General Timeline In Place For Health Care Motions

by Rachel Voris

For the past eight months, the university has echoed the state and nation in making deliberate changes to health care in an effort to reduce costs and create a healthier employee population.

A recent article in the Alaska Journal of Commerce painted a dire picture for Alaska businesses. Most are paying 30 percent more for insurance premiums than comparison states, like Washington. Alaska doesn’t stand alone. The article states that on a national level, the rising cost of health insurance has outpaced general inflation and growth of workers’ earnings.

Plan changes over the past several months have been made in an effort to combat costs for all. The university has made substantial efforts to make sure employees are informed on these changes, and more, the UA has listened when people have spoken in support or disagreement of the proposed changes. Through collaborations with the Joint Health Care Committee, Staff Health Care Committee, staff, faculty and human resources offices, motions have been approved and a general timeline for implementation of those motions is now in place. MORE...

Regents meeting focuses on approvals and public testimony; UA leaders map out next steps for SDI

ANCHORAGE -- Students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to testify to the University of Alaska Board of Regents during a two-day meeting in Anchorage Feb. 21 and 22. A group of approximately 15
students and faculty came forward to request smoke free campuses in the UA system, while many others testified in support of programs and plans on the board's agenda. The quality of testimony added an element of personal engagement to an agenda packed with consent items, curriculum changes, campus planning updates and bond considerations.

During its business meeting, the board approved a bond resolution for general revenue and refunding bonds. The regents also approved the establishment of a quasi-endowment to receive and hold fees collected by the University of Alaska Museum of the North from government agencies and individuals for the purpose of maintaining archeological artifacts. This quasi-endowment will be managed and invested by the UA Foundation.

The board also approved deletion of three master’s programs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF): the Master of Science in General Science; the Master of Arts in Teaching in Mathematics; and the Master of Arts in Teaching in Physics degree programs. Regents went on to approve master plans at the UAF College of Rural and Community Development (CRCD) and Community and Technical College (CTC). The board also approved schematic designs for a UAF Fine Arts Complex Vapor Barrier; UAF Bristol Bay Campus Applied Sciences; and for the UAF Utilities Wood Center Vault.

Partnerships with Alaska’s public and private industries became a prominent theme throughout the meeting. A presentation showcasing University of Alaska Anchorage’s Aviation program of excellence delivered by students, faculty, alumni and industry leaders generated a dynamic discussion about the UAA aviation program. The presentation highlighted program components, its growth in recent years, and its current and predicted future demand by students, industry and the state of Alaska.

Vice President of University Relations Carla Beam presents the UA Foundation report at the meeting.

Vice President of University Relations Carla Beam shared a lighter message while delivering the UA Foundation Report. "Last year, generous companies, foundations, and individuals donated more than $22 million to UA campuses and programs. I don't think any of those gifts challenged our development officers more than this week's gift of a pair of Boeing 727 jets donated by FedEx to the UAA and UAF campus aviation programs. One of the jets was given special permission to do a short runway landing at Anchorage's Merrill Field. Our development officer now knows all about landing permits, fuel weights, de-icing procedures, and weather minimums."

Ian Van Tets, director of the Della Keats Health Sciences Summer Program

Ian Van Tets, director of the Della Keats Health Sciences Summer Program, also captivated the regents with his testimony about the UAA bridging program for high school students and the continued outreach
showing UA’s productive partnerships with Alaska’s schools. Newly appointed Regent Gloria O’Neill carried much of the discussion using knowledge from her previous experiences and expressed her support for and admiration of the program.

In other business, the board was among the first to preview the launch of the UAA’s first comprehensive brand campaign which highlights effort toward student achievement and attainment: "Amazing Stories
Being Written Every Day." The campaign highlights the accomplishments of students, faculty and alumni through a statewide television, radio, online and social media campaign. The goal of the campaign hopes to increase the visibility of the quality research and teaching happening at Anchorage's hometown university. Regents uniformly reflected appreciation for the recent branding efforts taking place at both UAA and UAF campuses. Chair Pat Jacobson expressed it best by saying, “The creative elements of these campaigns have captured the unique personality of each campus and the diversity of the students who attend.”

A presentation by Terry MacTaggart regarding the progress of the Strategic Direction Initiative (SDI) recapped the SDI Leadership Conference held Feb. 20, prior to the board meeting. Leadership from
UA, UAA, UAF, UAS, and community campuses across Alaska gathered at UAA to begin building on the Board of Regents’ vision of becoming the university of choice for Alaskans. The conference was designed to shift from gathering and processing input, (SDI Phase Two) to doing, (SDI Phase Three). During the conference, attendees approved the five strategic direction themes:

* Student Achievement and Attainment
* Productive Partnerships with Alaska’s Schools
* Productive Partnerships with Alaska’s Public and Private Industries
* Research and Development to Sustain Alaska’s Communities and Economic Growth
* Accountability to the People of Alaska

The leaders also identified and discussed possible initiatives to begin working on and the role that the University of Alaska would play in supporting those initiatives.

Successful Launch from Poker Flat Research Range

Submitted by Amy Hartley Information Officer, Public & Media Relations, Geophysical Institute, UAF

Conditions at Poker Flat Research Range weren’t indicative of a possible launch on the evening of Feb. 6, 2013. The skies were cloudy and the aurora wasn’t out, but then, a camera stationed downrange at Kaktovik, Alaska showed some promising aurora. From there, everything lined up to create the perfect conditions for the VISIONS sounding rocket to launch. At 11:21 p.m. Alaska Standard Time, the four-stage rocket began its 16-minute flight into the upper reaches of the atmosphere where it flew through an auroral substorm before impacting in the Arctic Ocean.

VISIONS, short for “VISualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral atom imaging during a Substorm,” is a NASA mission aimed to understand how the aurora heats and slingshots oxygen out of the upper atmosphere. Douglas Rowland, of the Space Weather Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, was the principal investigator for the project.

Rowland said the rocket performed well and all four of the onboard instruments executed their jobs as planned, collecting data in a myriad of ways. Initial results look positive. With the rocket launched, scientists will begin the next phase of this project – crunching the copious amount of data.

Part of the data analysis will compare information collected during the rocket’s flight with ground-based data, gathered at sites downrange maintained by faculty from the Geophysical Institute and Poker Flat Research Range personnel.

“The University of Alaska Fairbanks has invested a lot of time and resources on cameras and instruments at various sites downrange. Those really helped,” Rowland said. “The rocket streaks through so quickly, but the downrange sites provide the roadmap for all of the data.”

Those downrange cameras will allow Rowland and his team to pick just a portion of the rocket’s flight, and examine it in extreme detail.

The 2013 launch of VISIONS was the first to be covered in real-time by social media at Poker Flat. Range personnel established a helpful Twitter feed and constant updates on its website that allowed scientists and others interested in the project worldwide to stay up-to-date as the range prepared for and ultimately launched the sounding rocket. Rocket launches from Poker Flat aren’t slated for specific times or dates, they may occur at any time during a prescribed window if scientific conditions are right. Therefore, planning to see a launch is difficult for those not affiliated with the range. This unprecedented access to launch season activity is a boon to rocket enthusiasts and aurora buffs hoping to capture site of a launch into the aurora.

VISIONS was the only rocket scheduled for the 2013 launch season.

Poker Flat Research Range is the only university-owned sounding rocket range in the world. The facility is located at mile 30 on the Steese Highway, north of Fairbanks.

At 11:21 p.m. Alaska Standard Time on Feb. 6, 2013, VISIONS launched from Poker Flat Research Range into an auroral substorm. The four-stage rocket flew for about 16 minutes, gathering data throughout its flight. Photo by Chris Perry.

UA Leadership Moves Forward with SDI

by Chas St. George

“Today, we’re leaving the second phase of the Strategic Direction Initiative, and entering the final phase… or what I like to call… the doing phase of SDI. Doing means we have to own what we do. We have to be accountable. That’s a little bit of a culture change. That’s why we have you, our leadership in this room. You have to have the courage to believe in this culture change so you can inspire others to do the same," President Pat Gamble said at the SDI leadership meeting on Feb. 20.

Gamble speaks to the leadership group at the SDI meeting on Feb. 20. Photo by Chas St. George.
Terry MacTaggart lead the discussion, which began with an assessment of SDI in relation to similar initiatives at other state universities. Photo by Chas St. George

Turning the SDI Conversation into Action

The University of Alaska Strategic Direction Initiative reached another major milestone on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Leadership across all UA campuses gathered at UAA to build on a vision of becoming the university of choice for Alaskans.

The meeting, facilitated by Terry MacTaggart (UA SDI Consultant), began with an assessment of where SDI was in relation to similar initiatives at other state universities. “You all are part of a change process that is happening at universities across the nation right now. What sets you apart is that you are actually moving the needle in the right direction already.”

It didn’t take long for UA leadership to affirm the five themes that were drafted on July 23, 2012. Those themes are embedded in many of the initiatives that are ongoing at UA campuses, demonstrating the Strategic Direction Initiative in action.

SDI Themes: The Courage to Change the Way We Do Business

There were five topics of discussion that were brought up during the meeting.

  • Increasing the number of Alaskans receiving certificates, licenses, degrees and program completions
  • Accelerating remedial/developmental education for students
  • E-Learning
  • Establishing a common set of General Educational Requirements (GER’s)
  • Raising the profile of research and development to advance Alaska’s communities and our economy

All three MAU’s are already working on academic advising, aligning common education requirements, and building stronger research and development ties. The consensus was that the university’s role in supporting these collaborative efforts was to:

  • Provide leadership for a new direction
  • Provide support for the MAU efforts
  • Convene meetings that highlight improvement and success
  • Communicate progress to the state of Alaska
The leadership group included presidents, vice presidents, campus directors, chancellors, vice chancellors, faculty, staff and student leadership. Photo by Chas St. George

Gamble summarized this cultural transition from gathering and processing information to a new phase, one of “doing”. It will not be easy, but it has great potential for both short and long term higher education opportunities for Alaskans. “Phase three is not all downhill. As a mater of fact, it’s like the “heartbreak hill” of a marathon. We know the end is in sight, but we still have some big hills to climb.”

"This is a point in time when we have the opportunity to show that we made this attempt in order to remain relevant in a time of change. I believe that future generations of Alaskans will look back at this time and say that was a pivotal moment in the history of this university system, where we decided that we were going to be Alaska’s university of first choice. That’s our legacy. Doing nothing is the worst thing we can do; our relevancy is at risk,” Gamble said.

Gamble went on to say, “In a sense, we have to think about where we want to be in three years. We will want to get the results that advance the University of Alaska. Therefore, the importance of our next phase is underscored by the work we select and the initiatives we that we complete. Our communications, both internal and external, will help to keep everyone engaged in our process. By building a strong coalition of support among agencies, community groups, private enterprises, and any stakeholders we partner with, we’ll be able to achieve the effects or outcomes we need to stay relevant.”

Next Steps include

  • Our chancellors and provosts identify their initiatives
  • Select the outcomes for UA’s advancement (effects we want to achieve)
  • Build a communications plan for internal and external engagement and support
  • Prepare a report of progress to the Board of Regents and to the university
  • The final effect (outcome) is UA’s new direction.
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