December 08, 2005

Regents Approve Workforce Training Tracks, New Research Centers

For Immediate Release
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005
The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously approved two new workforce training tracks that enhance the UA system’s community college mission. In addition, board members approved the establishment of two new research centers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, made possible from federal grants and anticipated non-federal matching funds, over the next five to six years.
The workplace training tracks—called an Occupational Endorsement and Workforce Credential--were hailed as a strong signal of support for community college offerings, typically aimed at older, part-time students taking classes aimed at specific career goals, like a promotion.
UA President Mark Hamilton said the new program tracks would provide inspiration to students who receive work-related training through the university.  “Now they’ll gain not only the skills but, in some cases, also college credit, for coming back to school,” he said.
Craig Dorman, UA vice president for academic affairs and research, said students receiving this type of education in the past haven’t been officially recorded as successful graduates of a program because classes may not have resulted in enough credits for an associate’s degree.
“We count the students who come and do this now as non-completers, which is far from the case,” said Dorman. “We want to turn that around, for purposes of better record keeping and to celebrate the body of knowledge these students are learning.”
At some campuses and departments, a “Certificate of Completion” for certain programs has been available, but not at others.  The new degree and credential program tracks are:

  •  Occupational Endorsement:  Ranging from 9-29 credits applicable in some cases toward a higher degree, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s, and officially counted on a student’s transcripts.  It would require formal admission and be eligible for financial aid. Courses could include classes in numerous fields, from professional and technical courses to emergency response and early childhood training, among others.
  • Workforce Credential: non-credit programs that could include, for example, sexual harassment training or a special training on mine safety and health.

The two new research centers will involve all UA campuses but be headquartered at the College of Engineering and Mines at UAF. The Alaska University Transportation Center will be one of 10 such centers mandated in the recently approved federal highway bill.  With a total of $18 million in federal grants (requiring a non-federal match) over the next five years, the center will work in an interdisciplinary fashion with other agencies on transportation research, coordinating engineering with science, business and other disciplines.
The Arctic Engineering Research Center, funded for a total of $18 million over the next six years under the federal energy bill, will address long-term solutions to unique design, construction and maintenance of structures in the Arctic.  The center will work closely with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, the state Department of Transportation and others.    
In other action, the board:

  • Delayed action on modifications to the Optional Retirement Program for new employees, to allow more time for financial analysis and additional consultation with faculty and staff representatives;
  • Approved graduate certificates in clinical social work practice and social work management at UAA;
  • Formally approved two projects--the state virology lab on the UAF campus and a classroom addition at Kenai Peninsula College;
  • Reviewed and accepted the FY 05 audited financial statements;
  • Heard a report on the “gender gap” plaguing higher education across the country, including Alaska, from UAF psychology professor and Northern Studies Director Judy Kleinfeld;
  • Heard a report from UAF’s Buck Sharpton on the International Polar Year, an intense period of internationally coordinated, interdisciplinary research focusing on polar regions during 2007-2008. UAF is heavily involved in the planning, education and outreach for IPY. Sharpton is UAF Chancellor Steve Jones’ director of research. 
  • Elected new board officers for the coming year. Board chair is now Mary Hughes of Anchorage, replacing Brian Rogers of Fairbanks, who served three consecutive years as board chair; vice chair is Joe Usibelli Jr. of Healy; secretary is Cynthia Henry of Fairbanks; Carl Marrs of Anchorage is treasurer.


For more information, call Kate Ripley, 907/450-8102 or email