UA regents propose Jim Johnsen for president

The University of Alaska Board of Regents selected a single finalist for the president's position Thursday -- Jim Johnsen, a former UA vice president who is now a senior vice president at Alaska Communications.

The regents said they will meet with various groups across the state in the next month, "review feedback and make a final decision." Following a search, the board interviewed three of the top applicants for the job and opted to select just one finalist.

"We believe Dr. Johnsen is a strong candidate with a demonstrated commitment to higher education and a deep understanding of the University of Alaska. As we work to maintain excellence at the university during challenging fiscal times, we believe it can help immensely to put someone at the helm who will not have a steep learning curve and who can hit the ground running," said the board's chairwoman, Jo Heckman of Fairbanks.

The board said it expects to have a new president on the job by the start of the fall term.

Johnsen has worked at Alaska Communications since 2011. Before that he worked at Doyon Ltd., an Alaska Native regional corporation based in Fairbanks, as a senior vice president of administration. At the university he was vice president of administration and chief of staff.

He has an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a master's degree from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

If selected, Johnson would be the first UA president since 1998 who is not a retired general. Pat Gamble, who is retiring this summer, was an U.S. Air Force general. He replaced Mark Hamilton, a retired U.S. Army general.

Johnsen started at the University of Alaska in 1996 as labor relations director and was named chief of staff in 1998 after Hamilton became president. He became a Doyon executive in 2008.

He is a former assistant director of employee relations for the University of Minnesota, chief labor negotiator for the state of Alaska, and regional manager for the Alaska Public Employees Association.