What others say: Make good on UA system’s strengths

  • Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:17pm
  • Opinion

Early this month, Jim Johnsen, the presumptive next president of the University of Alaska system, traveled to Juneau.

It’s a tough time to be stepping into the system’s top job. Faced with a multibillion-dollar statewide deficit, cost-cutting lawmakers have targeted the University of Alaska. At best, the university’s funding will remain flat — a de facto cut when contracts require pay increases for many employees.

In Juneau, Johnsen said his vision for the University of Alaska includes a “focus on distinctive strength” at each of the system’s campuses. In Fairbanks, that would mean a focus on mining and engineering. At Anchorage, aviation technology and the Institute of Social and Economic Research will take priority.

What will this mean for Juneau?

Johnsen pointed to the University of Alaska Southeast teacher education program as a distinctive strength here.

We agree that establishing a focus is important for each of the university’s campuses, but how that focus is implemented will matter a great deal. Will it involve cutting everything but that focus? Or will it involve something as simple as ensuring each campus uses the same curriculum and materials as the others, saving money through efficiency? We would hate to see UAS becoming nothing more than a teachers’ college, valuable only to a niche audience.

We have already seen the loss of UAS’ ceramics program, an institution that brightened Juneau with art, and we worry about the future even as we understand that cuts must be made.

Why not take advantage of the natural resources Juneau offers — the icefield, the open water — and include a focus on the marine environment and the outdoors? UAS’ diesel maintenance program is a good one, and feeds our local industry.

We also remind UA officials that regardless of their decision, the public must be kept informed. Earlier this month, reporter Katie Moritz wrote about one Juneau resident who was stunned to learn that her years of preparation for a dental program were for naught because the program had been canceled weeks before she was to begin.

The UA system must involve the public to avoid further cases like this.

Furthermore, we expect the Legislature in the coming year to examine new sources of revenue. The University of Alaska should do the same. UA has not yet made the recruitment of international students a priority, but that overlooks Alaska’s great geographic advantage.

Alaska is equidistant from Europe, Asia and the East Coast of North America. The university system should take advantage of that fact, just as the state’s airports have. They’ve become transshipment and refueling stations that serve world commerce. UA could become an international destination for learning and education.

As Johnsen prepares to become UA’s president, we hope that his focus strategy will not overlook ways to grow the university, not simply preserve its core specialties.

— The Juneau Empire,

July 22

More in Opinion

Jodi Taylor is the board chair for Alaska Policy Forum. (Courtesy photo)
Private school, state reimbursement: family choice

By Jodi Taylor Alaskan parents have a legitimate right to choose the… Continue reading

Opinion: It’s time for bold action to protect our fisheries

Our fisheries feed the world and sustain our unique cultures and communities.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

Most Read