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Who is responsible here?


AU President Pat Pitney. Photo courtesy of UA.

If you haven’t noticed already, the University of Alaska Anchorage is a large organization with a bewildering list of titles, positions, and departments: dean, president, chancellor, director, professor, assistant, associate professor, etc

To help clear things up, here is an overview of the UAA’s organizational structure.

John Nofsinger, dean of the College of Business and Public Policy, also answered a few questions during an interview with The Northern Light to shed some light on the organization.

University of Alaska

It makes sense to start at the top, and you can’t go much higher than the University of Alaska.

Commonly referred to as UA or Statewide, you have already interacted with this umbrella organization if you have enrolled in courses or done anything through UAOnline.

The AU oversees the three publicly funded universities in Alaska: University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast, and University of Alaska Anchorage.

It can be easy to confuse the abbreviations for UA and UAA.

The management consists of a 9-member board of directors chosen by the governor. The board selects a president for the organization. Recently, Pat Pitney was selected after serving as interim president.

“Interim” is a prefix meaning temporary and applies when a person is in a position while a search for a permanent replacement is in progress, although it is common to see people move from interim to permanent, as in the case of President Pitney.

What exactly does UA do? You can get an idea by looking at the different departments attached to the president: general legal advice, human resources, planning and budget, IT, students and research.

These functions are things that have been centralized under UA, Nofsinger said.

He also said the organization is responsible for preparing budgets for individual universities and presenting them to the state legislature as one piece of legislation.

The annual budget to operate the three universities is nearly $1 billion, and the state pays about a third of that amount. The rest comes from tuition, grants, and federal funding.

Providing a united front, the AU advocates for the university system with the legislature and receives input regarding state priorities and what is needed to produce a budget that will pass a vote.

The organization also organizes the Juneau Student Trip each year where students from the three universities travel to the capital to speak with lawmakers and advocate for the universities.

Technically, UA is the employer of everyone working at UAA. Additionally, they are in contentious bargaining with the faculty union, United Academics, as The Northern Light reported earlier this summer.

University of Alaska at Anchorage

The University of Alaska Anchorage is its own fully accredited university.

The highest leadership position is called Chancellor and is currently held by former Alaska Governor Sean Parnell. Parnell was selected after a search for candidates by AU President Pitney.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. Photo courtesy of UAA.

Under Parnell, the management of the university fell into two main categories: teaching and administration.

Vice-chancellors oversee administrative departments such as student affairs, administrative services, academic advancement, and research.

Below them, the university organization is divided into many different departments. Some of these departments, like Athletics, have a large staff with dozens of people, others only a handful.

A common term to describe the heads of these various departments is “director”, although you may occasionally find associate vice chancellor, coordinator and general manager.

“Director” is also the term used to describe the leaders who oversee UAA’s satellite campuses, such as Kodiak College.

On the academic side, Provost Denise Runge is responsible for the various colleges in UAA – College of Arts and Sciences, College of Public Affairs and Policy, etc. – and academic affairs.

The term “provost” generally refers to a person whose job it is to provide leadership for several colleges, although Runge’s full title also includes vice-chancellor.

Below Provost Runge are the deans of the various colleges and below them are the chairs of specific college departments.

As for dealing with issues in the classroom, Nofsinger said that ideally students would move from teacher to department head and then to associate deans. For larger systemic issues, students can approach the Associate Deans directly.

If a student does not wish to resolve an issue within a specific department, there is the Office of the Dean of Students, headed by Benjamin Morton, who can also handle issues.

On the other hand, the Dean of Students is the department that handles disciplinary action against students for issues raised by faculty and staff.


While enrolling in courses or looking at different departments, you might have noticed that there are a large number of titles for the faculty.

Nofsinger said UAA has a few different types of faculty teaching on campus.

First there are the teachers. When they start, they are called “assistant professors” and can later be promoted to “associate professors”.

Finally, they can be tenured and promoted to “professor”.

These teachers are often tenured and represent the long-term core of the university. They also have more rights than other teaching positions — tenured professors have the most — Nofsinger said.

Then come the “full-term professors”.

Nofsinger said these faculty members must be rehired every year and have fewer rights and benefits than full-time employees.

Finally, there are the “helpers”. They are often professionals who are actually working in their respective fields and they are hired to teach related courses.

It can be tempting to think that professors are superior to adjuncts, but Nofsinger said adjuncts bring real-world experiences and knowledge to the classroom, and for this reason, many students enjoy taking classes with them. .


The University of Alaska Anchorage Student Union is the student government of UAA.

The assembly is made up of a president, a vice-president, 10 senators, two delegates from each college and three liaison officers.

USUAA President Katie Scoggin. Photo courtesy of USUAA.

Katie Scoggin is the current president. Vice President Shanone Tejada answered some questions about how the organization works and what it does.

USUAA is one of the ways students influence university policy, Tejada said.

Although the assembly cannot hire and fire people, or appropriate funds, it can pass laws defending the interests of students.

This legislation can be important when the university needs to write policy, show support for an initiative, or secure funding, Tejada said.

A good example of this was at a recent USUAA meeting when Executive Director of Campus Services David Weaver provided an update on the return of shuttle services to campus – closed due to covid – and thanked the USUAA for its legislation that had called for a return to services, saying it was helpful in securing funding.

Tejada said the legislation is important because it creates a history of student priorities and what they are asking for.

USUAA members can also be good resources when trying to solve problems on campus. Tejada said he gained increased knowledge of campus resources through meetings and conversations he had with campus management.

Finally, through Presidential Appointments, students can serve on various campus boards, committees, and organizations, giving them the opportunity to gain leadership experience and have a seat at the table when it comes to life. is about deciding campus policies.