OPINION: UAA and its partners lead in Alaska and the Arctic

Together with our community, the University of Alaska Anchorage makes Alaskans and residents of the Arctic safe, healthy and prosperous.

UAA grows local businesses, organizes health dialogues, supports the national security and defense enterprise and makes fundamental science into usable tools and policies that meet community needs. We achieve this through performing applicable research and engaging in public service relevant to Anchorage, Alaska and the Arctic. From engineering and infrastructure to national security, health and understanding our dynamic environment, UAA is part of the solution. UAA partners with energy companies to help combat issues such as corrosion while developing techniques to safely mine rare earth metals. In addition, industry partnerships with global market leaders such as LG Electronics help bring emerging technologies to our region.

To grow our local and regional businesses, UAA’s Small Business Development Center and State Small Business Credit Initiative, aka SSBCI, provide the tools and support necessary for new and growing businesses to succeed in our state. In December, SBDCI shared the stories of three local businesses that have benefited from their services: Kai’s Coffee and Bakery, Dream a Little Dream Sleep Academy and BlueWater BaseCamp. Further, SSBCI has enabled U.S. Treasury funding to support more than $20 million in loans to predominantly socially and economically disadvantaged individual businesses, and this is only the first phase of this effort.

Charting the course for healthy Alaskans, UAA’s Center for Human Development brings together people and providers, creating a community of support, learning and exploration to improve the quality of life for people who experience disabilities and their families. One project, Project ECHO — Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes — exemplifies this, bringing together interdisciplinary experts with primary care providers, other health professionals and community members. Session topics include brain injury, pain and opioid management, as well as peer support and sessions, which are open to the public.

Supporting our military and national security, UAA’s Applied Environmental Research Center, or AERC, and Arctic Domain Awareness Center, aka ADAC, provide operational management, workforce development and applied research services. For example, AERC has aided Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in being good stewards of the land by monitoring annual salmon runs and returns. Similarly, ADAC creates a value stream from workforce development through programs like the Arctic Summer Internship Program, partnerships through events like the quarterly Regional United States Coast Guard meeting and research-enabled products like the Long-Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicle and Arctic All Hazards GIS-Platform, providing the tools necessary for regional operators.

To help protect Alaskans and their property, UAA created wildfire maps to assist residents in determining their wildfire hazard, extending their research through hosting community events to help residents and agencies utilize these tools to protect their assets. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Jennifer Schmidt, Ph.D., associate professor of Natural Resources Management and Policy in UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, and her team have effectively translated fundamental scientific exploration into applied tools and trained professionals to protect our community from the damage that wildfires can cause.

UAA takes pride in its commitment to community-engaged research and public service that enriches the experience of our students, neighbors and environment. Our work has been recognized by the Community Engagement Carnegie Classification as one of only 352 institutions nationally and the only institution in Alaska. We are proud to be part of the positive change that this work brings, and hope that you will join us in elevating the impact of this work for the benefit of Alaska and the Arctic.


Aaron Dotson is UAA’s Vice Chancellor for Research and a professor of civil engineering.

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