Friday Focus: Survey says... 'A bright future ahead!'

Head and shoulders photo of UAF Chancellor Dan White outdoors wearing a blue and black plaid blazer with a UAF athletics pin over a white collared shirt and blue paisley necktie with yellow accents.
UAF photo by Eric Engman
Chancellor Dan White

Dec. 16, 2022

— By Dan White, chancellor

The chancellor’s cabinet consists of 22 directors, mainly leaders of our front-line operational units, such as student success, division of military and veterans services, and facilities, as well as the leaders of faculty, staff, and student governance groups, the provost, vice chancellors, associate vice chancellors/vice provost, and our executive dIrector of university advancement and chief of staff. The chancellor’s cabinet is used as an advisory group on policy, new initiatives, and thorny issues. They are thoughtful and representative of a broad swath of UAF. It is a group with its finger on the pulse of the university. 

On Monday, the last cabinet meeting before the winter break, we dedicated an hour to a look ahead. All members were given the opportunity to share their, or their unit’s big goals for the next academic year or an introspective look back, things that worked or things that didn’t. It was a very interesting and inspiring 60 minutes. What I heard was an overwhelming sense of hope and optimism. 

I was a bit surprised by how many people in the discussion said that they had joined since the budget cuts or since the pandemic. Others said that half their teams had arrived since one or more of the significant events of the last five years. 

What this told me was that there is a wider range of experiences amongst our 3,000 staff than ever before. Many who are deeply impacted by the traumas of the pandemic, budget cuts or the proposed consolidation of the university. But we have others, and increasingly so, who were not here for some or all of those events. And even for those who were here for the last five years, their experiences differ. Some who are in new jobs, different jobs, or the same job. And yet others whose job is the same, but is now hybrid or remote. The wide range of experiences could be a point of division or a point of strength.

Those who experienced trauma need healing. Leaving that need unmet leads to the feeling of separation and isolation. At the same time, there is new energy, new perspectives and an overwhelming sense of hope springing up across campus - and we have not even hit winter solstice. Our EdX enrollments just passed 40,000 learners, enrollment in UAF classes is increasing (bucking the state and national trend), tuition revenue is increasing, research continues to grow, the Troth Yeddha Indigenous Studies Center is being designed as I write, Tamamta is creating a path for support and strength amongst our Alaska Native students in fisheries, and the climate scholars program is on an exponential growth curve. There is much to celebrate. There is indeed a bright future ahead!

We need everyone going forward as there is much work to be done. Because we acknowledge that we don’t all have the same experiences, I ask that we live our shared strategic goal of respect, diversity, inclusion and caring. Be patient, extend grace. Reach out to those who need a hand or extend your hand when you need a lift. Through support of each other we each can turn the different ways we experienced the last five years into a strength for UAF. 

Let’s look forward with the growing wind at our backs. Let’s celebrate the victories, big and small. Let's acknowledge that there is trauma in our recent past and everyone experienced that differently. With some care, though, some patience and some understanding, everyone can be part of the great things to come. The university is brimming with hope and optimism. We need everyone. We need you.

Thanks for choosing UAF.

Friday Focus is written by a different member of UAF’s leadership team every week.