The Pursuit of Savings: A Profile of UA Sustainability Initiatives

Alexander Bergman, left, and Heather Currey, student employees with UAF's office of sustainability, sell campus-grown vegetables each Thursday this summer in front of Wood Center.
Alexander Bergman, left, and Heather Currey, student employees with UAF's office of sustainability, sell campus-grown vegetables each Thursday this summer in front of Wood Center. UAF Photo by Todd Paris.
by Rachel Voris

Sustainability has become a hot word in the past 10 years. Thanks to discourse on global warming and climate change, terms like sustainability and energy efficiency are being discussed around dinner tables and board rooms alike. With a rising cost of living, specifically in Alaska, people are increasingly investigating options to maintain a good quality of life and keep costs down.

Sustainability is centered on reducing carbon emissions, or an a more personal level, one’s carbon foot print, but it is also about reducing energy use and creating cost savings. Though personal actions are vitally important, institutions of higher education have a role to play in making sure their population is educated, that their operations are mindful of energy efficiency standards and that a culture of sustainable choices is cultivated. MORE...

Giveaway Helps Students Consider Graduation, Brings Awareness to UA Campuses

Student winner Monica Nuernberg, faculty winner Dennis Massingham and staff winner Tanya Coty.
Gary J. Turner, director of Kenai Peninsula College, brings more than 30 years of experience in leadership and teaching to the Kenai Peninsula College, not to mention a boat load of personality.

One lucky student received two tickets to fly anywhere on Alaska Airlines for participating in the myTRACK Giveaway hosted by Student and Enrollment Services as part of the Stay on Track campaign. The giveaway, which lasted for two months, encouraged students to think about their own path to graduation by entering the contest and taking a self-portrait showing how many years it would take to graduate.

For Monica Nuernberg, winner of the plane tickets, the contest helped her think about how long it would take to graduate from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Nuernberg is in the Army ROTC program, which already encourages students to choose a graduation date and stick with it. While in the program Nuerbnerg filled out a form with each class she planned to take for every semester until graduation, so she knew what it was going to take to graduate.

Nuernberg said with the help of ROTC, she has been on the right track to graduate, but she thought the contest brought a greater understanding of graduation time to the Anchorage campus. She had heard that UAA students need to improve graduation time and was pleased to see that the giveaway was really trying to motivate people to graduate on time.

Anne Holte, statewide staff member, didn't have quite enough fingers to show us how long it took her to "Get It Done" but she came up with a creative solution.

“Graduating on time is important,” Nuernberg said. “The longer a person takes to graduate, the more wasted money there is… If you stay in school wasting time, then you’re not proactively giving back to society.”

Nurernberg said there are ways to help people stay on track with graduation. “It’s really about time management and focus. Set a goal and stick to it. Get motivated about what you want to do and take the steps necessary to reach your potential."

A staff and faculty member were also winners in the giveaway, receiving $250 for a UA department of their choice. Dennis Massingham, assistant professor the heavy duty transportation equipment program at UAA, was the faculty winner and Tanya Coty, executive assistant to the vice president for academic affairs, was the staff winner.

Board of Regents Chair Pat Jacobson participates in the giveaway for fun.

Massingham participated in the program because it sounded like fun to him and because the stay on track initiative is an important endeavor that he supports.

Massingham feels strongly about the benefits of a timely graduation.

It was important for me to graduate on time for many reasons. First and foremost, my parents financially helped me with the costs associated with school. I felt obligated to provide a return on their investment by earning good grades and graduating on schedule. I also felt an obligation to my future employer. I wanted to prove to myself and to my future boss that I could make a commitment and see it through to the end, on schedule and under budget.”

“My best advice for students is to get serious about career exploration and then choose the appropriate program to get there,” Massingham said.

For Coty the giveaway was important because it encouraged students to think about how long they have been in school and how close they are to finishing. Coty said as a student, sometimes it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to take extra year to graduate and that’s okay, but the key is to stay on track and have a plan.

Coty, who graduated in five years, said the extra year it she took to graduate eventually didn’t seem worth it when it came to pay for student loans. To help with timely graduation, Coty encourages students to stay focused and put forth the most effort possible. The time goes by quickly, so having a plan and sticking to it is really important, she said.

The Stay on TRACK campaign launched its second year on Oct. 29, with a new theme encouraging students to take more credits and “Get It Done,” which is a shift from last year’s “Finish in Four” theme. The campaign and giveaway are grounded in the philosophy that students and the university can take deliberate actions to graduate in a timelier manner, which brings many benefits including saving money. Estimates show that it costs a student an extra $10,000 to graduate in five years instead of four years.

Comments and Feedback Received at Healthcare Forums

The presentation panel at the JHCC forums includes Cyndee West, note keeper, Abel Bult-Ito JHCC Chair and Erika Van Flein, director of benefits. Photo by Monique Musick.
Statewide staff members listening to the JHCC presentation, which included a time for feedback and questions. Photo by Monique Musick.

The University of Alaska Office of Human Resources along with the Joint Health Care Committee (JHCC) hosted forums at UAF, SW, UAA and UAS earlier this month to provide employees with information in regard to nine motions passed by the committee now being considered by administration.

The forums gave staff and faculty an opportunity for further education on the motions, as well as an opportunity to make comments and ask questions before any motion is put into action. The comments and feedback were noted and will be reviewed by President Gamble, Interim Chief Human Resources Officer Michelle Rizk and the JHCC before any further action is taken.

The JHCC will meet Feb. 1 to review the minutes from the forums, discuss the feedback and make recommendations regarding proceeding with the motions. The presentation shown at the forums may be accessed here.

To see the motions click here. http://www.alaska.edu/files/benefits/Motions.pdf

To view the article in The Statewide Voice that describes each of these motions in detail click here: http://www.alaska.edu/voice/2012/nov-2012/system-news/health-care/benefits-update/

For a full review of the JHCC and its function within the university health care system, read the following article in The Statewide Voicehttp://www.alaska.edu/voice/2012/august-issue-69/system-news/health-care-1/

President Gamble points out the importance of UA Research & Development as a major theme during the last Strategic Direction Initiative (SDI) meeting held last summer in Fairbanks. UA SDI consultant Dr. Terry MacTaggart (left), will facilitate the upcoming SDI meeting in Anchorage on February 20.
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