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The next steps for ASRA

A letter from Dean Paul Layer

Dear Friends of ASRA,

Since the Alaska Summer Research Academy colloquium on July 25, we have seen an outpouring of support for ASRA. I thank all of our supporters for sharing their personal experiences and telling us how valuable the program is to them. Students have said that the program has fostered their interest in STEM, and that its instructors and fellow students have inspired them in life.

I want to reassure you that ASRA will continue, although it is facing budget challenges that will affect how the program will look next year.

For many years, ASRA has received the majority of its funding from the College of Natural Science and Mathematics (CNSM), but reductions in state funding for UAF have impacted many highly valued programs across the campus including several at CNSM. To absorb the budget shortfall, I needed to make cuts within the college and this included a reduction in ASRA funding. The program has also seen a decrease in donor support. As a result, ASRA has lost about 60% of its funding. It is important to note that UAF will face even deeper budget cuts next year.

While the current fiscal climate is daunting, we are exploring different options for how to deliver this high-quality program on a reduced budget. Helping us with this process will be an advisory board with members that will include a K-12 educator from the Fairbanks community. We would like to maintain the model of the two-week module during the summer, but we don’t know whether we can keep the high-cost residential component or the number of modules offered. With input from the board and the community, we will develop a clear picture of what ASRA will look like by mid fall.

ASRA has undergone many changes over the last 14 years in terms of its structure and funding, but it has always been and will continue to be centered on dynamic modules led by dedicated instructors. It started as a one-week program in 2001 with just 21 middle and high school attendees and was run by biology faculty. Since then it has grown in size, scope and popularity because of its innovative, hands-on approach to learning. We remain hopeful that the State of Alaska will see a fiscal turnaround, and that our efforts in attracting new funding will help us grow ASRA over time.

I welcome your input on how to deliver a quality program with reduced funding. Please email comments to asra.cnsm@gmail.com Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Paul W. Layer

Dean, College of Natural Science and Mathematics

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