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March 22, 2023

Dear UAF staff, faculty and students,

In 2019, six strategic planning teams began the process of laying out a set of strategic goals for UAF. The teams set about defining not just what the goals meant, but also how we would get there by 2025. Due to the budget crisis, that timeline slipped to 2027, but the goals and the steps to achieve them remained. Since the good work of these teams of faculty, staff and students, our six strategic goals have helped guide decision-making at UAF through some difficult times.

At the recent February Board of Regents meeting in Anchorage I was proud to share that UAF is in a good place and we are heading in the right direction on all of our strategic goals. In this period of budget stability and strong enrollment numbers, the time is now to move more deliberately on our strategic goal of achieving tier 1 (or more aptly, R1) research status. This proposed direction received a great deal of support from members of the Board of Regents.

As of 2021, there were only 146 R1 research universities in the U.S. UAF is already producing top tier research, and I am confident that with the right strategic steps, we will join this ​​prestigious class of universities. Universities recently achieving R1 status include the University of Maine, Michigan State University and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. It is our hope and expectation that by 2027, UAF will reach R1 status by continuing to support high-quality and high-impact research that benefits Alaska, the nation and the world. It is clear that this move will take investment and strategic action.

Achieving R1 will advance many of our strategic goals, including strengthening our position as global leaders in Alaska Native and Indigenous programs and modernizing the student experience. A key part of our roadmap to R1 is significantly increasing the number of students graduating from UAF with a Ph.D., specifically in the humanities. But achieving R1 will not be just on the humanities, the sciences, or any one individual unit. It will take all of us; students, faculty and critical support staff, to take UAF to the next level of research excellence. It will be an effort that includes not just our research arm, but academics, outreach, marketing, communications and facilities. Achieving R1 will indeed require rehabilitating some facilities and remodeling others.

Securing R1 status will also transform Alaska’s economy. We have the opportunity to not only increase research revenues, but also to advance intellectual property and support Alaskan businesses. In 2019, University of Colorado Boulder estimated that their R1 research activities alone produced $1.2 billion in economic activity for the state.

By achieving R1, UAF will continue to serve our mission to enrich the lives of Alaskans by attracting new talent to the state, supporting emerging industries such as drones and mariculture, and increasing the value of a degree from UAF. This is about more than the University, it is about all of us at UAF, about Fairbanks, and about Alaska.

In the coming weeks we will begin by assembling an R1 external advisory committee, an internal steering committee, and a small number of working groups. At the same time, we will be working with President Pitney on an FY25 budget strategy to secure funding for the effort. Please look out for more communications on how you can be involved in this process.

Thank you for choosing UAF.

— Dan White, chancellor


UAF is an AA/EO employer and educational institution and prohibits illegal discrimination against any individual: www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination/.