Friday Focus: The future is bright, but so is the present

Chancellor Dan White
UAF photo by Eric Engman
Chancellor Dan White

June 28, 2024

— By Dan White, chancellor

As an institute of higher education, we spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Students come here to get the tools they need to make their future dreams come through. Faculty spend their days giving students knowledge for future success or conducting research that advances their field. And staff make all of this possible, all while providing transformative experiences for students that position them for a bright future. It is inspiring to spend so much time thinking about what is possible.

How do we celebrate when goals are met, or when something transforms from an idea into a finished product? Our number one celebration is commencement! That is the day that we confer degrees and a student transforms from a student to a graduate. It is a great day. But what about the myriad of other efforts, even career-long efforts that transform this university that are not commencement? Construction, renovation or rehabilitation of facilities, research outcomes, patents and intellectual property commercialization, land and lease agreements, etc?

As I look across campus the evidence is everywhere. Together, we are making things happen! We recently finished the renovations of the Moore-Bartlett residence hall complex, modernizing the residential experience for students. These necessary improvements have been in the works for years. From those who advocated for the project funding to those who did the construction itself, this project is the culmination of the hard work of many people across our campus. And now it is done! Everyone who was involved in this project should be proud of the work that went into making this vision a reality. We are looking forward to a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate this success. A Moore-Bartlett commencement!

For those who have walked through the middle campus lately, you probably noticed construction on the 6th floor of the Rasmuson Library. In the coming weeks, we will complete the renovations that turn this space into a one-stop-shop for advising, tutoring, testing and other support services. This vision to modernize the student experience and connect student success services into one central location (with newly installed windows) is the result of years of planning by dedicated UAF employees. This space is more than just a renovation, it is a physical representation of UAF’s strategic goal of modernizing the student experience. This too is a product of UAF’s major push in strategic enrollment planning. Please keep an eye out in the coming weeks for an announcement for the Student Success Center “commencement.” I look forward to celebrating the completion of these projects with the people who made them happen - you all!

It is not only renovations that are being completed this summer. On July 1, UAF advising services will move to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management to better align the student experience from application to matriculation at UAF. This change came from a strategic enrollment planning recommendation and has been in discussion for several years, and the timing finally came together to officially make the change this summer. I know that it may take a little time to work out the right process for this new approach (and we have a very capable PIT crew already tackling this), but I am confident that this change will improve the student experience and bring about positive changes for advisors and admissions staff at UAF. Thank you to all those who have provided feedback on this transition over the years, and to everyone who will be working hard to adapt to changes in the coming months.

And there is much on the horizon. The fully funded planetarium museum addition, the ACUASI hangar in Nenana, and progress on the Troth Yeddha’ Indigenous Studies Center campaign just to name a few. In the coming months, we have a lot to look forward to, and a lot of work to be done. That being said, we can’t forget to look around today and see how far we have come. The future of this university is bright, but so is the present.

Thanks for choosing UAF.

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