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Johnsen announces decision on UAF Chancellor, Next Steps in Single Accreditation and Strategic Pathways

In a broad sweeping announcement May 12 outlining major budget-driven decisions, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said that he will initiate an expedited review of three academic and four administrative programs this summer through the Strategic Pathways process, forego appointing a new chancellor for the University of Alaska Fairbanks and immediately pursue next steps toward single accreditation for the university.

“Our greatest enemy is uncertainty. Uncertainty with respect to our budget from the state and how those impending cuts will affect our mission,” he said. “With strong guidance and support from the Board of Regents, these decisions will provide direction for our path forward and a degree of certainty in an otherwise uncertain world.”

Johnsen said he will fill the UAF chancellor position with an interim appointment by the end of May allowing for enough transition time before current interim Chancellor Mike Powers steps down in August. “In light of our budget situation and in consideration of potential structural changes in the near term, I have decided not to permanently fill the position,” he said. “The chancellor candidates each had strengths, but I cannot in good conscience bring someone in knowing that we will be evaluating single accreditation that could result in elimination of that position.”

The process for selecting a new Interim Chancellor, described in a May 17 communication to the UAF community, will follow these four steps:

  1. Application: Any current or former employee of the University of Alaska Fairbanks interested in the opportunity should send a one-page letter of interest along with a current CV to ua‑hrcomp@alaska.edu. This must be submitted no later than Friday, May 27.
  2. Review: Johnsen will review the applications and decide upon three final candidates. The names, letters of interest, and resumes of the three finalists will be posted at www.alaska.edu/pres/uaf-interim-chancellor-se/ by Monday, June 6.
  3. Community Input: Comments on the candidates may be submitted at www.alaska.edu/pres/uaf-interim-chancellor-se/. Comments received by Monday, June 20, will be considered.
  4. Decision: Johnsen will consult with university and community leaders and announce a decision no later than June 30.

It is expected that the new Interim Chancellor will begin to transition into the position July 1 and take over fully in August at an exact date to be determined. The term of the appointment will be for 1 year but may be extended.

Regarding single accreditation, Johnsen said he would propose to the Board of Regents at its June meeting that the university actively explore single accreditation rather than keeping the status quo of three separate accreditations. In April UA sent a letter to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, asking to consult with the accrediting body on the process to assess the implications, advantages and disadvantages of single accreditation.

“The potential advantages to single accreditation include greater flexibility in structuring and coordinating academic programs and administrative services across the system, fewer top level administrators, greater responsiveness to student interests, and lower operating costs,” Johnsen said. “We need to ensure these potential advantages are real and that we understand all the implications of moving in this direction.”

Work on structural realignment will begin this summer via an expedited Strategic Pathways review of three academic units – Engineering, Teacher Education and Business/Management; and, four administrative units – Intercollegiate athletics, procurement, research administration and information technology.

“In light of the serious budget cuts still under consideration by the state and the need to make decisions in the near term, the expedited review process will be conducted this summer in time to be integrated into the FY18 budget due in late August,” Johnsen said. “Working with university and governance leaders, I will select teams of respected and informed faculty, staff, students, and community members for the reviews. Each team’s work will be led by an expert facilitator.”

The Strategic Pathways expedited review will commence this month with the appointment of teams, a scope of work and a schedule for each review. Johnsen said the university’s institutional research team would collect and develop data for each group, and that the review teams would work simultaneously to:

  1. Generate & Evaluate options (July/August)
  2. Present at least three options to UA president and Summit Team (August)
  3. Present final UA President selections to the Board of Regents (September)

Johnsen said that if the Board of Regents decides to implement suggested ways to reduce the size and cost of the university’s administrative organizational accountability, he would establish the appropriate governance framework, work on new language to modify regent policy that would enable the single university structure and modify language in collective bargaining agreements to reflect the changes.

Through these changes, he said, the university will be more:

  • Capable in meeting the state’s higher education needs: access/opportunity, workforce development, research, economic diversification
  • Efficient by lowering administrative costs so that more funding can go to the core mission of teaching, research, and service
  • Streamlined in the decision-making processes through evidence-based processes that will better inform decisions and improve accountability to stakeholders including robust engagement with faculty, students, staff, and the university’s many communities
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