Alaska presents a formidable landscape for a university system: a land mass one-fifth the size of the continental United States; campuses thousands of miles apart; and weather that would shut down most Lower 48 schools. But this vast environment of rainforest, tundra, coastal shores and mountains is home to the University of Alaska system, established in 1917.
The university system started as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in Fairbanks, later renamed the University of Alaska. That first year, the campus was a single two-story frame building and had just six students. The school was renamed the University of Alaska in 1935.
In 1954, Anchorage Community College (now known as the University of Alaska Anchorage) was incorporated into the University of Alaska. That next year, Juneau Community College was established and was later named the University of Alaska Southeast.
The UA system’s largest hubs (UAA, UAF and UAS) are separately accredited institutions, as is Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez. System-wide, nearly 35,000 full- and part-time students are enrolled, studying among 500 unique degree, certificate or endorsement programs. Study areas include short-course workforce training, associate degrees, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as doctorates. Programs include a wide array of the sciences, engineering, teacher and early childhood education, business, journalism and communications, aviation, health occupations, history, English, the arts and humanities and many others.
Per the Alaska Constitution, an 11-member board of regents governs the system. The system president serves as the board’s chief executive officer. Chancellors for each of the hubs—UAA, UAF and UAS--report to the president. The university employs roughly 7,000 people and contributes an estimated $1 billion annually to the Alaska economy.
Banner Images: Butrovich Building by Todd Paris, archaeology students sliding down a back-dirt pile at Gersle River Field School by Lindsey Godby, caribou UAF photo.