Board of Regents meeting highlights stability, growth, excellence across University System
September 1, 2023
(JUNEAU, AK) - The University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents focused on system priorities and long-term goals during its August 30-31 meeting this week. Regents discussed the university system’s FY25 budget priorities, progress toward system-wide goals, and recognized staff for their contributions to student success. The meeting comes as students across the system began fall semester classes, and preliminary numbers show enrollment on track to increase by 4% over last fall.
“As we enter fall semester, I’m proud to say that the University of Alaska System is strong, and thriving,” Board Chair Ralph Seekins said. “I’ve seen the tireless efforts of faculty and staff on our campuses as they’ve prepared to welcome students this week, and I’m grateful for their dedication. The board is committed to building on our system’s stability and providing a positive fiscal foundation for our students, employees, and the people of Alaska.”
Fiscal Stability & Strategic Priorities
On Wednesday, President Pitney and her staff shared progress made toward developing a long-term deferred maintenance strategy during the Facilities and Land Management committee. University staff have engaged with Governor Dunleavy’s administration on developing a consistent, reliable, annual funding structure that would give UA the resources and stability to address our $1.4 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Regents expressed general support for the direction of the strategy, and the overall fiscal state of the university system.
Regents also had an initial discussion on the FY25 budget during the full board meeting on Thursday, with the universities outlining their priorities and program requests for next year. Regents will approve the FY25 budget at the November board meeting. At this time, the university does not anticipate raising tuition next year.
In the Goals and Measures discussion, regents considered three “pillars of excellence” as major board strategic priorities. The pillars - “Reputation Enhancement,” “Financial Health & Long-Term Viability,” and “State & Arctic Leadership” - represent the regents’ long-term vision and goals they want the university to achieve. Future special meetings will be scheduled for the full board to discuss in the direction in consultation with President Pitney, the chancellors, and other stakeholders.
At UAF, attaining tier 1 (R1) research status is a top priority. R1 is a designation defined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. UAF intends to achieve it by 2027, which would place them in the top 4% of universities nationwide, and strengthen their competitiveness and enrollment. The path to R1 will require sustained operating and capital investments.
“Our universities are building on the stability, confidence, and trust that students have in our system,” UA President Pat Pitney said. “UAA, UAF, and UAS are continuing to meet students where they are, providing the unique experiences that are driving growing enrollment. We’ve clearly turned a corner, and I’m grateful to our faculty and staff for their tireless efforts in service to our students.”
Regents also unanimously approved UAF’s Troth Yeddha' Indigenous Studies Center philanthropic campaign plan. The planned Troth Yeddha’ Center will be a state-of-the-art facility that reflects Indigenous design and architecture inspired by the first peoples of the Arctic. The building will include mixed-use space to house innovative research, learning, and student support programs, and a surrounding park to support cultural gatherings, celebrations and events, Indigenous landscaping, and viewing areas honoring the contributions of Alaska Native peoples to the university and state. The approved plan aims to raise $53 million by December 31, 2026, to support the continued design, development, and construction of the facility.
Regents took an in-depth look at the university’s role in developing Alaska’s mariculture and aquaculture industries in a new segment of “Did You Know?” featuring a panel of mariculture and aquaculture experts, students, and industry partners.
“The UA system is poised to support the emerging industry and new businesses, while providing the education and training for the workforce that will be required,” President Pitney said. “UAS is a uniquely positioned leader and partner in that space, and Juneau is the perfect place to hear about the opportunities for and success of Alaska’s blue economy.”
In addition, regents received an update on the Land Grant Initiative, discussed board governance and presidential performance, and approved the nominees for honorary doctoral degrees and meritorious service awards.
The board approved resolutions of appreciation for long-time employees Michael Ciri of UAS and Michele Stalder of UAF. Ciri serves as the vice chancellor of administrative services for UAS and is retiring this fall after nearly 40 years; Stadler retired earlier this year after 42 years of service, most recently as the dean of UAF’s Community and Technical College. The board also approved the naming of the new integrated science building at UAS the Aak'w Ta Hit, meaning “the little lake house at the head of the bay” in Lingt.
Staff Make Students Count
President Pitney presented the annual “Staff Make Students Count” Awards, which recognize staff from each university and the System Office who have made a difference in the lives of students. Staff members are nominated by their peers; and each awardee receives a plaque, $1000, and two Alaska Airlines vouchers.
“While we’re only recognizing four staff members here today, I’m grateful to all the nominees - and all our staff - for their service to our students and to the university system,” President Pitney said.
- UAA recipient Robyn Callahan is a high school initiatives coordinator/scheduler at Kodiak College. She was recognized
for implementing the Kodiak Middle College program, creating new scholarship opportunities
for Kodiak students, and providing the on-the-ground daily support for dual enrollment
- UAF recipient Cody Rogers is the director of the UAF Wood Center and Center for Student Engagement. She was
recognized for her unwavering support of students, student employees, and campus culture
at UAF, fostering an environment of opportunity and positivity.
- UAS recipient Katie Sill is a lead academic advisor at UAS Sitka. She was recognized for her dedication and commitment to university students as an academic advisor, resource for resolving barriers to student success, and member of numerous committees to support UAS students.
- System Office recipient Dustin Bawcom is an administrative specialist in the Office of Academics, Students, and Research. He was recognized for his work with the Coalition of Student Leaders, particularly going above and beyond in logistics and support for their in-person meeting in Juneau.
The University of Alaska Board of Regents is an 11-member volunteer board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. Members serve an eight-year term, with the exception of the student regent who serves a two-year term. The board was established through the Alaska Constitution and is responsible for University of Alaska policy and management through the university president.