At a special full-board meeting on Dec. 14, the University of Alaska Board of Regents approved unanimously in an 11-0 vote to establish a single University of Alaska College of Education and to locate the administrative center for the college at the University of Alaska Southeast.
The board first voted on consolidating the three education schools into one, and then voted on the location recommendation, which was amended by UA President Jim Johnsen to put forward UAS rather than the University of Alaska Fairbanks as the administrative home for the college. In doing so, the board directed Johnsen to take the necessary steps to establish a single College of Education for the University of Alaska, including seeking approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and assembling a planning team.
“The selection of one institution is not the denigration of another,” said Regent John Davies. “We need strong programs at all our universities and UAS is the right choice to lead our College of Education.”
Johnsen said he decided to amend his recommendation after listening to the input from many individuals citing the importance of teacher education as a signature program for UAS and expressions of concern over the economic impact of a move. Johnsen also cited UAS’ innovation and creativity in course delivery, as well as its nimbleness. The University of Alaska Anchorage and UAF are larger institutions, Johnsen said, with much broader missions. UAS will make the College of Education its number one priority. Although UAS will serve as the lead campus, faculty and courses will still be delivered from UAF and UAA.
“UAS is ready, willing and able to work with UAF, UAA, and school districts to ensure that our teacher-graduates are ready to provide a 21st century education for Alaska’s students,” said UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield.
Regents noted the strengths of UAS’ education program, including the successful Preparing Indigenous Teachers for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) program focusing on Alaska Native educators, advanced e-learning programs and staff and faculty’s passion and commitment to teacher education and innovation.
“After a lot of reflection, I realized UAS is the rightful place for the location of the single college of education. They have excellent leadership and are dedicated to our goal of educating 90 percent of Alaska’s teachers by 2025,” said Regent Jo Heckman.
Regents commended Johnsen for his leadership and willingness to revise his recommendation after listening to concerns, learning from discussions and feedback, and in recognizing the importance of the education program to UAS.
After the November board meeting wherein UAF was suggested as the lead campus, more than 100 letters, emails and comments came in to the university in support of one college/one dean, but petitioning for the administrative home to be located at UAS. The support came from many Juneau residents and UAS faculty, staff and alumni. In a letter to Johnsen and regents, the City & Borough of Juneau pledged a $1 million contribution to endow the program if the College of Education was centered at UAS.
“The Juneau community spoke and the university was willing to listen,” said Regent Dale Anderson. “I thank President Johnsen for stepping up and recognizing the need to engage with the university community.”