Congratulations to the Class of 2020

President Jim Johnsen

University of Alaska, President James R. Johnsen

May 1, 2020

Dear UA Students, Faculty and Staff,

I write to you today with hope for and confidence in our future. While we know that COVID-19 impacts have altered our lives in more ways than we could have imagined, I want each of you to know that we are looking ahead and planning for how we move forward. 

The good news is that we are emerging from the depths of COVID-19 and are beginning to transition to fall semester. Our leaders are working on those plans, which will be ready to share with you soon.

More importantly, however, I want to say how proud I am of the Class of 2020. More than 3,000 students will take part in virtual celebrations and graduation events all across our state this weekend and into May. While Iā€™m sorry that we cannot be together reveling in all of the traditional commencement festivities, I know each of you and your families take pride in your many accomplishments.

The Class of 2020 is strong and resilient, and I wish each graduate happiness, health, a lifetime of prosperity, and pride as a new UA graduate.


Support for our students

Our support for students during this trying time has been demonstrated by how we have responded to student needs ā€“ student relief funds across the system, refunds for living arrangements, tuition, fees and travel ā€“ so they could keep learning and thriving despite the constraints and hurdles created by the pandemic. It has been extremely heartening to see how much our alumni and friends have supported our students by making gifts to emergency support funds at each of the universities. Their generosity and support has been uplifting to all. We are so grateful for those commitments of support.

The federal CARES Act also is providing relief for our students with the greatest financial need. We are now in the process distributing grants to students based on their financial need.

Planning for our future

We will continue to work remotely for a while even as the state starts to ease restrictions on businesses and travel. We are mindful of future waves of the virus with the understanding that the university can help set the example for how to safely return to a more open campus life. We are developing plans that will outline when and how students and employees can safely return to our campuses and to prepare for a blend of in-person and distance delivered classes. As we finalize plans, we will consult with students, faculty and staff representatives and will continue to be guided by public health experts.

I understand that dealing with learning, teaching, and working in such an uncertain world is difficult, and I share your questions and concerns. But I am confident in the strength and determination of our university and your dedication to it. I believe we are equal to the challenges we face.

Thank you for the extraordinary effort that you have put into resolving the issues presented in the past several months, for your extraordinary care, quick action, willingness to flatten the pandemic curve, and for continuing to do your part to keep the University of Alaska strong.

Jim Johnsen