UA Works Hard on Access and Affordability

By Monique Musick

The University of Alaska’s tuition rate for the Academic Year 2014-2015 will be on the Board of Regents’ agenda when it meets in September. 

But it won’t be the first time such a discussion has occurred among top leaders at the university. Tuition conversations have been held throughout the campuses among the chancellors and president’s cabinet, Coalition of Student Leaders, the UA budget office and the Tuition Task Force all year long. In the end, the goal is to balance high quality education with cost and accessibility for UA students.  MORE...

President Gamble and Vice President Thomas speak to student leaders in Fairbanks during the Coalition of Student Leaders annual conference. Photo by Kate Ripley

SUNY's Erik Seastedt to head UA Human Resources

University of Alaska President Pat Gamble has hired longtime human resources professional and adjunct professor Erik Seastedt from the State University of New York (SUNY) to serve as the UA System’s chief human resources officer. 

Seastedt will start the job Sept. 16, replacing interim officer Michelle Rizk, who also serves as associate vice president for budget.

“Erik is the whole professional package. He brings UA 24 years of human resources experience in a wide variety of areas such as job classification and compensation, benefits, communications, diversity, labor relations, policy development and effective performance assessment,” said Gamble. “We’re fortunate to bring him to Alaska and to have him put that experience to work for UA.”

Seastedt is currently director of human resources and affirmative action at SUNY’s Cobleskill campus in upstate New York. Previous leadership positions have been with Great Basin College in Nevada, the University of Wyoming in Laramie and other organizations in upstate New York. At the UA System he’ll report directly to Gamble, providing HR leadership and policy level strategy in personnel-related areas.

UA employs approximately 8,600 full- and part-time employees in locations across the state, with an estimated economic footprint of over $1 billion. After federal and state government employment, UA is the single largest employer in Alaska.  

“Human resources in higher education is all about student success,” Seastedt said. “If I can make people happier in their jobs, less stressed about health benefits or administrative processes internal to their jobs, then they can focus more of their energy on the students.”

Seastedt has taught psychology and human resources management as an adjunct professor at each of the universities he’s worked at over the years. He credits the background in psychology for insight into business theory and employee communication.

Born and raised in western New York state, Seastedt earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and biology from St. Bonaventure University in New York state and a Master of Science degree in human resources management from SUNY Fredonia. In 2008 he was selected as a “Shining Star” by the SUNY Cobleskill Student Affairs Department and received the 2004 Advocate of Staff award at the University of Wyoming. He also received a faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching from Jamestown Community College in New York state.

Chancellors, President Urge President Obama and Congress to Close the Innovation Deficit

President Gamble and Chancellors Pugh, Case and Rogers joined university leadership across the nation in signing an open letter to President Obama and Congress regarding federal support of higher education, research and innovation. About 165 university presidents and chancellors signed the letter warning against cutting higher education funding and investments in research while other nations are pouring money into these areas — an issue they refer to as the "innovation deficit."

For more information visit: http://www.innovationdeficit.org/

UA Developing Training to Address Workplace Bullying

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, approximately 35 percent of the U.S. workforce report being bullied at work. Other researchers indicate that 60 percent of U.S. workers experience bullying behaviors at some point during their careers.  

Reportedly bullying occurs more frequently than sexual harassment or other illegal discrimination mainly because it is not illegal under current law. However, in recent years legislation called the Healthy Workplace Bill is being discussed at the state government level in order to pass legislation to prohibit workplace bullying.  

In the meantime, how do employers and employees address workplace bullying? Sources, such as the Workplace Bullying Institute, indicate that one of the first steps to address bullying starts with naming or identifying it.  

In Spring 2013, Staff Alliance shared the results of their Staff Work/Life survey with UA leadership. Multiple survey comments included mention of problems with workplace bullying. Staff Alliance suggested that training on this topic would benefit UA employees. After President Gamble reviewed the survey, he requested HR staff to develop training to increase employees’ awareness of bullying and the options available to resolve the bullying behavior when it occurs.  

HR is currently finalizing and vetting class materials. Training sessions will be scheduled during Fall 2013 to accommodate the attendance of all Statewide employees.

President Gamble meets with the members of Staff Alliance during the group's annual retreat. Photo by Juella Sparks

University Leaders Present FY15 Budget Priorities

UA President Pat Gamble, the three chancellors and other university leaders met on Aug. 8 to review and discuss FY15 budget proposals and priorities. The State of Alaska Office of Management and Budget provided funding guidelines in a July 29 memorandum. Clearly stated is Gov. Sean Parnell’s emphasis on reducing overall state funding. Beginning in FY14, Parnell’s fiscal plan is based on slowing spending growth, conserving budget reserves and boosting economic growth.

What this means for the university is that it must present a FY15 budget that's as flat as possible compared to the current fiscal year, and be prepared to demonstrate cost savings and efficiencies. Only mission-critical increases or those that directly support the governor’s priorities will be considered, according to the OMB memo. OMB will allocate funding for statewide priorities, including salary increases and the state retirement system unfunded liability. There will be no other state funded increases in agency budgets.

FY15 is expected to be the fifth and last year of the governor’s commitment to include $100 million for deferred maintenance projects for all agencies and departments. As in the past, UA expects to receive a $37.5 million share of that money. While extremely important and appreciated, the deferred maintenance support has not been enough to meet UA's entire capital program. As a result, funding requests submitted for consideration in the FY15 Capital Budget and the FY15-20 Capital Improvement Plan will continue to be prioritized, with special emphasis on major facilities renewal and rehabilitation, and deferred maintenance.

At the Aug. 8 UA session, each chancellor had the opportunity to present his proposed operating and capital budget requests. Each presentation included a discussion of the major budget challenges and key issues at each university and its associated community campuses. Because of the emphasis on reducing growth, internal offsets and reallocations are important factors. Budget requests also must support the key elements of the Shaping Alaska’s Future initiative and performance management metrics.

The next step for President Gamble and senior management is to review and prioritize the requests from across the system and prepare a proposed budget. Regents will have a first look at that budget in September, then take official action at the November meeting. It then goes to the governor's office for consideration. In December, the governor prepares the full state operating and capital budgets that will be submitted for legislative approval. From January to April 2014, university officials and advocates will work to gain support for UA’s budget.

Information on the state funding guidelines, copies of the individual chancellor and System budget presentations and FY15 budget considerations can be found on the budget webpage: http://www.alaska.edu/swbir/budget/budget_planning/meetingsfy15maumtgs/index.xml

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