UA narrows field of presidential candidates

By Molly Dischner
Sun Star Reporter

Nearly six months after the search for its next president began, the University of Alaska has narrowed the list down to six finalists. Over the course of the next week, the field will be whittled further to just three or four. On Monday, March 1, students get to meet them.

Regent Cynthia Henry said the candidates were chosen from a pool of applicants that included Alaskans and people from outside the state. Elaine Hairston, the consultant from Academic Search, which conducted UAF’s search, advertised the position in a variety of Alaska newspapers. “She also advertised in education publications,” said Henry. She noted that many of the Alaskan applicants were originally nominated by other people, and then applied after Hairston talked to them about their nomination.

Mark Hamilton, the out-going UA president, announced his intention to retire last June. By the end of August, the Board of Regents had chosen a firm to help them find his replacement. For the last several months, the board has worked with the firm to solicit and review candidates.

Hairston’s firm was chosen after the Board of Regents put out a request for proposals for executive search services. Kate Ripley, UA’s Public Affairs Director, said the firm had a competitive bid and only does academic searches, a point that weighed heavily in the regent’s decision to hire Academic Search. Paid searches are costly, but standard procedure for an unpaid board such as the regents, Ripley said last winter. The regents used a firm to find Hamilton as well, she said.

The board also created an advisory committee to assist with the selection process. The committee includes prominent Alaskans with a history of supporting the university and representatives from each of the statewide UA governance groups.

So far, the committee’s primary task has been to work with Hairston on the job profile that was used to explain what being the University of Alaska’s president was all about. It also included basic information about the state itself. “They have been very helpful when they wrote the job profile,” Henry said about the committee.

Now that the search is over, the ball is back in the regents’ court. Six candidates are visiting Fairbanks this weekend for interviews. By Sunday evening, the board will narrow the field to three or four people. Those candidates will spend one day at each of the major campuses. Fairbanks is first, on March 1. Anchorage and Juneau follow on March 2 and 3, respectively.

Candidates will respond to questions solicited from students and staff, Henry said. Submitted questions include the candidates’ views on unionization, equity among the campuses, sustainability, administrative pay and other issues.

In the weeks that follow, the board will consider public input along with its own impression of the candidates. Henry said they hope to make a final selection at their March 15 meeting.

Henry emphasized the importance of public participation and input in this last phase of the search.

“We’re really urging maximum participation,” she said. We hope students, faculty and staff will take a few moments to relay their feedback. “The Board of Regents really welcomes that participation.”

Students are invited to hear from the candidates on Monday from 1-4:45 p.m. in the Globe Room.

Check The Sun Star website for names and brief bios of the chosen candidates on Sunday evening. To submit questions for the candidates, go to

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