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Ulmer, other chancellors visit legislators

State's top academics try to build bridges with those who fund their schools

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2011

University chancellors from around Alaska are working the halls in the Capitol, making sure legislators know what they’re doing at their campuses around the state and making friends for their schools.

MICHAEL PENN / JUNEAU EMPIRE
MICHAEL PENN / JUNEAU EMPIRE

It’s hasn’t always been that way.

“When I first got here there was a certain animosity between legislators and the university (system),” said Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

For the last few year, the chancellors from the universities in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks say they’re doing a better job of reaching out to legislators.

They’ve been telling them of some of the impressive gains they’ve made with funding they’ve received in the past, as well as making a personal pitch for this year’s agenda, said John Pugh, chancellor of the University of Alaska Southeast.

This year they’re seeking things such as support for the governor’s call for money to help with deferred maintenance, as well as the new scholarship proposal Parnell has been pushing.

At the same time, the chancellors are pushing the Board of Regents’ goal of adding a merit component to the new aid effort.

And this year they’ve been using the star power of Fran Ulmer to their advantage, after the former lieutenant governor and Juneau mayor just completed service on the national oil spill commission looking into the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

At a ceremony in the Capitol earlier this week, Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, himself a former Juneau mayor as well, praised Ulmer’s long service to the state. Ulmer retires this year as chancellor in Anchorage.

“I want to thank you on behalf of my community for all the work you’ve done on the state’s behalf,” Egan said.

Ulmer was the first woman in Alaska elected to statewide office when she became lieutenant governor 17 years ago. Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, co-chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee, said he still remembers her campaign signs that read “Mayor, Minority Leader, Mother,” with their recognition of what was really important.

Ulmer, for her part, talked up the academic successes of the University of Alaska Anchorage and other state schools.

“There’s a lot of quality on all of our campuses,” she said.

That includes everything from completion of an innovative new accreditation to the UAA debate team’s No. 2 national ranking.

“Behind only Yale,” Ulmer said.

Stevens praised both the university representatives and the legislators who met with them for breaking down that former animosity.

“I think that’s being dissipated because of meetings like this,” he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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