UAF steps up to support COVID-19 response

April 22, 2020

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

Our campuses may appear to be quieter since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but our students, staff and faculty continue to work hard to respond to student and community needs. 

When COVID-19 first arrived in Alaska, UAF asked how we could help. Research faculty and staff started working with local medical professionals and manufacturers to identify areas where we could partner to meet community needs. Some of these efforts include:

  • Working with the local incident management team and Foundation Health Partners to be able to provide hand sanitizer to the hospital and other medical facilities.

  • Developing a portable disinfecting system for N95 face masks.

  • Collaborating with local industry partners to design and manufacture powered air-purifying respirator — or PAPR — hoods to expand access to personal protective equipment used by medical professionals.

  • Mask-making efforts by UAF’s Student Health and Counseling Center and 4-H program.

  • Designing and producing splitting devices using 3-D printers to enable ventilators to be used for more than one patient.

  • Donating PPE equipment such as masks, gloves and lab coats to local health care facilities.  

  • Working at the State of Alaska Virology Laboratory to help process COVID-19 test results.

The resourcefulness and ingenuity of our faculty and staff never cease to amaze me. While some of these things are still in various phases of development, it highlights UAF’s willingness and ability to serve our community in a time of need.  

As a result of COVID-19, many of our students have found themselves facing challenging circumstances they never would have imagined just a few short months ago. To help, we have implemented new support services and provided needs-based aid. Additionally, new activities have been designed and implemented to keep students engaged with Nanook Nation, no matter where in the world they are. Some of these activities include:

  • Establishing the UAF Student Support Fund, which has provided over $150,000 in financial aid to students in need.

  • Continuing to operate the Wood Center food pantry. The pantry provides food for students in need through virtual donations. To date they have received $3,575 from individual donations, and the ASUAF Trust Fund Board recently made a donation of $3,000 to the pantry. This is a great example of students supporting their fellow students. Donations can be made online.

  • Helping more than 400 students with travel costs as they moved home or to an alternate residence when campus residency was significantly reduced.

  • Processing housing and meal refunds.

  • Developing virtual workshops and seminars for students on a variety of topics such as leadership, mental health and physical fitness.

  • Planning for a virtual 2020 commencement ceremony, lavender graduation, first-generation cording ceremony and Grad Bash to celebrate our graduates’ accomplishments.  

  • Providing increased counseling services for students, both in person and virtually.

  • Providing MiFi units or Chromebooks to students who don’t have a good internet connection or access to a computer to complete their coursework.

  • Regular sessions between academic advisors and students to ensure they are on track with their classes and aware of campus resources and student aid.

In addition, UAF has received $1.3 million in federal funds via the CARES Act to help with student expenses related to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

While none of these things will make up for the disruption caused by the virus, I am grateful to our faculty, staff and the community for their continued efforts to take care of our students. 

This disruption may be the catalyst for some of our best innovation and thinking. Whether it’s creating a new device that may help our local medical community or the establishment of a new fund that will help students in need, I am grateful to each of you for stepping up to answer the call.

Thank you for choosing UAF. Be well.