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Senator Murkowski holds Roundtable at UAS Sitka Campus

There were more than 20 participants in the roundtable, and 20 or so other Sitkans sat in and listened to the back-and-forth discussions.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski greets UAS Sitka Campus Director Jeff Johnston at a visit to the campus Feb. 23

Sen. Lisa Murkowski greets UAS Sitka Campus Director Jeff Johnston at a visit to the campus Feb. 23

Representatives from local organizations and government entities discussed challenges and issues related to Sitka’s relationship with the federal government during a roundtable meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski at the UAS Sitka Campus on Wednesday, February 23. The two-hour session gave local leaders an opportunity to air their concerns directly to the senator. There were more than 40 participants in the roundtable. Sitka Campus Director Jeff Johnston noted  the increased headcounts on the UAS campuses, an increase which is typically seen during an economic downturn as individuals return to school to re-tool and re-skill. Johnston pointed out that 70% of Sitka students are web based. This semester Sitka has more than 240 distance students from cities and villages all over Alaska, as well as military in Iraq.

Sen. Murkowski asked  if web based students in the outlying areas are well served through broadband. Johnston replied, "We have the ability to support e-learning for our native and rural students in large part because of federal support from the USDA grants which is providing more schools and libraries in the remote areas to be better equipped to handle the new technologies." Johnston shared his hope that the University would  continue to receive funding for Title III grants.

He stated that the Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawaiian-Serving institution funding has had a positive impact on education in rural Alaska, specifically at the UAS Sitka Campus where renovations were completed last year to the Health Sciences Complex that facilitate e-learning for the Health Information Management and Health Information Technology programs training students in electronic health records. A Career and Technical Education Wing project will aid in the training of college and high school level students in eco and green friendly technologies. Another upcoming grant project is "Connecting to Success";  building resources for Alaska Native students. Another UAS issue that was discussed was the loss of earmark funding for the Alaska Training/Technical Assistance Center (ATTAC) located at the Sitka Campus. Over the past twelve years, ATTAC provided training and technical assistance to small public water and wastewater systems, training more than 3000 individuals from 255 communities.

Murkowski  assured the roundtable of one thing; the budget fight in Washington D.C. would be contentious.


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