Alaska presents a formidable landscape for a university system: a land mass one-fifth the size of the continental United States; campuses thousands of miles apart; and weather that would shut down most Lower 48 schools. But this vast environment of rainforest, tundra, coastal shores and mountains is home to the University of Alaska system, established in 1917.
The university system started as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in Fairbanks, later renamed the University of Alaska. That first year, the campus was a single two-story frame building and had just six students. The school was renamed the University of Alaska in 1935.
In 1954, Anchorage Community College (now known as the University of Alaska Anchorage) was incorporated into the University of Alaska. That next year, Juneau Community College was established and was later named the University of Alaska Southeast.
The University of Alaska is a land-, sea- and space-grant system. UA acquired land through acts of Congress in 1915 and 1929 and through land settlements with the State of Alaska in the 1980s. In addition to the annual federal appropriations land-grant institutions receive for research and extension work, UA develops, leases and sells land, the proceeds of which are used for numerous natural resources-related research and academic projects, including the UA Scholars scholarship program.
The UA system’s three universities (UAA, UAF and UAS) are separately accredited institutions with extended community campuses and learning centers across the state of Alaska. System-wide, nearly 31,000 full- and part-time students are enrolled, studying among 400 unique degree, certificate or endorsement programs. Study areas include short-course workforce training, associate degrees, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as doctorates. Programs include a wide array of the sciences, engineering, teacher and early childhood education, business, journalism and communications, aviation, health occupations, history, English, the arts and humanities and many others. All three university centers also deliver extensive e-Learning instruction anywhere students are located.
UA Statewide provides system-wide support for all university operations and helps enable each regional university center to meet the mission of the University of Alaska and each individual institutional mission. In addition to providing system leadership, governance, and strategic vision, Statewide functions include compliance, accountability, coordination, service, management of external relationships, and stewardship of shared strategic resources.
Per the Alaska Constitution, an 11-member board of regents governs the system. The system president serves as the board’s chief executive officer. Chancellors for each of the universities—UAA, UAF and UAS—report to the president. The university employs roughly 7,000 people and contributes an estimated $1 billion annually to the Alaska economy.
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