Industry and Agency Partners Show Strong FSMI Support During Board of Regents Meeting in Sitka

Accented by the stunning backdrop of the Tongass national forest, the towering Mt. Edgecumbe volcano, and islands and ocean stretching far as the eye can see, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka campus on Japonski Island is well suited to host important partnerships with seafood, maritime and fishing companies, businesses and agencies. Although the Fisheries, Seafood, Maritime Initiative (FSMI) was not the lone focus of the Board of Regents meeting held at the campus April 11 and 12, stories and testimony related to the initiative dominated the two day meeting.

The vision of FSMI is to attract, train and educate Alaskans for careers in these critical marine job sectors and to provide lifelong support and training to new, mid-career and professionals alike. Alaska’s current workforce in these areas is ‘graying out’, and opportunities are growing for young Alaskans to step into these fields. The objective is not only to assist with workforce development, but also to establish clear paths Alaskan residents can follow into secure, rewarding lifelong careers. The delivery of technical and trade skills related to a whole cross section of these marine subsectors is vital to the Alaska economy now and into the future.PHOTOS AND MORE...

Open Enrollment Important Changes Outlined, Paperwork Due May 15

By Rachel Voris 

Most UA employees, about 70 percent, wait until the last two weeks of open enrollment to submit their updated paperwork to human resources. If you’re among that 70 percent, this information will be helpful since there are many changes to health care this year that require action on your part. MORE...

SDI Focuses Work Sessions on Deans, Directors to Implement Effect Goals

Deans and directors sit at a table at a meeting.
A total of 36 UAF Deans and Directors took part in a SDI work-session led by UA Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dana Thomas earlier today. The meeting was held at the UAF Wood Center.

The University of Alaska Strategic Direction Initiative is reaching out to the deans and directors at UAS, UAF and UAA. UA Vice President of Academic Affairs Dana Thomas, has been conducting the work sessions focusing on developing effect statements for the SDI themes. Thomas talked about the importance of the work sessions, and why they are specifically targeted at deans and directors. 

“The deans and directors are the ones who are going to be largely responsible for implementing the effects that SDI will be striving to achieve. They set workloads for faculty and staff. So it’s absolutely critical that our deans and directors are engaged in this process.” 

The first deans and directors work-session was held in Juneau on April 16. The discussion focused mostly on the SDI Themes student achievement and attainment, partnerships with Alaska’s schools and accountability to Alaskans.  

According to Thomas, the group came up with some very good recommendations that he said he would share with UAF and UAA. “For example, the group wanted to address part-time student completion rates which makes perfect sense, since so many of our UA students are part-time.”

“In addition, they wanted to make sure that that there was more emphasis on distance delivery, including access and convenience for students. Instead of associating eLearning with online courses, they wanted to refer to distance delivery as eLearning and hybrid courses for the purpose of access,” added Thomas.

Both UAF and UAA have much larger groups of deans and directors attending their work-sessions.   Vice President Thomas said that the goal in those sessions would be to achieve the same outcomes as the UAS meeting, but through a different methodology. “Because of the size of the UAF and UAA groups, my goal is to break out groups that would tackle the individual SDI themes and effects statements. Then each group could begin the process of formulating potential approaches to achieve those effects.”

“The desired outcome of these work-sessions is to refine the effect statements that have been identified by our chancellors and provosts, and begin identifying the operational or tactical approaches in order to achieve those effects,” said Thomas.

The UAF deans and directors meeting was conducted on April 24 at the Wood Center. UAA’s deans and directors meeting is scheduled for May 2 at Gorsuch Commons. After the deans and directors work-sessions are completed, another meeting is scheduled for May 31 in Anchorage. There, the information gathered during the campus work-sessions will be discussed and next steps will be identified.   

The five Strategic Direction themes adopted by the UA Board of Regents are:

  • Student Achievement and Attainment
  • Productive Partnerships with Alaska’s Schools
  • Productive Partnerships with Alaska’s Public and Private Industries
  • Research and Development to Sustain Alaska’s Communities and Economic Growth
  • Accountability to the People of Alaska

University of Alaska Graduating Class Increases for Fifth Consecutive Year

The numbers of degrees, certifications and endorsements that will be awarded to University of Alaska (UA) students this spring are projected to show an increase of more than 28 percent over the 3,427 degrees awarded in the 2009 academic year. 

Keeping in line with steady increases for the past five years, approximately 4,400 degrees, certificates and endorsements are expected to be conferred by the UA Board of Regents during 17 commencement celebrations across the state this May. The upward trend in degrees awarded in recent years has been driven by large increases in the number of baccalaureates, occupational endorsements and licensures. Degrees awarded in high demand job areas like health care, education, fisheries, seafood, maritime, mining and engineering are also projected to improve, with a target of 2,964 degrees awarded by the end of the current academic year— an increase of more than 21 percent from 2009. 

Nationally, attention on higher education has focused on student retention rates, debt levels and graduation rates. There is demand to better define the path for collegiate success so that students are positioned to attain their educational goals in a timely and cost-effective manner.  Because of this shift, there is a growing demand from both parents and students for universities to be more transparent regarding the overall cost of attaining a college degree. 

The University of Alaska launched Stay on Track—an outreach campaign to educate students on the benefits of graduating in fewer years for less money, with less debt — to address these concerns. The campaign features steps that can be taken to reduce costs and map out a timely path to graduation. Advising is the most critical step, but it does require a student to pick a program or major early and stick with it for optimal results. Students are reminded that in order to attain 120 credits in four years (the average number required for a degree program) at least 30 credits must be earned each year. 

Each campus has tailored its approach to improving advising services for students, and each campus is seeing those efforts rewarded with reduced attrition rates and growing numbers of students completing their education programs. Programs like UAS's Academic Early Alert System help reduce the percentage of students leaving the university before graduation by identifying risk factors such as declining test scores, absenteeism, dropping classes or falling below passing grade.

The university is partnering with Alaska's high schools since graduation rates and timeliness are closely tied to some basic pre-college characteristics. UA is helping develop a database for tracking individual students throughout their entire school career so that performance concerns and educational shortfalls can be addressed before they leave elementary and secondary systems, enabling university advisors to more accurately place and guide students as they enter post-secondary study.   

All of these programs aim to keep in mind overall affordability for students, which is a priority for the Board of Regents and is in line with the decision to limit the tuition increase to two percent for students.

UA Aims to Produce Good Teachers and Help Keep Them in Alaska

By Regent Mike Powers

Mike Powers is secretary of the University of Alaska Board of Regents and CEO of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Denali Center. He has worked as a high school teacher, newspaper reporter and VISTA volunteer in Alaska and Wisconsin.

Coming from a family of educators, few things mean more to me than teacher preparation and retention. My parents were teachers and all five of us children became teachers, yet only one of us still remains in teaching. This personal experience with the teacher retention problem came down, in my family's case, to a lack of support we as teachers received. This leads me to believe that a cultural shift needs to happen within the Alaska school system, beginning with the university creating a real support system for the teachers it produces. MORE...

Studying Our Schools: As Costs Grow, Districts Need to Know What Works

Written by Diane Hirshberg, of Anchorage. Diane is the director of the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research as well as an associate professor of education policy at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The center was established in 2011 to conduct nonpartisan research on education policy issues at all levels of education.

State and local policymakers need to make tough decisions on how to strengthen Alaska schools. Often, we hear them citing anecdotal information about what works or doesn’t work in our schools. Too many students are not graduating, especially in some of our rural communities. Not all of our high school graduates are ready for college or work, even though they’ve earned a diploma. At the same time, resources are tight. Sometimes solutions are suggested based on what works in the Lower 48 — some of those programs work well in Alaska, others are not appropriate. So what can we do? MORE...

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