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Let's help, not hobble, our university

  • Author: Arliss Sturgulewski
    | Opinion
  • Updated: April 12, 2017
  • Published April 12, 2017

Around 400 graduates participated in the University of Alaska Anchorage class of 2016 fall commencement at the Alaska Airlines Center on Dec. 18. Nearly 1,100 undergraduate, graduate and professional school students earning degrees were honored in the ceremony. (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2016)

One hundred years ago, Alaska's leaders came together around a vision to create an institution of higher learning. They gathered on a hill near downtown Fairbanks and pledged their support for this new undertaking, now called the University of Alaska. Few institutions generate the kind of economic benefit or impact on our communities as does our university, and in this time of enormous change and challenge the need to support our university has never been greater.

I believe that it takes a great university to build a great state. Since its founding 100 years ago, the University of Alaska has developed into a high quality, affordable choice for those looking to create opportunities and improve their lives. Alaska has always had ambitious goals and it's the university's job to help our state achieve them. In serving Alaska for 100 years the university has:

• Grown from one campus in 1922 to 15 campuses today, from Ketchikan to Kotzebue.

• Graduated one person in 1923 and 4,700 this last year.

• Become the No. 1 producer of Alaska's workforce.

• Risen from a remote territorial college to the world's leading Arctic research university and the No. 1 research organization in the state providing real solutions to real problems.

Alaska values are reflected in the fabric of the broad university community: grit, perseverance, work ethic, commitment, shared learning and mutual respect. These values drive faculty and staff every single day as they work to serve students and our state.

Students seek skills, knowledge and a brighter future full of opportunity; faculty have committed themselves to discovery, teaching and serving civil society; UA staff give their best every day to support the educational mission; and alumni carry the UA flag out into the world, working all across our state and around the globe, creating new businesses, solving the state's problems, and giving back to the university that moved them forward in life.

The university's partners — parents, employers, the communities, public agencies, researchers — are critically important to helping advance the university. Its growing base of private donors are generously contributing their own resources to help students to realize their dreams and to help them strive for excellence.

These are just some of the people and programs that will be impacted if higher education funding is cut.

In this centennial year of the university's founding, there is no doubt that UA has the power to change Alaska's destiny — it changes lives, creates opportunities and promotes economic prosperity.

Please tell your legislators that you care about the university, about growing our own, right here in Alaska, and to fund the university's operating budget at the level requested by the governor and passed by the House.

Arliss Sturgulewski is a former member of the Alaska state Senate, Republican Party candidate for governor and a trustee emerita for the University of Alaska Foundation.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com. 

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