Smaller, focused
and resilient

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, university administrators across the country watched as case counts in their respective cities and states continued to steadily rise. As leaders of the higher education community, we grappled with the difficult question of how to move forward with course delivery and campus operations.

In May I announced to the UAA community the fall 2020 semester would be a mix of alternate delivery and face-to-face instruction. Ultimately, only 20% of the university’s fall courses would be delivered face-to-face; the majority took place through alternate delivery methods.

Making this decision early was important to provide clarity regarding our academic courses, events and campus operations. This allowed us to shift our thinking about the pandemic from a deficit model that virtual courses are less than those delivered face-to-face. We prepared for a new normal and embraced College During COVID as the path to success for our community. Operating from this perspective in a pandemic has been a catalyst for creativity and innovation.

In May and August, many faculty participated in #Pivot, a series of workshops and support sessions offered by UAA Faculty Development and Instructional Support. These experiences helped prepare faculty transition to alternate delivery methods for their courses. One alternate course strategy explored during #Pivot is asynchronous delivery, an approach that provides students with the flexibility to log on and watch recorded materials, respond to discussion boards and engage when convenient rather than be constrained to specific times.

When one considers the majority of UAA students commute to campus, work full or part-time jobs and have families, it is not surprising a virtual world provides the flexibility to participate in events they may not otherwise be able to attend due to work and family demands.

This method is not just effective for courses. Our Office of Student Life and Leadership found virtual can be better than live in building engagement. The 2020 annual student talent show allowed students to record their performances at home and post them for later viewing and voting. Participation was significantly greater through this method than the traditional live event.

We prepared for a new normal and embraced College During COVID as the path to success for our community.

Alumni have also benefited from this pivot, as more are able to accommodate a virtual event into their busy schedules. In September, more than 50 attendees logged in via Zoom for the Alumni Assembly, an annual event dedicated to facilitating conversation between me, my Cabinet and our alumni community.

In October, we welcomed more than 140 graduates “back” to campus for Homecoming Breakfast. The annual fundraiser is the UAA Alumni Association’s premier fundraising event, which you can read more about later in this issue.

By the time this magazine issue is published, the first-ever University of Alaska statewide fundraiser, UA Giving Day, will be complete. Celebrating “49 Hours for the 49th State,” the initiative isn’t just a collaborative effort among universities, but among alumni, students, faculty, staff and community partners.

As alumni, your involvement in campus life remains critical. As more than 1,000 UAA students prepare to transition to alumni themselves at our winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 13, the example you set, especially in these trying times, is important.

There is no question innovation will continue to be critical to UAA’s success as we face a fiscal reality that requires us to become smaller and more focused.

I am confident our faculty, staff and students will meet the challenge head on with solutions that are a tribute to their ingenuity. They’ve risen to the occasion in a pandemic, and demonstrated that resilience is a trait that characterizes #SeawolfNation. As alumni, you know that well.

Farewell, Chancellor Sandeen

On Oct. 29, Chancellor Sandeen announced her appointment as the next president of California State University, East Bay, with her last day at UAA being Jan. 3, 2021. She writes:

“While I am sad to leave this wonderful university and my friends and colleagues, I am excited to take on a new challenge at another public, open-access, urban-metropolitan university very similar to the University of Alaska Anchorage — one that is just miles from where I grew up and close to my family. I will always look back on my time as part of the UAA family with fondness and pride. I have learned so much from the faculty, staff and administrators, and I remain in awe of our amazing students. I am so proud of what we have accomplished together.”

During her tenure, Chancellor Sandeen guided UAA through a career’s worth of challenges — from earthquakes and financial exigency to program reviews and now a global pandemic. Through her leadership and the collaboration of all members of our community, UAA is a stronger and more stable university.

Chancellor Sandeen, you’ll always be a part of Seawolf Nation!