BY HOLLY FISHER
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
Phase 2 of the Strategic Pathways initiative is assessing the redesign of eight University of Alaska departments in order to reduce costs and streamline the system. The Academic Areas article last issue covered the first four departments. This one sums up the suggested changes to four main Administrative Areas across the UA system.
Each area under consideration has an in-depth PDF that covers every area of review. The suggestions must streamline functions, decreasing overall costs, and meet the priorities of UA on a statewide level. Each suggestion has a pro/con list that details how it functions under the above parameters. Based on those lists, I have expanded on the top choice for each department.
The Human Resources (HR) department is responsible for recruiting, training, and placing workers. It also handles payroll and other staff relation duties. Changes are for creating a system to reduce operating costs, and better meet UA priorities. “Continued Implementation of Statewide Transformation and Establishment of HRC” is highest on the list. It would involve the HR Council collaborating with the HR directors, and Chief Human Resources Officer on the standards, processes, and practices for the UA system. This method would centralize the payroll, personnel, and employee relations on the UAF campus. The goal is to streamline processes, maintain separate HR departments unique to each location, and bring important HR personnel together from across the system. It could have the downside of increasing personnel costs, and would greatly change the situation for some Statewide employees.
The Relations department is responsible for acquiring state and federal funding, and is the primary contact between the University and the legislature. Changes focus on finding solutions that would reduce costs, sync with UA priorities, and create better communication between campuses. UAF and UAA have Relations departments in place, but UAS does not. The highest positive pro/con suggestion is “Centralize at Each University.” This would decrease costs by removing redundancies at UAA and UAF, give UAS its own department, and would improve how funds are distributed. Negative points could include having an impact on already-established units, bogging down internal communication, and creating friction among staff during the implementation process.
Student Services handle support such as Disability services, Food services, Advising, Exchanges, and more. Potential ideas focus on locating target investments and improving student experience, as well as reducing costs and aligning with UA priorities. The one suggestion with more pros than cons is “Consolidation of Tasks Between Universities and Statewide.” This should work with the established strengths of the departments, allow for more efficient allocation of funds, and lead to greater consistency in decision-making and student experience. It may lead to the perception of Statewide as holding too much influence over the individual departments. It could also remove certain established individuals and departments from the direct decision-making process.
The Institutional Research department’s duties include policy analysis, University survey assessment, and external reporting to federal, state, and private entities. Ideas were designed to support reducing costs, and focusing on UA priorities. Collaborative Knowledge Network, though being a large change, could make the department a highly effective part of the system. It could lead to increased revenue and greater collaboration between campuses. It is also the most sustainable of the proposals. Negatives would be the complexity of implementation and an increased need for investment.
All of this information is available in PDFs on the Strategic Pathways website. There are also feedback forms, which all students and faculty are encouraged to use, should they have comments or suggestions as Phase II continues its forward pace.