OPINION: UAA business, public policy offerings help combat Alaska’s ‘brain drain’

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Many Alaskans may not realize we have a world-class College of Business and Public Policy, or CBPP, right here in Anchorage. For years, I have heard people in Anchorage suggesting that University of Alaska Anchorage and our CBPP should only be considered as a fallback if potential students are not accepted at other universities, or are financially unable to attend these schools. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A reasonable benchmark for schools of business is their level of accreditation. The highest level any business school can achieve is an AACSB, or Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, accreditation. For more than a century, AACSB accreditation has been synonymous with the highest standards in business education and has been earned by less than 5% of the world’s business schools. Our CBPP has consistently earned and maintained this accreditation since 1995, which requires showing continual improvement in both faculty and coursework. UAA has the same accreditation as the big-name, and often very high-priced, business schools throughout the world. So why go elsewhere to pursue the best business education when we have it right here, and at affordable prices?

Some may question whether the UAA CBPP has degrees and programs comparable to outside business schools, and the answer is an unequivocal yes. We offer everything from focused Occupational Endorsement Certificates, aka OECs, for entry-level students, which take roughly 15 credits to complete, to a full range of associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Areas of study range from bookkeeping, business analytics, business leadership and entrepreneurship to business administration, global supply chain and public administration.

How about the CBPP faculty? Nearly all faculty members have doctoral degrees or professional credentials which means every level of coursework is taught by highly qualified faculty, a major determinant of the AACSB accreditation. At major universities outside of Alaska, students may find themselves in lecture halls with a few hundred students, and many of these classes, particularly in the lower division, will be taught by graduate assistants with little or no teaching experience. The small classes at UAA allow CBPP to provide a much more beneficial, personalized experience for students.

However, what may be the greatest benefit of all is that students who enroll in CBPP programs have opportunities to network with other Alaska students who they meet in their classes. In the years I have worked in the Anchorage and Alaska business communities, my greatest successes have come from the professional relationships I’ve built along the way. Students attending the UAA CBPP begin this process in their classes and build networks that will serve them well as students, and later as graduates working in Alaska. CBPP students also have opportunities to network with Alaska business leaders during guest speaking events, business plan competitions, through student clubs and more. The value of these networks may be difficult to quantify, but it is enormous. Students attending outside universities will never receive this significant local benefit.

Anchorage is facing increased levels of outmigration, and our state has always been challenged by brain drain. College choice is an important opportunity to retain a very talented portion of our population. Students who receive their education from outside universities are far less likely to return to Alaska. Providing opportunities for Alaskans to stay in Alaska helps build a brighter future for our state.

A major goal of the UAA College of Business and Public Policy is to develop an educated business workforce in Alaska, and particularly in our local marketplace. The pieces are in place at UAA’s CBPP — now we just need more students to take advantage of them.

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s happening at the CBPP, we invite the community to attend our showcase event on Thursday, Aug. 18 in Rasmuson Hall at UAA. Learn about the new artificial intelligence lab opening soon, a $1 million student-managed investment fund, a new Seawolf Stock Ticker, and plans for a new finance lab. For more information, visit: business.uaa.alaska.edu/events/showcase.

Joe Zimmermann is a UAA graduate. He spent the majority of his working career in the petroleum industry and a second career as the COO of a local civil engineering firm. He is a co-owner of a network of Anchorage, Eagle River and Palmer service stations and convenience stores. He currently serves as the chair of the UAA College of Business and Public Policy Advisory Board.

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