Thank you to everyone who collaborated on these visits and helped showcase UA’s premiere assets and world-class research enterprise.

President Johnsen Addresses Southeast Conference 
Earlier this month, President Johnsen and UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield addressed the annual meeting of Southeast Conference in Sitka. The regional economic development group’s annual meeting attracts business, political and industry leaders from across Southeast and other coastal areas of Alaska. As part of the agenda, Jeff Jessee, Dean of the UAA College of Health, and UAS Provost Karen Carey participated in a panel on workforce development and health care solutions.

Governor Appoints Revak to Senate
Governor Dunleavy has appointed Anchorage Representative Josh Revak to the state Senate. Revak is an army veteran and former staffer to both Senator Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young. He has been nominated to serve-out the term of the late Senator Chris Birch. The Governor previously appointed Representative Laddie Shaw to fill the vacancy, but that nomination was rejected by the Senate Republican caucus. Under state law, vacancy appointments by the Governor must be ratified by the political party’s caucus in their respective legislative body. If Revak is confirmed, the Governor will appoint a replacement to fill his house seat representing south Anchorage.