- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The sole candidate for the top position at the University of Alaska expects fewer academic programs over the next decade, but those that remain will get stronger.

Jim Johnsen is the first choice of the regents to replace retiring University of Alaska President Pat Gamble. Johnsen began a tour of the state by meeting with Juneau residents, educators and politicians Tuesday night, the Juneau Empire reported (https://bit.ly/1dMiRt7).

Johnsen, who is a vice president for Alaska Communications, has lived in the state since the 1980s and is a former administrator and contract negotiator for the university.

He said under his tenure, the university will build on existing celebrated programs and reduce redundancies.

Johnsen said when budgets are tight, the university should grow programs it already has rather than allow “competition for resources and prestige.”

For example, he said the University of Alaska Southeast’s teacher education program has high enrollment and is considered to be a great program, adding there is no need to replicate that on other campuses.

“(Let’s) focus on distinctive strength, and the higher we go, the less redundancy there is,” Johnsen said.

Other examples were research facilities at the Fairbanks campus and the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

“Let’s have a really damn good one there,” Johnsen said. “Can we afford two or three ISERs?”

Johnsen also said the university should market its proximity to the Arctic to students in the Lower 48 wanting to study climate change.

Johnsen was one of four final candidates for the position from a field about two dozen applicants.

Ken Fisher, one of two Juneau-based members of the Board of Regent, said Johnsen’s passion for the university set him apart from other candidates.

“What made Jim stand out was his passion for Alaska and the university,” he said.

Regents are accepting public comment on Johnsen as part of the hiring process. Board members will take comments in person at other forums this week in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and online at https://www.alaska.edu/bor/presidential-search/candidate

The board anticipates making a hiring decision when it meets the week of July 28. Gamble, who made $330,000 last year, is expected to retire at the end of August.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com


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