Friday Focus: Pride in UAF

Chancellor Dan White
UAF photo by JR Ancheta
UAF Chancellor Dan White

Dec. 17, 2021

— By Dan White, chancellor

As I look back on the fall 2021 semester I see many events and actions that brought people together, but also many that pushed people apart. People were pushed and pulled apart by budget cuts, COVID, and the politics of both. COVID has separated people physically, emotionally, and ideologically. In family, across families, across institutions. That makes the work hard. Fortunately for us it isn’t all there is! Furthermore, in the universe of things we cannot affect, this one we can. We can affect how we respond. I am not talking about vaccines, masks, distancing or that sort of thing. I mean how we treat each other and ourselves. And I mean how we think about the future of this great University.

Please take a minute to focus on what brings you and us and us and you together. What are the groups that lend you support? What bridges the ideological divides? For me, that is one thing I love about Nanook Athletics. At Nanooks games people want to talk about the last goal, a good call or bad call by a referee, the new group of recruits, how the season will take shape or what’s up for next season. Very rarely have I been at a UAF match, game, or race and had someone ask me about the budget. We talk about what brought us together, Nanook athletics and competition.

Famously the UAF athletes and coaches are (to the extent possible) at each other’s games and matches supporting one other. Since I was able to see Nanook Rifle Assistant Coach Randi Loudin at the past Wednesday night’s hockey game we were able to discuss both the outstanding series our Nanook skaters were having against RPI, but also that Randi and Head Coach Will Anti are leading a co-ed rifle team that is #1 in the nation and continues to set new NCAA records! There is lots to celebrate and that brings us together.

We are brought together by our commitment to this great university. We all chose UAF. We choose UAF every day we get up in the morning and come to work. We are tied to each other by our pursuit of a great education for students, whether that be through teaching, research, service or the provision of safety, human resources, or financial accounting. We are brought together by the great science at UAF, whether you do the science, support the science or bring us together by writing about it. YOU all bring us together, each by your work.

ASUAF, Staff Council, and Faculty Senate also have a unique opportunity by their function to bring us together. They have an opportunity to identify issues and find solutions; to be a force for positive change. Each of these governance organizations holds a time-honored place in the shared governance of our university. In order for shared governance to work it needs many voices and it needs you. It needs people to join, participate, and commit to working together, together with each other and with administration. Supervisors should acknowledge the importance of this work with their staff and faculty and celebrate the opportunity for employees in their organization to be part of shared governance and to be part of a team. I want to thank Ronnie Houchin, Sandra Wildfeuer, and Riley Von Borstel for their leadership roles on Staff Council, Faculty Senate and Associated Students of UAF, respectively.

Boats floating in a peaceful harbor
Boats in the community of Eek during a peaceful morning.

Back when I was an engineer, I worked on projects all across Alaska. One of my favorite communities to work in was Eek. The community on the Eek River, just up-river from Bethel, had it going on. I took the picture below on a quiet August morning. It always reminds me that “a rising tide floats all boats.” For me, the metaphor is not about money, or staffing levels, it is about us. We have the ability to create, innovate, and educate. We have the ability to be inclusive and caring. By our own actions we can produce positive change for someone else. We are the tide that lifts all boats.

We have a role in the positive change for our state, the future of our region and the future of students from all 50 states and at least as many different countries. What a unique position for us to be in. This university, UAF, has so much to be proud of. Pride in what we have accomplished brings us together.

As we work on our strategic plan of getting to Tier 1 in research, and solidifying our global position as leaders in Alaska Native and Indigenous Studies, we need to take pride in what we are and what we have become. As we grow our culture of respect, diversity, inclusion and caring, and as we modernize our student experience, we need to take stock of the tremendous ground we have gained. As we revitalize academic programs and our commercialization enterprise we should acknowledge that we have world class faculty teaching our programs and are developing technologies and intellectual property that will make a positive change in people’s lives.

Pride in who we are as a world class university brings us together. Our hopes and dreams for the future bring us together.  As we look forward, I encourage you to join your fellow Nanooks at an athletics competition, be part of governance, or just be the smile under your mask that rises the tide for those around you.

Thanks for choosing UAF.

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