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Summer Message from President Hamilton

Another season of UA commencements has come to an end. Last Friday, Regent Cynthia Henry and I watched a dozen graduates accept their degrees and certificates at our extended site in Tok. It was the last of 18 graduation celebrations around the system, from Ketchikan to Kotzebue.

This is my ninth year of participating in commencement exercises. To see the faces of these graduates as they proudly walk across the stage to receive their hard-earned diplomas is uplifting, emotionally moving and deeply gratifying, knowing the difference we make for our students and the entire state.

We awarded a record number of degrees and certificates this year--over 3,700. This is mostly a reflection of the record high enrollments we witnessed in the fall of 2003, which peaked at 33,900 full- and part-time students.  While the numbers are still preliminary and final reports not available for a couple more months yet, hereís how itís shaping up:* 2,138 degrees and certificates through UAA in Anchorage, including its  extended campuses, from Homer and Valdez to Mat-Su and Kodiak;* 1,228 degrees and certificates through UAF and its campuses, from Dillingham and Bethel to Kotzebue and Nome;* and 374 degrees and certificates through Southeast in Juneau, including community campuses in Sitka and Ketchikan.

We continue on with summer programs, of course. But the summer months at the university offer many of us a chance to take a few deep breaths, get caught up on our correspondence, clean out the ìin boxî and tackle projects put off during the busy academic year. Many of our faculty go off contract and pursue other endeavors in research, writing and volunteering.

It's been a busy year. In terms of staffing, we've already said good-bye to UAA Chancellor Elaine Maimon and, soon, will say farewell to UAA Vice Chancellor for Administration Gebe Ejigu. Both accepted new positions at Governors State University in Illinois. In June, weíll say good-bye to UAA Vice Chancellor for Advancement Steve Lindbeck, who will become the new president and general manager of Alaska Public Telecommunications Inc.

UAF Provost Paul Reichardt is retiring, capping a dedicated 35-year career at the university that started as a professor in the chemistry department and later included service as dean of the College of Natural Sciences, interim director of the Museum of the North and then, ultimately, Provost. Weíve also said good-bye to former regents Brian Rogers, Joe Usibelli Jr., Fran Rose, Jim Hayes and, by the end of this month, Jacob Gondek.

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Craig Dorman, who served the academic and research interests of our system since 2002, has moved on to new challenges and opportunities.  He stayed on longer than he initially bargained for, and his service here was much appreciated.  Watch for an announcement on his replacement very soon.

In other notable staffing changes, UAS Dean of Arts and Sciences and Vice Provost of Research Brendan Kelly began a new assignment in January at the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. Kelly is serving as program director for arctic biology in the Office of Polar Programs. This prestigious appointment, an Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignment, spans the timeframe of the International Polar Year.

We welcome UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer, UAF Provost Susan Henrichs and new regents William Andrews, Eric Drygas, Pat Jacobson, Kirk Wickersham, Fuller Cowell and returning regent Tim Brady.

We celebrated a lot this past year, including the groundbreaking of the new Integrated Sciences Facility at UAA, the ribbon cutting of the new Biological Research and Diagnostic Facility at UAF and the start of much-needed renovations for the bookstore, student services and administrative offices at UAS.  We watched our Nanook rifle team take its ninth NCAA title.  And the Seawolf Speech and Debate Team placed in the top 3 percent of university debate teams, worldwide.

Weíre now assessing the 2007 legislative session, which ended last Wednesday, to see what the various bills and budgets mean to the university. On the funding front, we fared well relative to other agencies, and we must keep that in mind.  But did we receive the kind of support that we need in order to advance our mission and become even more relevant to Alaskaís future, our workforce and economy? We're still evaluating the answer to that question.

We have some work to do over the interim and next session, working with our governor and legislative leadership about the importance of workforce development, university research, student success and need-based aid. Weíll continue looking for program efficiencies and insisting on institutional accountability, as demanded by the Board of Regents. We may see some internal reallocations, to keep the mission moving forward. The future prosperity of Alaska resides largely within our educational system, from kindergarten on through post-secondary. Weíll continue working hard to ensure our citizens the best education possible, right here in Alaska.

But, like Alaskans everywhere, we'll also celebrate summer in Alaska---the most beautiful place on earth.  I know Patty and I will wet a fishing line or two!

Whatever your passion-climbing mountains, kayaking, gardening, golfing, river running, camping, make sure you're safe out there.  Enjoy your travels and adventures, and do take care.

Mark Hamilton


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