June 24, 2020

UAF community,

The news on Monday of Jim Johnsen’s resignation as president of the University of Alaska System has created some anxiety around the system. That said, I am confident in acting President Michelle Rizk’s leadership during this time of transition. The board announced that they would appoint an interim president no later than July 15. I understand that after next week’s BOR meeting they will outline a process and timeline for selecting an interim president. As details emerge on this process, I will distribute them through our regular communication channels.

As UA’s president for the past five years, Dr. Johnsen served UA and the state in difficult times. Please join me in thanking him for his service and commitment to UA and in expressing our thanks to acting President Rizk for filling the role during this critical time.

We all know that challenges lie ahead, but there are also many bright spots on which to train our vision. At UAF we are doubling down on our commitment to being a destination for those who seek a diverse, inclusive and caring environment. We acknowledge that there is work to do and that it won’t be done overnight. But like former President Roosevelt said, “The greatest reward in life is the opportunity to work at work worth doing.” In all respects, this is work worth doing. It is work that demands to be done, and we can do it.

Another bright spot is that research continues to grow at UAF. Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Kelly Drew’s new Center for Transformative Research in Metabolism (TRIM) had its first external advisory committee meeting yesterday. TRIM is a collaborative project between UAF and UAA. While we have healthy competition between us for students, as the TRIM project and many others demonstrate, our unique differences set UAA and UAF up to be great collaborators. The same is true of the Biomedical Learning and Student Training program (BLaST), a collaborative project between UAF and UAS.

As the upcoming retirement of UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield leads to transition at UAS, I look forward to working with the new UAS leadership, with UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and with acting President Rizk to further reduce barriers to collaboration across the system.

As we look ahead, I will continue to look for ways to reduce uncertainty and create stability at UAF. Navigating the COVID pandemic and the budget challenges needs it. Being able to focus on real equity and eliminating institutional bias demands it. Thank you for your role. UAF is a great institution; let’s look back with pride but train our vision on the positive that lies in wait.

Thank you for choosing UAF.

— Dan White

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