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University of Alaska president says a ‘phoenix’ will rise from the ashes
was written by Mayowa Aina, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage , 2020-02-29 02:07:18
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University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen put a positive spin on the university system’s outlook in his 2020 State of the University address Friday afternoon.
His speech during the AlaskaCAN! Conference in Anchorage largely focused on the public university system’s accomplishments and value to the state.
“Our research really provides terrific quality for what happens in our classrooms. In addition to that, it is an economic engine. With the state’s investment of $25 million, we return $150 million,” Johnsen said.
But Johnsen did not shy away from UA’s current budget woes.
In 2019, Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed an unprecedented $135 million cut to state funding for the UA system — about a 41% reduction.
After a tense budget back-and-forth over the summer, Dunleavy and the then-chairman of the UA Board of Regents ultimately agreed to a smaller, $70 million cut spread over three years. That includes a $25 million cut in the current academic year.
“Had that (initial) cut gone into effect, we would be attending a memorial service here today rather than recommitting ourselves to serving the state’s need for a strong, resilient university system,” Johnsen said.
Johnsen’s speech follows an announcement earlier in the week that University of Alaska Anchorage leaders are looking at deleting academic programs to close budget gaps.
Johnsen said the program reviews are taking place across UA’s three universities: UAA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Southeast.
“Yes, tough decisions will need to be made. Programs will be reduced and discontinued,” Johnsen said. “But as we take our destiny in our own hands, as these decisions are made, the interests of our students are first, always.”
The proposed program cuts at UAA is the latest announcement in a series of concerning news for the University of Alaska system.
In January, preliminary data showed that UAA experienced a 10% drop in enrollment this fall. It’s one of the largest declines the university has seen in years.
But Johnsen likened UA to a phoenix that rises from the ashes with “life and hope and light, with resilience.”
UA, he said, is planning for the future.
“And that vision for the University of Alaska in 2040 is for a seamless higher education system — a network, if you will,” Johnsen said. “With access for students and faculty and staff and community people, no matter where they are in their lives, to all of the high quality opportunities that the university offers for discovery, and learning, and service.”
Johnsen said that UA is in the early stages of its first-ever statewide philanthropic campaign. It is also working to increase enrollment and to generate more revenue through tuition and research funds.
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Alaska is a region where responsible tourism and hospitality is crucial.
Considered as favorite must see attractions for anybody going to Alaska is
Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is actually the biggest national forest within the United States. It obtained it’s name from the Tongass Clan of the Tlingit native people and goes back to 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt created the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve. In 1908 the forest had been renamed and expanded and today the 16.9 million-acre Tongass National Forest stretches from the Pacific to the large inland ice fields that border British Columbia and from the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island to Malaspina Glacier five hundred miles to the north. About 80 % of Southeast Alaska is in Tongass and with it’s thousands of islands, fjords and bays the national forest has 11,000 miles of coastline. Tongass’ vast coastal rain forest includes towering hemlock, spruce and red and yellow cedar. The undergrowth beneath thehuge conifers is made up of young evergreens and shrubs such as devil’s club, blueberry and huckleberry. Moss and ferns cover the ground, and lichens drape numerous trees and rocks.
Wildlife is abundant throughout Tongass. Sitka blacktail deer and its two key predators, wolf and brown bear, are observed here. Black bear are common as well as mountain goats and some moose. Marine mammals discovered along the coast line consist of Dall and harbor porpoises, seals and humpback, minke and orca whales and a thriving population of sea otters. The waters teem with fish including halibut and all five species of Pacific salmon. More bald eagles live in this region than in any other location in the world. Though home to the world’s greatest temperate rain forest, almost fifty percent of Tongass is covered by ice, water, wetlands and rock. It’s most prominent ice floe is the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska’s “Drive-in glacier” since it is just thirteen miles from down-town Juneau along a paved road. A boat ride through Petersburg or Wrangell brings people near the face of LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier on the continent. Only thirty miles north of Yakutat is Hubbard Glacier, the longest tidewater glacier in the world and easily Alaska’s most active. The 76-mile-long glacier has crossed Russell Fjord several times, lately in 2008. The rip tides and currents that flow in front of the 8-mile-wide glacier are so powerful they cause Hubbard to calve almost constantly. The Tongass consists of nineteen wilderness areas, including the 545-sq-mile Russell Fjord Wilderness, in addition to Admiralty Island National Monument and Misty Fiords National Monument. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the general area surrounding Haines and Skagway are not part of the national forest.