Regents hear support for UAS, approve engineering plan
JUNEAU--The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Friday approved a multi-faceted engineering plan that will eventually improve engineering facilities and programs at the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses. The 11-member board also heard from many community and business leaders about the importance of the University of Alaska Southeast during the two-day meeting at the Student Recreation Center. Public testimony for UAS was strong, particularly for a student housing expansion project that has received partial funding but needs additional support before it can be completed. Juneau accountant Max Mertz noted that the UAS faculty, Chancellor John Pugh and the staff are very involved in the community through civic organizations and volunteer work, in addition to education and workforce training. “Everyone in Juneau appreciates UAS and understands the importance of a strong educational system to the economic and social well-being of a community,” Mertz said. Regarding the engineering plan, the board’s action is the first step in a multi-stage process that could ultimately lead to new facilities at UAA and UAF, though funding is not requested at this time. The Alaska Legislature provided UA with $8 million in planning and design money for facilities on both campuses in FY11. Additional state funds would be needed in the future for UAA and UAF to carry out the plan. Engineering enrollment and graduation on both campuses has increased, with graduates expected to double by 2014. Space at both engineering schools is cramped, and the laboratories are not up to current standards. Alaska’s annual requirement for new and replacement mechanical, civil, petroleum, electrical and other engineers outpaces UA’s capacity, even with graduates doubling. The UA engineering plan also represents years of collaboration between the system’s two largest campuses. In other action, the board approved an Associate of Applied Science degree in paramedicine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and reaffirmed a joint doctoral degree between UAA and UAF in clinical community psychology. The board also approved schematic design for a wellness center upgrade at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez; the new sports arena at the University of Alaska Anchorage; and the new career and technical education center and student housing projects at Kenai Peninsula College. Those projects were approved in a statewide general obligation vote last year. A plan to spend $37.5 million in deferred maintenance projects was approved, as was a list of projects included within a $50 million bond sale. The legislature and governor provided the deferred maintenance money and bonding authority last year. In other business, regents approved an 8.5 percent salary increase for UA President Pat Gamble, bringing his annual salary to $320,075, closer but still below the market median for similar positions nationally. Members of the board said Gamble’s performance has been exemplary, noting in particular a new spirit of teamwork and collaboration between campuses.