New Faces

Denise Runge, Provost

It’s an unusual time to be stepping into the role of provost, according to Denise Runge, who officially began her leadership position in July. The former dean of UAA’s Community and Technical College will be providing leadership for the broad academic mission of the university in her new role.

On the academic side, Runge will work closely with UAA’s deans, academic leaders and faculty, while on the financial side, she will work on budget and resource issues. While Runge said her new role involves her in many different facets of UAA, this fall she is focusing her efforts on two main goals.

The first, providing students, new and returning, with the best academic experience possible given the current circumstances. The second, working in consultation with Chancellor Sandeen to create transparency surrounding how the university’s budget for academic programs is communicated to faculty, staff and students.

“What we’re all focused on right now is making fall semester the very best it can be for students,” said Runge. “I really want to highlight the importance of faculty development, and all of the faculty and staff work around instruction, learning design and providing students with what they need, given that most classes are going to be in an alternative format.”

Aaron Dotson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research

As associate vice chancellor for research, Aaron Dotson’s role is to support research and creativity at all levels — from conception to completion and commercialization.

To do that, the overarching Office of Research is divided into three functions, starting with the Office of Sponsored Programs, which helps researchers prepare proposals and secure funding and awards for their work.

Next is the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance, which works to maintain safety and ethicality on all projects while adhering to federal guidelines and considerations unique to Alaska.

Finally, Seawolf Holdings looks to the future by supporting researchers with the licensing of intellectual property by securing patents and exploring possible commercial applications for their work. Ultimately, all three offices work in harmony to accomplish a single function.

“The biggest goal that I want to accomplish is to make sure that faculty and staff feel like they are well supported and able to do research and creative activities that can grow our university,” said Dotson. “The other is to embrace who we are at UAA and to promote our research or creative activity regardless of origin or funding.”

Mary Jo Finney, Graduate School Dean

This summer, UAA’s Graduate School welcomed new dean Mary Jo Finney. Finney, who earned her Ph.D. in reading and language arts, has spent her 22-year academic career at the University of Michigan, Flint.

Her career has spanned from teaching and faculty development to administrative leadership roles and community program development, with much of her early efforts focused on literacy research, where she helped establish a reading center at UM Flint that is still operational today.

Through her community leadership, Finney was tapped by UM Flint for administrative academic roles where she served as the director of the Center for Learning and Teaching, dean of the university’s Education Department and most recently, chair of the Education Department.

“We have the most diverse faculty in the history of the department,” said Finney. “We worked really hard to diversify the faculty.” Which Finney said is a career highlight.

Despite spending her entire life in the Midwest, Finney knows Alaska is truly home. She is looking forward to leading the graduate school and understands the dynamics of navigating a tough budget. As a new resident, she’s excited to get to know the university and the community it serves.

Jacelyn Keys, Kodiak College Director

Kodiak College began the fall semester with new director Jacelyn Keys. From Hermiston, Oregon, she brings over 20 years of higher education experience, having served as Hermiston Center director at Blue Mountain Community College, Hermiston/Pendleton Center director at Eastern Oregon University and resident director at Oregon State University.

Keys was set to teach English to kindergarten students in Spain after graduation. Unfortunately, the 2004 train bombings in Madrid resulted in her contract cancellation.

When it again came to job searching, Kodiak College checked all the boxes for Keys, one of which is the ability to be integrated and involved with the community.

“I wanted to work in a college where it was the norm [to be involved],” said Keys. “Some colleges are so large that they get to, not isolate themselves from the community, but I don’t necessarily see administrators out and involved. That’s not how I like to function.”

At the moment, Keys identifies responsiveness to the community as one of her most important focuses in the current time of COVID-19 and economic distress. This includes looking at how the college will grow in its role in the community and be flexible.

Denise Runge taking a photo
Denise Runge
Aaron Dotson smiling
aaron dotson
Portrait of Jacelyn Keys
Jacelyn Keys
Mary Jo Finney taking a photo outside
Mary Jo Finney