Friday Focus: Two more 'words that matter'

May 31, 2019

Tori Tragis

Dan White. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.
Dan White. UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

My leadership column last month was titled, “Words Matter.” The column was about respect, diversity, inclusion and caring. It was about making sure that in the universe of words we have at our disposal, the ones we pick contribute to the inclusive culture we want on campus. In today’s column I encourage you to choose two more words that matter.

To start, I get a lot of mail. Email, snail mail and voicemail are just the beginning. Added to these are a plethora of communications received on various social media platforms and online feedback forms. I try very hard to get to every email every day but once an email disappears from Microsoft Outlook’s single-page scrolling view, it faces long odds of getting back.

There is a short stack of communications, however, that are read, saved, and reread. I could point to them on the corner of my desk and they stay there for quick reference if needed. They are the handwritten cards that people took the time to write out, stamp and mail. One is from an Interior Alaska senator saying thanks for our efforts to get UAF’s model gold dredge to Pioneer Park for the public benefit. Another is a handwritten note from the CEO of one of Alaska’s Native Corporations saying thanks for UAF’s efforts to increase the graduation rate of Alaska Native students. Added to those are cards from faculty, staff and students saying thanks for listening, attending an event, or making a controversial decision. Some are on folding cards, some on flat cards and some on sticky notes. Whether they are from faculty, staff, student, legislator or corporate CEO, they mean a lot to me.

The Chancellor’s cabinet is a group of vice chancellors, administrative unit directors, and faculty, staff, and student leaders. At the end of each bi-monthly meeting, every person in the room gets an opportunity for a “shout out” — an opportunity to catch someone doing something good. I write a personal thank you card to each person recognized in that way. Periodically, I get a thank you for the thank you. It is only with great restraint that I don’t respond with a thank you to the thank you for the thank you. A proverbial pat on the back is a good thing and it is contagious.

This is a challenging time for the university and it likely will continue to be so for the near future. People all around you are working hard, working late, taking time away from their own lives for all of us. I encourage you to take a few minutes sometime and write a quick note to say thanks. I have a few thank yous to write myself. I owe thanks to Marisa Sharrah and Jim Dodson for leading the “Save our University” effort, thanks to our governance leaders Donie Bret-Harte, Matthew Mund and Dawson Mann for their service to UAF, and thanks to Heather McFarland and her team that put on research day yesterday. I think if you take the time to write out a thank you, you will find it a rewarding effort and time well spent. I know the recipient will feel the same. The two words, “thank you,” are now more than ever, words that matter.

— by Dan White, chancellor

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