June 13, 2008

UA regents to act on budget, fisheries, geography & teacher prep

For Immediate Release
Friday, June 13, 2008

The University of Alaska Board of Regents meets in Anchorage next week to discuss a revitalized fisheries program thanks to a generous $5 million grant from the Rasmuson Foundation and $1 million invested by the state.

University staff and faculty expect the new Bachelor of Arts degree in fisheries to garner regents' approval during the regular meeting. The meeting starts at 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 18, in Room 107 of the Lee Gorsuch Commons, on the UAA campus. It continues at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 19. Public testimony will be taken at approximately 10 a.m. both days.

The School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has long offered a Bachelor of Science degree in fisheries, as well as master's and doctoral degrees. Those degrees are important for fishery harvest management and research. They fill a niche in the workforce largely within regulatory agencies, such as the state Department of Fish and Game or the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This new Bachelor of Arts degree, by contrast, will prepare graduates for different jobs within the industry itself, such as a plant manager at a seafood processing facility or as a company's director of seafood marketing or operations. The program was created after university officials consulted with a wide range of industry partners, including those in the seafood processing business, seafood marketing, aquaculture and others.

Internships, especially geared toward rural students, are key to the program's expansion, said Denis Wiesenburg, dean of the school.

"Alaska trained students are going to be more concerned about the long-term sustainability of Alaska's fishery resources," Wiesenburg said. "Alaska has more than half of the nation's coastline and one of the largest fisheries in the world. What better place to study fisheries, and ultimately obtain a great job, than in Alaska?"

If the board agrees, the school will begin accepting students this fall.

Regents also are expected to review a new master's degree in natural resources management and geography at UAF. This new degree differs from the current master's program in that it's more project-based, with applications geared to a student's specific job in the workforce. The current master's degree program is designed for students pursuing a broad, research-based career path, explained Mike Sfraga, director of the university's geography program.

Sfraga also will update the board on his department's revamped undergraduate geography program, which now includes significant outreach to K-12 schools and partnerships with Google Earth, National Geographic and AT&T, among others.

The regents also are poised to take formal action on distributing state general funds to each separately accredited university within the UA system. The system received a total increase in general funds of $20.5 million, or 7 percent, over the current fiscal year's operating money. This money covers much of the system's increased costs for day-to-day items such as salaries, benefits, fuel and utility increases. It also includes $6.8 million for priority programs, including health careers, engineering and construction management.

The increase also provides funding to offer more required core classes, a career counselor at the Mat-Su Campus and funding for the Alaska Teacher Placement Program.

This is only the fourth time in 20 years the university has received state general funds for academic programs. While the money was appreciated, it was nearly $8 million below the board's request to the state.

On the capital side of the budget, the board is expected to formally accept the $107.2 million in state appropriations toward the university's lengthy capital projects list, including the regents' No. 1 priority, maintaining existing facilities and equipment. Of the $50 million requested for the maintenance projects, the state approved $45.8 million. That money will go toward numerous maintenance projects at the three urban campuses, as well as rural and community campuses across the state.

Other capital funding included $46 million for a new Health Sciences Building at UAA and $15 million for a new sports arena planning, design and site preparation at UAA.

Other agenda items for next week's meeting include:
Streamlining and clarifying the UA system's proof of residency for
in-state tuition purposes, aligning it closer to the state's requirement for
receiving the Permanent Fund Dividend;
Formal project approvals for three ongoing projects---the UAF Arctic
Health Lab Revitalization (Phase 2), Tanana Valley Campus building exterior
and the UAA Health Sciences Building;
an update on university athletics programs;
and numerous committee and special reports.


For the full board agenda, go to www.alaska.edu/bor.

For more information, call UA Public Affairs Director Kate Ripley at


UA’s economic footprint reaches throughout the state

The University of Alaska's economic impact in the state reaches nearly $1 billion annually, including direct and indirect payroll, student and visitor spending, and millions in goods and services paid to 1,200 Alaska businesses in over 70 Alaska communities, according to a new report by the McDowell Group Inc. consulting firm.

"The state's investment in the university is well worth it, returning over $3 in total economic activity for every $1 from the state treasury," McDowell Group principal Eric McDowell told the UA Board of Regents, meeting at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus Thursday.

The quantifiable return is in addition to qualitative issues such as improved quality of life, increased involvement in community and satisfying careers, he said.

The report notes that UA graduates tend to remain in Alaska. In 2006 alone, they earned an estimated $2 billion in the state, McDowell said. Ninety-five percent of UA Scholars graduates, recipients of the university's $11,000 scholarship to the top 10 percent of every graduating high school class in Alaska, stay and work in Alaska after graduating college.

Another top item addressed included formal project approval for the new $46 million, 78,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building on the UAA campus.

The legislature provided funding for the building, which will provide much-needed classroom space and state-of-the-art simulated labs for health programs such as nursing and WWAMI, a medical school partnership with the University of Washington.

Construction on the building is expected to get under way by next summer and be ready for students by fall 2011. While regents saw an artist’s concept of the building, just off Providence Drive across from the main campus, final design will occur in the months ahead.

"This will be a very significant piece of setting the future for the entire
health program at UAA," noted UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer.

Regent Tim Brady of Anchorage agreed. "I'm really excited about this facility—it's going to be a great addition to campus."

The board also heard from the state of Alaska's new education commissioner Larry LeDoux. LeDoux said he endorses recent recommendations of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, which supports creation of a governor's sub-cabinet on K-16 education, among other measures. The recommendations are aimed at reversing Alaska's dismal statistics on high school and college graduation, college and work preparation and rates of training and education beyond high school.

"We need to develop strategies to create a statewide, college-going culture. It starts young—you can’t wait for last-minute visits when you’re a high school senior," LeDoux said.

The University of Alaska also supports the recommendations of the ACPE. The UA system's outreach efforts start in the second grade and continue throughout a K-12 student's life.

Improving statistics for student success has been a top priority of UA's administration, faculty and staff. LeDoux and members of the board agreed to work together in tackling the problem.

In other business, the regents:

• Approved a budget distribution plan for the system for the fiscal year
starting July 1;
• Approved a new Bachelor of Arts in fisheries at UAF;
• Approved a new master’s degree in natural resources management and geography at UAF;
• Lauded four recipients of the annual "Make Students Count" award, singled out for exceptional service to students. They are Barbara Hegel, UAS registrar; Shelly Blatchford, admissions and records coordinator for Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna; J.J. Boggs, director of student leadership at UAF; and Ramona McAfee, statewide director of distance education and military services;
• and heard a report on intercollegiate athletics programs at UAA and UAF.

For more information call Kate Ripley at 907/388-3506.
To link to an overview of the McDowell Group report about UA’s economic
impacts, go to UA Impact 2007.