GCI Donates $30 million Broadband Gift

Largest Donation in UA Foundation History

Friday, Aug. 8, 2008

University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton and University of Alaska Foundation President Mary Rutherford today announced a gift of broadband capacity from GCI worth an estimated $30 million.

The broadband gift benefits not only the university system, but also K-12 schools via the AK20 Network, part of the state’s multi-partner Distance Education Consortium. Hamilton and Rutherford made the announcement today along with GCI President and Chief Executive Officer Ron Duncan.

“This gift is absolutely essential to the university system’s mission of education, research and public service,” Hamilton said. “We’ve had a $30 million request to the state Legislature for increased broadband capacity for the last several years, but unfortunately it didn’t receive the support it needed.   In this digital age, the university must have a competitive level of network capacity – it’s central to what we do.”

“Our company completed the first diversely routed, protected fiber optic network connecting Alaska to the lower 48 states four years ago,” GCI’s Duncan said. “That network has become a mainstay of the Alaska economy. As an Alaska company, GCI is honored to be able to make this contribution to the university – a contribution that will advance the university’s research and education mission and benefit every Alaskan. What’s good for Alaska is good for GCI and its employees and shareholders. We are happy to be able to give something so material back to the state upon which our success has been built.”

Rutherford said the university is grateful for the gift. “It sets a wonderful example of generosity that will benefit many scientists and elementary through university students across the state.”

UA’s Chief Information Technology Officer Steve Smith said the broadband gift spans 10 years and provides up to 10 gigabits-per-second from Anchorage to Seattle in increments of 622 megabits-per-second, also known as an OC-12.

“This gift frees up bandwidth throughout the university system, which in turn benefits all of our campuses,” Smith said. “The gift agreement includes a research component, where the university and GCI will explore working together on solving connectivity challenges that still persist, particularly in rural Alaska.”

Bandwidth in cyber-infrastructure is comparable to a highway; the more lanes the road has, the more vehicles it can accommodate. By freeing up more lanes on the highway, UA as a whole can transmit and receive vastly more data and information than it currently can.

Buck Sharpton, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the system’s research hub, said the increased bandwidth will help the university maintain its competitive edge nationally for federal research projects, which often require a high-degree of network capacity. UAF attracts roughly $128 million in federal research grants each year – a number that has steadily grown.

“This new capacity not only evens the playing field with the nation’s other leading institutions in cyber-infrastructure, but it also heightens our ability to provide the state with timely and vital information needed to respond to earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and volcanic eruptions,” Sharpton said.

The gift also allows the university to purchase additional bandwidth if needed, or accept a similar gift from another donor, Rutherford said.

GCI (NASDAQ:GNCMA) is the largest telecommunications company in Alaska.

For more information, call UA Foundation President Mary Rutherford at 907/450-8030; or David Morris, GCI spokesman, at 907/265-5396 or dmorris@gci.com.

Take A Free Ride

The Yellow Line passes by Butrovich on its way to Fred Meyer West

Borough Transportation Free with Polar Express Card

The Fairbanks North Star Borough approved an ordinance on July 24, 2008, that will allow anyone with a UAF Polar Express school ID card to ride on borough buses free of charge at any time. This is the borough's first "large employer subsidized" transit program enacted. UAF will pay almost $20,000 to support the pilot program for 2008-2009, with the rest of the funding coming from the borough through federal grants. If the program is successful, the borough and UAF will enter into a long-term agreement with an estimated annual cost of $200,000.

Four of the borough’s six bus lines – Yellow, Red, Blue and Gray – make regular stops at the main campus. The downtown transit center is only a couple blocks away from the Tanana Valley Campus. Borough transportation director Glenn Miller told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that a little over 16 percent of the bus system’s total riders currently are traveling to or from UAF, accounting for about $70,000 in fares each year.

The program stands to benefit both the campus and the community by reducing congestion in the parking lots, improving air quality, and offering transportation savings to students, staff and faculty during this period of rising fuel costs.

See the bus schedules online

SW must reduce travel costs

President Hamilton has requested that Statewide departments reduce travel costs by 10 percent in FY09, the current fiscal year. All SW executive staff received a memo from the president on June 4, 2008, followed up with a memo July 1 by Controller Myron Dosch. 

"To the greatest extent possible, you are encouraged to prioritize your travel and then to travel only when necessary," President Hamilton's memo to executives states. "I have asked Myron Dosch to keep an eye on our travel as we go through the year and to provide me periodic updates of our progress."

Hamilton added that he's confident SW can accommodate all necessary travel, including such activities as professional development, within the reduced budget.

Click on this link   Memos   to read the memos. Dosch's memo contains some suggestions and strategies for reducing travel costs, such as booking in advance, utilizing video and audio conferencing more often and cutting costs where possible with plane tickets, hotels and ground transportation.

If any SW staff member has a question about the travel reduction, please talk with your direct supervisor.

New Staff Alliance Chair and Vice Chair

The Staff Alliance elected UAS Staff Council President Heather Swanson as chair and UAF Staff Council President Juella Sparks as vice chair for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. 

California native Swanson currently works at the UAS ITS Help Desk. A lifelong student, Swanson has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years and owned a computer consulting firm for over 10 years. 

Sparks was born and raised in Alaska, graduated from UAF with a BBA in Management, and is communications manager for Cooperative Extension Service.

Other Staff Alliance members include Megan Carlson, president of the UAA Classified Council and past chair of the alliance;  Jason Davis, president of the Statewide Administration Assembly; Paloma Harbour, vice president of the SAA and past vice chair of the Alliance;  Martin Klein, president-elect of the UAF Staff Council; Julia Martinez, president of the UAA Classified Council; and Bobbi McCoy, vice president of the UAS Staff Council.

See http://gov.alaska.edu/home/who/staff/ for more details.

UA College Savings Plan offers incentives for new accounts in September

Barnes & Noble gift card for new accounts

The University of Alaska College Savings Plan will provide a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card to everyone who opens and funds a new account during the month of September, proclaimed by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as College Savings Plan Month.

The UA College Savings Plan – which can be used toward educational expenses at any eligible trade school, community college or university in the country – also will hold a $1,500 account deposit drawing for those who opened an account for their child, aged 14 or younger, at either the Tanana Valley State Fair in Fairbanks or the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

“The beauty of the UA College Savings Plan is its flexibility,” Gov. Palin said. “Distributions can be used for a wide range of educational expenses, including books, housing, tuition and fees and other expenses for traditional college programs, voc-tech programs and workforce training, either within Alaska or Outside. I encourage not only parents, but also grandparents and other family members, to consider opening an account for the special young people in their lives.”

Last year’s Barnes & Noble promotion resulted in nearly 300 new accounts.  Linda Luper, executive director of the UA College Savings Plan, said she hopes to increase that number to 400 this year. “It’s an aggressive goal, but we know Alaska families care about the future of their children,” she said.

Luper said early family discussions about a child’s future can have a major impact on the ultimate success rate of that child throughout high school and beyond. “The real value of a College Savings Plan account isn’t necessarily the actual dollars saved, but rather the expectation that education and training beyond high school is essential in today’s world,” Luper said. 

Research demonstrates that people with education beyond high school tend to be healthier, have lower divorce rates, participate more in their communities and live more fulfilling lives than those with high school diplomas only. According to the College Board, a non-profit membership association, a working person with a four-year college degree typically earns over 61 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma. The College Board additionally reports that typical expected earnings over the working lives of four-year college graduates adds up to $1 million more than those with high school diplomas alone.

The UA College Savings Plan, one of the top-rated 529 plans in the country, is helping thousands of Alaska families save for future college expenses. T. Rowe Price, a well-known financial services provider, manages the plan on behalf of UA. Accounts in the plan grow tax-free, and distributions from accounts are tax free when used to pay for qualified college expenses.

Investors can open an account with as little as $50. Over 18,500 Alaskans currently hold accounts.  For more information, go to uacollegesavings.com or call 1-888-4-ALASKA (1-888-425-2752).

For more information, call Linda Luper at 907/450-8115 or linda.luper@alaska.edu; or Nevada Bovee at 907/450-8087 or nevada.bovee@alaska.edu.

Note: Certain restrictions on the Barnes & Noble gift card apply.  See uacollegesavings.com for details. Barnes & Noble is not a sponsor or co-sponsor of this promotion. Please see back of gift card for terms and conditions of use.  Barnes & Noble is not liable for any alleged or actual claims related to this offer. 

Statewide Staff Picninc

The Hamiltons host annual gathering

The sun made a welcome appearance during the UA Statewide staff picnic Aug. 13, 2008, at the home of President Hamilton and his wife, Patty.

The lovely yard at the president’s house was filled with tables and chairs, games, entertainment, food, drink and the families of many statewide employees. The shuttle bus from Butrovich to the Hamiltons' home prevented parking congestion and provided a smooth flow of guests, both coming and going. About 210 adults (8 and over) and roughly 40 children attended the picnic.

A clown from Party Palace came to entertain the kids with fun tricks and balloon creations. Rita Bishop’s Silhouettes were once again a big hit and a treasured keepsake for many parents and children. Backyard Amusements set up an inflatable bouncy castle and maze for little ones. In addition, a badminton net and other games were set up throughout the yard. Face paint was available along with hair color spray. Many of the younger guests were well made-up by the end of the night!

If the kids had a vote, the cotton candy machine would have been selected the hit of the night. Great food was prepared by Sockeyes, including smoked beef or pork sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, and a collection of sides, including every kids’ favorite: macaroni and cheese. A new addition this year, Monique Musick of Public Affairs was on-site to take family portraits.

President Hamilton was visibly pleased as he drew the winners of door prizes and distributed them amongst attendees.

Now in its fourth year, the staff picnic was the President's idea, which he sponsors out of personal funds.  Bess Rounds is the primary coordinator of the event. She was assisted this year by Rita Murphy and Marissa Anderson. The entire event was a great success. Many Statewide employees and their families look forward to the Hamiltons' staff picnic all year! 

Thank You For Everything

A special thank you to President Hamilton and his wife Patty, from all of us at Statewide, for being the finest host and hostess in Fairbanks! And also for the hard work and organizational skills of Bess Rounds, pictured here with the Hamiltons and husband Phil.  

SAA Corner

Membership and Mission Statement Changes

The Statewide Administration Assembly is pleased to announce its 2008-2009 members:

Jason Davis, President

Paloma Harbour, Vice President

Rita Murphy, Secretary

Betty Dupee

Bess Rounds

Jennifer Mahler

Linda Hall

James Milburn

Dana Platta

Tami Choquette

DeShana York

Lisa Sporleder, Alternate

Ramona McAfee, Alternate

SAA, the governance group for all SW employees, recently updated its mission statement at http://gov.alaska.edu/saa/mission.html.

For more details about SAA and what the group is up to, visit the SAA homepage at http://www.alaska.edu/governance/saa/. Meetings are open and all SW employees are always welcome. Look for more information in future installments of SAA Corner.

Regent News

September Regents' Meeting

Regents next meet over two days, Sept. 18 & 19 at UAA's  Lee Gorsuch Commons.

Any Fairbanks-based Statewide employee needing to keep tabs can participate by video-conference in the Sherman Carter Conference Room.

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