From left: Education Commissioner Larry LeDoux; UA President Mark Hamilton; Regents Ken Fisher, Pat Jacobson, Erik Drygas, Tim Brady; Gov. Sarah Palin; Regents Fuller Cowell, Cynthia Henry (Board Chair), Mary K. Hughes, Kirk Wickersham, William Andrews and Bob Martin. Not pictured: Carl Marrs. Photo by Kate Ripley.
Regents approve resolutions on NCAA and Native education & research
The University of Alaska Board of Regents met in Juneau Feb. 17 and 18, 2009, and unanimously approved a resolution decrying recent changes to regional NCAA Division II playoff tournaments that would prevent Alaska and Hawaii from hosting full, eight-team tournaments. The 11-member body that governs the 16-campus UA system also unanimously approved a resolution supporting the creation of an Alaska Native Education and Research Council, in cooperation with Alaska's regional Native corporations.
The NCAA rule change came in a memo dated Feb. 9, mid-season, and without input from the conferences or regions most affected by the change. The resolution asks that the NCAA immediately rescind the rule change, which university officials believe unfairly penalizes the University of Alaska Anchorage Women's Basketball Team. The regents' resolution states the NCAA's action "violates the respected principles of fair play and a level playing field."
Gov. Sarah Palin also wrote a letter to the vice president for Division II NCAA to express disappointment in the change.
On the Native council resolution, forming such a council already received the backing of the chief executive officers of the regional Native corporations. The council, once formed, will have the university and Native corporations work together to identify, prioritize and support activities such as vocational and technical training, academic curriculum, research, community outreach, endowed chairs and other activities that would meet the needs of both the Native constituents of the corporations as well as the university.
UA has increased the number of its Alaska Native graduates by 108 percent in the past decade, and hopes to achieve another 100 percent increase in the next 10 years. Numerous programs have been created to specifically benefit Native and rural students. The regional Native corporations represent the economic interests of over 100,000 Alaska Native people.
"This resolution represents the university's desire to work more closely with our Native corporations," said Board Chair Cynthia Henry. "It's a formal framework for moving forward, and we're really excited about the possibilities. The Native corporations represent a vital sector of Alaska's economy. It only makes sense that we work together."
Regents also approved a new graduate certificate in statistics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, reviewed stages of various UA construction projects in progress, including renovations at the Anderson Building at UAS and schematic design for a new Health Sciences Building at UAA. Amendments to the UAA master plan were approved, and the new UAA sports arena received formal project approval.
The board also received an update from the McDowell Group research consulting firm on the impact of biological and life sciences at UAF. Eric McDowell told the board that, with over 800 degree-seeking students, the UAF biology and wildlife program is one of the largest degree programs in the entire UA system. Four hundred additional students taking life science classes pushes total enrollment up to 1,200. These students and researchers monitor toxicants and diseases in Alaska, conduct Native health research, study Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, hibernation, bird flu and numerous other issues that aren't only important to Alaska, but have far-reaching ramifications. For instance, studying hibernation in animals could eventually lead to new innovations in science that could help people.
A new Life Sciences building at UAF is the Board of Regents' top new construction priority in the capital budget for FY2010, as it has been for the last several years.
Regents also met with Education and Early Development Commissioner Larry LeDoux, Gov. Sarah Palin, Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (via teleconference) and state legislators. They attended a reception at UAS and met with numerous students and faculty members of UAS. On Thursday, Feb. 19, they met with the University of Alaska Foundation's Board of Trustees.
The Juneau board meeting was the first for new Regent Ken Fisher of Juneau, who was recently appointed to an eight-year term by the governor. Fisher stated he enjoyed his first meeting and looked forward to working with other members of the board and the administration in the years ahead.
The governor also reappointed Hughes to another term.
The regents next gather April 8-9, 2009, at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez.