December 08, 2006

Regents approve degree program for fire chiefs

For Immediate Release
Friday, Dec. 8, 2006

The University of Alaska Board of Regents this week approved a new degree program aimed at training the state's next generation of fire chiefs and other emergency services managers.

The program, a bachelor's degree in emergency management at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, would combine the technical emergency services training at UAF's Tanana Valley Campus with the business administration courses taught through the UAF School of Management.  Enrollment in the new program will start in fall 2007 and is expected to initially attract 10 students, with enrollment growing to 40 students by fall 2009.

"The goal is to train the future fire chiefs or other emergency service administrators right here in Alaska," said Mike McGowan, associate professor and coordinator of TVC's emergency services program. "It used to be that an associate degree was the final degree for people wanting to become leaders in emergency services. More and more today, a bachelor's degree is becoming the standard."

About 10 fire chief positions open annually throughout the state, McGowan said, and recruiters often must look to the Lower 48 to fill the vacancies. By 2009, the National Fire Academy's executive fire officer training school will require all candidates to have a baccalaureate degree, so it's important the state's university offer such training, he said.

Regents also approved a new certificate in civic engagement at the University of Alaska Anchorage designed to more strongly connect volunteerism and community service to existing majors and programs within UAA.  The certificate, which will be available next semester, could be obtained at the same time a student pursues a bachelor's degree or as an additional credential after the degree is earned.

The University of Alaska Southeast's School of Education also received approval for two new programs-a graduate certificate in special education and a Master of Education in special education.  Students who complete the graduate certificate would be qualified to teach in a K-12 classroom. An additional nine credits would qualify for the master's degree.  The two new degrees build upon UAS' already successful undergraduate and graduate programs in teacher education.  Students will be able to enroll in both programs starting in summer 2007.

The board also approved a cost increase for the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences' facility at Lena Point, in Juneau. The project, slated for construction in March, came in $3 million above earlier budget estimates of $21.5 million due to a mini-construction boom in Juneau, which has created a labor shortage and driven up local costs.  Competing construction projects include a new high school in the Mendenhall Valley, a Wal-Mart, Home Depot and additions and renovations at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

The cost increase is known relatively early in the process because of the use of a construction manager working closely with the architect and the university, a process known as "construction manager at risk."  Using the construction manager eliminates "bid-day surprises" that sometimes come with the design-bid-build process most often associated with public construction projects.

Juneau's mini-boom also caused the renovation of the Gitkov building, the old Horton Hardware building at Auke Bay, to cost an extra $565,000, from $1.3 million to $1.9 million. Bids came in higher than expected.  The building is being renovated to house the student bookstore and administrative offices.

In other action, the board:
* Approved a contract extension for UA President Mark Hamilton through June 2009, setting a base salary at $300,000 annually and additional $70,000 bonuses for each year under the contract that he remains at the head of the 15 campus, statewide system;

* Approved code corrections at UAF's Fine Arts building, estimated at $8.3 million;

* OK'd schematic design for $5.7 million to renovate a wing of UAF's Arctic
Health Building;

* Approved the state Department of Health and Social Service's new virology lab, on the UAF campus.  Policy requires board approval for all buildings built on university property. The new state-owned building will provide opportunities for collaboration between the state and UAF researchers in the areas of animal and human health;

* Authorized the UA Foundation, the non-profit entity that manages privately raised funds for the university, to assess a 1 percent fee on all endowments currently held by the foundation, as well as future endowments; and a 1 percent gift fee on current donations, replacing a 5 percent fee previously on the books;

* Voted to keep Mary K. Hughes of Anchorage as board chair for another year. Cynthia Henry of Fairbanks will serve as vice-chair, Mike Snowden of Sitka will be secretary and Carl Marrs of Anchorage will be treasurer. 

The board also heard several reports from rural school district superintendents about UA's K-12 teacher mentoring program, which has reduced teacher turnover for participating districts. They also received an update on outreach efforts for the upcoming International Polar Year, a multi-national period of intensified polar research with heavy participation from UA.  Local outreach efforts will include an art and essay contest for school children as well as numerous public lectures and forums across Alaska.

In addition, regents attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Biological Research and Diagnostic facility  on UAF's West Ridge and a farewell dinner to thank and acknowledge four regents whose terms expire in February--Brian Rogers of Fairbanks, Fran Rose of Anchorage, Joe Usibelli Jr. of Healy and Tim Brady of Anchorage.  The regents must continue serving until Gov. Sarah Palin nominates replacements.  New regents could be in place by the time of the board's next regular meeting, slated for February in Juneau.


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