Academic Restructuring

Phase 2 -  Program Unit Reviews (Sept. - Oct. 2019)

Each of the following areas will be reviewed at a statewide level by an inter-university academic review team comprised of faculty, administrators, staff, students, and community representatives, with oversight and support from the Office of VP Paul Layer, Academic Review teams, appointed in consultation with governance to make recommendations in the following areas.

Each review team will be convened by its chair, meet as needed, and provide a report to the President. The report will answer the following questions:

  1. What degree programs would a single unit (college or school) serving the state include?
  2. Compared to our current structure of units or schools, what would be the administrative savings of moving from several units or schools to one?
  3. Assuming a peer average full-time student:faculty ratio, what would be the instructional cost reduction compared to our current state?
  4. What issues need to be resolved if the unit is assigned to one of our three separately accredited universities?
  5. What issues need to be resolved if the unit is part of a single accredited statewide university?

The reports will be posted for governance and public input. The President will review the reports and governance and public input, and--in consultation with the chancellors--prepare options for consideration by the Board of Regents at its November 7 meeting.

Additionally teams are working on ways to increase integration of Student Services.

Phase 1 - Inter-University discussions (July- August 2019)

At its July 30, 2019 meeting, the University of Alaska Board of Regents requested that the president work on “preparing a strategic approach to combining duplicative academic colleges and schools, consolidating research institutes, and enhanced integration of community campuses – for review and approval by the Board at its meeting on September 12-13, 2019.”

To meet the Board of Regents' request regarding academic programs and other academic areas for consolidation or "lead campus" efforts, UA held a series of facilitated workshops the week of August 19. Discussion groups facilitated by Dr. Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld from Brandeis University looked at eight areas.

Eight areas were reviewed:

  • Health
  • Science/Arts/Humanities
  • Management and Business 
  • eLearning 
  • Engineering 
  • Education 
  • Research 
  • Career and technical education - Community Campuses

For each area, we convened two sessions, the first in Fairbanks and the second in Anchorage. Participants were selected by provosts, deans, directors and faculty leadership and represent a wide spectrum of interests across the UA system.  

The meetings were conducted in a face-to-face format and by Zoom at both locations. The meetings were also live-streamed for others to view. The goal of these meetings was to explore options for academic organization and structure in the context of reductions in state support to the University of Alaska.  

The discussions during the week and thereafter will form the basis for the report that will be presented to the Board in September. This began the process to advise the Board regarding a plan to transition to a single institutional accreditation.

University of Alaska Academic Structure Change Management

Process Overview, Ground Rules, and Guidance

Session Goals:

  • In a focused, systematic way, address changes being advanced by the University of Alaska Board of Regents in response to the current financial crisis and in service of the long-term vision for the university.
  • Surface and address conflicting interests; identify and advance common interests.
  • Generate constructive options and, to the extent possible, consensus recommendations.

Session Overview:

  • Fairbanks 
    • Monday, August 19
      • Health: 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.
      • Science/Arts/Humanities: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
    • Tuesday, August 20
      • Management and Business: 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.
      • eLearning: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
      • Engineering: 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
    • Wednesday, August 21
      • Education: 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.
      • Research: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
      • CTE / Community Campuses: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Anchorage
    • Thursday, August 22
      • Health: 8 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
      • Management and Business: 10 a.m. -  11:30 a.m.
      • Research: 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
      • Engineering: 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
    • Friday, August 23
      • Education: 8 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
      • eLearning: 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
      • CTE / Community Campuses: 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
      • Science, Arts and Humanities: 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Proposed Session Ground Rules:

  • Focus on interest and options – avoid jumping to positions.
  • Be hard on the issues, not each other.
  • Operate with transparency – notes will be recorded live on a cloud-based, shared document.
  • Issues that can’t be resolved during the session will be placed on a “parking lot” in the notes.
  • Observers can communicate (in person or electronically) with participants before and after the sessions, but should only serve as observers during the sessions.

Change Management Model:

  • Vision and Data
  • Stakeholders and Interests
  • Options and Recommendations
  • Lateral Alignment

Additional Considerations:

  • Participants should bring relevant data on student enrollment, faculty and staffing levels, current programs and initiatives, and other matters.
  • All sessions will have virtual options for participants not able to attend in person and there will be arrangements for virtual observers.
  • A facilitation team will guide the process, led by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Brandeis University, and involving skilled facilitators from within the University of Alaska system.

Workshop First Principles


During the work sessions, there was informal dialogue among the team leading and facilitating the sessions that surfaced the following points as potential “first principles” going forward:


Serving students: An overarching commitment, serving students, current and future.


Honoring Indigenous cultures: An overarching commitment, honoring and respecting indigenous cultures and values.


Agile Institution: The aim of being an agile institution, responsive to emerging local needs.


Vertical and Lateral Alignment: The importance of mechanisms for horizontal collaboration (lateral), in addition to the importance of decisive and inclusive leadership (top-down), combined with broad engagement and action (bottom-up).


Geographic and cultural context: Education matched to the Alaska context, both geographic and cultural.


Transformative research: Appreciation for the transformative role of research addressing natural, technological, and social challenges facing society.


Increased self-sufficiency: A shared priority for reducing the dependency of the university on State funding.


Deliberation and Action: A need to balance the time required for deliberation and the importance of decisive action (where inaction is potentially costly).


Plan, Do, Check, Adjust: The need for use of a Plan, Do, Check, Adjust (PDCA) approach to continuous improvement (not just “Plan, Do … Plan, Do … Plan, Do” but including thoughtful “Check, Adjust”).


Anticipating Accelerating Rates of Change: The importance of anticipating an accelerating pace of change in technology and society, as well as across higher education, with the overarching dual aims consistent with those of other societal institutions--maximizing creative value and mitigating harm.