Originally published in The Northern Light
Strategic Pathways is the proposed framework of UA President Jim Johnsen. Although vague in title, Strategic Pathways is a comprehensive and complicated framework that seeks to restructure the University system in an effort to balance the university’s budget shortfall.
Broken up into three phases and culminating in the Spring semester of 2017, each phase focuses on a handful of programs up for review, reform or termination. During each phase a team consisting of faculty, staff, students and administrators review and evaluate specific focus areas.
“Strategic Pathways will be implemented in phases, and although the focus is primarily on academic programs, the university is working to reduce costs by streamlining processes and administrative services,” Roberta Graham, associate vice president of public affairs and federal relations for the UA system said.
Phase I, which is being discussed by the Board of Regents after Johnsen gave them his final recommendations on Sept. 15, is focused on academic programs and administration services including engineering, management, business, public administration, teacher education, procurement, athletics, research administration and information technology. The board of regents will issue final decisions and a budget on Johnsen’s recommendations at the winter meeting, Nov. 10 and 11.
Phase II will begin in October with discussions from Johnsen and his staff beginning in October. Community campuses, e-learning, health, fisheries, human resources, institutional research, university relations and student affairs are the academic and administrative programs under review for Phase II. Recommendations will be presented to the board in December.
Academic programs and administrative services under review for the final phase of Strategic Pathways include finance, risk management, land management, facilities, social sciences, arts and humanities, physical sciences and mine training. Phase III will conclude in the spring of 2017.
Among the programs up for termination, many of the programs are being reviewed for possible streamlining, in which one dean and one school will be created for a program, and the classes will be offered at both schools.
Each school’s programs in the university system were broken down by Strategic Pathways, with a list of strong programs at each campus. Each program will go through a review process, to more than likely streamline to one conjunctive program across all the campuses.
“Many academic and administrative programs and processes are being subjected to intense scrutiny and review, with the potential for significant change. These timelines are aggressive, given the severity of fiscal circumstances faced by the university, but student input is always prized in this process,” Sam Erickson, USUAA President, said.
Although many students and faculty see Strategic Pathways as abrupt and fear the loss of certain programs on campus, others see the benefits of Strategic Pathways as the only answer to the university system financial crisis.
“The campus community would benefit from a collective understanding that something needs to be done with the university budget. Strategic Pathways is preferable to legislative actions because the President and Regents understand how to make this university work better with less, more than politicians do. Everybody, students and faculty alike, need to realize that there’s no smooth sailing out of the current predicament. It’s either Strategic Pathways or legislative austerity, as I see it,” Ben Edwards, a mechanical engineering student at UAA, said.
Community members involved and invested in UAA can participate in the review process and future of UAA through Strategic Pathways.
“It’s important to note that Strategic Pathways is a work in progress and that the aforementioned university stakeholders, including alumni and donors, will have extensive opportunities to participate,” Graham said.
Students can get involved by bringing concerns up with the representatives at USUAA, who participate heavily in the Strategic Pathways process. Opportunities for public testimony and forums with Johnsen will be available throughout the Strategic Pathways process and all are invited to attend.
All information, including documents and presentations on Strategic Pathways is available atwww.alaska.edu/pathways.