April 22, 2021

Dear UAF staff and faculty,

On April 2, I announced that the Expedited Administrative Management Review Committee (EAMRC) had completed their review and submitted their final report. On April 7, I sent a message about next steps in that process and encouraged feedback through the form available on my website through April 16.

The review committee was charged with providing recommendations to me regarding administrative management positions and structure that, to the extent possible, contribute to budget savings.

The committee outlined seven overarching recommendations. They are summarized as follows:
  1. Continue to pursue more efficiencies through shared services. The committee noted the need for these to be shared services for and at UAF.
  2. Focus on reducing the UAF mission and vision to reflect the new budget scenario.
  3. For all areas overseen by a vice chancellor, review the organization’s structure and ensure it meets current needs.
  4. Review the role of the vice chancellor for research to ensure it is linked with and supports all research and scholarly activity at UAF.
  5. Review the current structure of the vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education to ensure it is the most efficient and effective in terms of academic structure and student success.
  6. Establish transparent guidelines for EX positions (executives and senior administrators).
  7. Recognizing that some work has already been done on “outwardly facing activities” at UAF, the committee recommends continuing those efforts toward a combined outreach unit (including shared services) to make outreach activities more widely recognized, efficient and available.
For each of these recommendations, and after considering feedback, we will begin work on the following actions:
  1. Since we are closing in our strategic planning effort, this is the perfect time to establish a group to reflect on a revision of our mission statement and establish a vision statement for UAF to accompany our strategic plan. I will ask that our strategic planning chairs address this important task.
  2. I will appoint a task force to review additional shared service functions and opportunities. The task force will also review the successes and challenges of the shared services already implemented.
  3. Vice Chancellor Stern is in the process of strategic planning for CRCD and CTC, and I will ask that consideration of structure be included in their planning process.
  4. We are beginning a search for a vice chancellor for research. The position description reflects the committee’s sentiment with respect to support for research and scholarly activity.
  5. We will seek clarification and guidelines for EX positions from UA Human Resources per the committee’s suggestion.
  6. On outreach and extension, see below (A).
  7. Finally, I have asked each vice chancellor to review the specific recommendations in their area.
The committee review of administrative structure included some comments that spoke in different ways to structural questions and opportunities for change at UAF. Some of these structural questions have been brought up before and have been studied in a different time. There are other ideas that have been submitted to the Box of Big Ideas, or have been identified in task forces on the budget that were not called out in the EAMR but could help address some of the challenges that were. We can talk about the opportunity to solve some of our challenges as lifting the “big rocks” out of our path. Some are a heavy lift, but this is the time for heavy lifting.

Working to systemically and structurally improve functions across our university is complex and time consuming, but important to consider, especially when improvements can favorably impact our students. Over the summer and into the fall, I will be working with leadership, staff, faculty and students from across campus to address these challenges. The big rocks that we’ll begin work on will require the thought and insights of many, with opportunities to engage in shared creation as well as the opportunity for critique and reform. They include:
  1. Coordination of extension and outreach functions — Part of being a world-class research institution is having world-class outreach. UAF has extension and outreach functions spread across the university and across the state in a very important but sometimes isolated fashion. This became clear through the excellent work of the Outward-Facing Activities Task Force. I will ask a task force to revisit next steps for the important work of coordinating and sharing services in outreach, a critical part of UAF’s mission.
  2. Academic and research functions and structure — Joining efforts of some colleges or colleges and institutes has been included in many reports over the past decade. While there are often not a lot of cost savings in joining efforts, there can be synergies built and efficiencies in administration. Joining forces between the Institute of Arctic Biology and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics has been suggested on multiple occasions. We should reexamine this possibility in a positive and constructive way, always mindful of “doing no harm.”
  3. Distance course delivery and impacts to enrollment — Currently, distance learning is offered by UAF in a mix of modalities and qualities. If COVID-19 taught us one thing, it is that our distance learning is better than what many offer, but it is not streamlined and some elements still need modernization. It also taught us that there is a distinct opportunity to grow enrollment in areas not traditionally taught by distance learning and to fill some of the gaps we are seeing in both student headcount and credit hours. We can look at this opportunity as an effort of the whole of UAF so that all may benefit from the modernization of distance ed.
  4. Academic advising process and structure — The modern student experience requires a streamlined and effective process for academic advising. We currently have many advising structures in centralized and decentralized forms. A connected advising continuum will surely support our effort to grow enrollment. Let’s lift this big rock and strengthen the enrollment pathway that leads to student success.
With respect to two specific recommendations I offer the following:
  1. The committee recommended the elimination of collegiate athletics — We have already begun a significant, thorough review of athletics and established a planning process for going forward. Please see my previous communication on this process. This process will provide for a thorough examination of athletics and a new organizational structure and financial plan for a sustainable future.
  2. I have also been asked about the executive officer position that was identified in the report. The executive officer position has spanned the previous three chancellors and serves as my principal advisor on systemic project planning and management, including coordination and communication of key initiatives. As we embark on lifting the big rocks in our path, this position will be as critical as ever.
Thanks to the committee for their work on this review. Going forward I will be working through some of the issues they presented with the vice chancellors and establishing task forces to address the issues outlined above.

— by Dan White, chancellor

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