The future of UAA: An interview with the interim chancellor

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Tuesday morning, Channel 2 talked with Samuel Gingerich, interim chancellor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, about a broad range of subjects, including how the university can financially survive and if there are concerns about losing accreditation. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Rebecca Palsha: Will any other programs either be cut, or go away?

Samuel Gingerich: I believe we have eliminated approximately 35 to 40 programs these past few years. And that's a full range of things, from occupational endorsements to a couple of masters degrees programs. And so obviously, programs have gone away, and we continue to evaluate our existing array of programs. From my perspective, I think UAA has – for the most part – narrowed in on the set of programs we are gong to continue to deliver for the near term. The key things that we need to focus on right now is student success.

Palsha: How do you keep students at UAA?

Gingerich: Historically, we've probably not done the best job in providing them a pathway to those opportunities. So specifically, what we will be focusing on are developing strategies that will help students who can articulate what their interested in. For example, in a career in business, but they don't know exactly what it is. Some, when they show-up as freshmen, we can say, 'Here, take this set of courses. All of these will help move you toward that specific degree, or degrees, in that area.' And then, through intensive advising, and using some of the other tools that we're hopping to make available, we can help students narrow their interest to a specific area.

Palsha: Are you worried about losing accreditation?

Gingerich: What's happening here, in Alaska, has played out across the Lower 48 in waves. Probably, for two or three decades now, institutions there have managed to deal with, and continue to deal, with significant reductions in state general funds, and they've been able to retain accreditation. I think UAA's move of adopting UAA 2020 – of establishing some priorities, of being able to demonstrate to our creditors, to our many publics that we're able to move on those priorities – that really is the test behind accreditation. So while we face challenges – the institution faces challenges that it didn't five years ago – I think the institution is well positioned to move forward. And I think the accreditation process will demonstrate that that's true.

Palsha: Will there be any changes to the education department?

Gingerich: From my perspective, there will be some changes that are coming. There needs to be some changes. UA has not met the needs of the state in preparing teachers. We need to do some things differently. The direction that the board set out really was calling on all three institutions, in the system, to better focus on the needs of the state. While the original plan may not be the one that we move forward with the strategies, whatever strategies we end up with will continue to keep that focus on the needs of the state for more teachers. Here at UAA, one of the things I will mention, is actually that our enrollment in education (department) is up this year.

[UAA: Enrollment and graduation rates on the decline]

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