KODIAK — Following an uncertain spring, the Fisheries Industrial Technology Center in Kodiak finally has new direction.
Earlier this year, a task force asked if FITC should be disbanded, the faculty moved to other areas and the building given away. Instead, the center is expanding its outreach and programs, and it has a renewed focus within the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (SFOS).
A review committee examined the FITC’s value to the fishing industry and recommended changes to the center’s activities to better serve fish processors and fish harvesters.
The task force included residents of Kodiak and other coastal communities, commercial fishing processors and staff from Kodiak College and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
One of the committee’s recommendations was to leave the director position at FITC unfilled, and instead dedicate those funds to hiring an additional faculty member in seafood science and an information officer to increase public awareness of the research and educational opportunities the center provides.
The two new co-directors of the fishery technology center place it squarely within SFOS. They are Ken Criddle, director of the SFOS division of fisheries, and interim director Paula Cullenberg, who leads the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program.
“The main change is that we are folding the faculty at FITC to get them more closely connected to the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences,” Cullenberg said.
Faculty will align with current SFOS programs like the Marine Advisory Program or the division of fisheries. The reorganization under the SFOS will provide a stronger, more coordinated role with what is happening within the seafood industry, Cullenberg said.
The realignment also makes classes taught by FITC faculty accessible to students across the state, through video conferencing.
Likewise, graduate students at the center will be able to take classes offered in Fairbanks and Juneau and interact with more students and faculty.
The change affects the degree program graduate students in Kodiak are pursuing, adjusting it away from an interdisciplinary degree in seafood science. Instead, they will work toward master’s degrees in fisheries with a seafood science emphasis.
The review committee portrayed this change as important to attract more students to attend the center in Kodiak as well as provide better support and connections for current graduate students.
“Talking to the students at FITC, it is interesting for them and gives them an opportunity they didn’t have,” Cullenberg said.
As part of its outreach program, one of the classes kicking off at Kodiak High School next week will be the state’s first seafood science class, developed by faculty at FITC.
Other plans for outreach include the development of short courses for the local seafood processor industry and the continuation of the Alaska Seafood Processing Leadership Institute, designed for mid-level managers in the seafood industry to gain additional professional development. The class begins in Kodiak at the end of October.
“For our processing industry to remain competitive the issue is you continually need to train new people to come into these jobs,” said Jeff Stephan, who sits on the FITC policy committee.
Stephan also had a seat on the FITC review committee, and said the center has been a tremendous asset for the university, the community and the seafood industry.
“I’ve been a big proponent of the research that goes on over there,” Stephan said. “The post-doc research is extremely important and helps keep the processing industry viable.”
He said there has been a decline of good seafood programs taught across the United States over the past 25 years, and the kind of research and graduate level teaching conducted at the FITC makes the program special.