The State of the University

UA President Pat Pitney delivered her third State of the University address on Feb. 21 in Fairbanks. The in-person event took place during the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce weekly business lunch. Pitney chose to highlight campus successes and how the university empowers Alaska. 

Pitney began the address by acknowledging the indigenous communities of Alaska and the land the university resides on. She then thanked those present in the audience, UA’s staff and faculty, and everyone watching the address for their support of the university system. Pitney reinforced the main point of this address, that everyone’s support of the university empowers Alaska and it’s future. 

A more stable future

This is the first time in nine years that the university has had fiscal stability according to Pitney. Having faced state budget cuts, declining enrollment, and the COVID-19 pandemic, this year marks a turning point. Student enrollment this spring is growing compared to years past, and UA is set to break it’s record of externally funded research for the second year in a row. 

“Fiscal stability is the foundation for these successes,” she said. 

For Pitney, the university system has a lot to offer Alaska. The state has seen a declining population of working-age adults, 25,000 fewer compared to 2013. Pitney said the university can fill this gap.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve awarded over 44,000 degrees and certificates – 72% of them in Alaska’s highest-demand employment fields. 80% of our graduates are working here in Alaska within a year after graduating,” she said. 

Statewide statistics from the Alaska Department of Labor show that only 25% of college students who leave Alaska return to the state longterm. Pitney points to the state construction industry as a chance to show the university’s effectiveness. Construction spending in Alaska is set to exceed $5.5 billion in 2023, over $1 billion more than last year, according to Associated General Contractors of Alaska. Over 3,600 students have graduated from UA with a construction related degree or certificate since 2011, with over 40 of these education paths available at all three main campuses. Pitney also highlighted the healthcare programs and their similar impact on Alaska’s need for nurses, medical technicians, and other related workers. 

A large piece of the UA’s future stability is the newly established federal legislation to finally complete the land grant that was long promised but never delivered. Pitney thanked the work of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and the rest of Alaska’s federal legislators. For more on the UA land grant, see the February 2023 issue of Whalesong. 

The state of UAS

UAS featured in several of Pitney’s remarks. She highlighted the scholarship designed for Indigenous teachers and school administrators as part of UA’s attempt to increase education accessibility. More than 150 Alaska Native students have received support from this scholarship and over half of Alaska’s school districts employ graduates of this program. 

Additionally, Pitney talked about the growing emphasis on mariculture, ocean sciences, and maritime careers at UAS. The University is set to help contribute to the state’s goal of a $100 million dollar mariculture industry according to Pitney. 

“UAS’ Applied Fisheries program, UAF’s College of Fisheries, and Ocean Science and Sea Grant programs are all instrumental in supporting Alaska’s growing mariculture and aquaculture industries,” she said. 

For the entire State of the University address, visit the Office of the President at

By Mike Flunker, Editor-in-Chief, Whalesong

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