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Dean's monthly update

September 2005

It may seem odd that my monthly report for August 2005 is coming out in mid-September, but August ended in an unusual manner with Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast at the end of the month.  Thanks to all of you who have expressed your concern about my family living in south Mississippi.  I am happy to report that all of our family members are safe and that we have managed to find that all of our friends survived.  We received information just this week on some friends who lived near the beach in our previous home in Long Beach.  One of my sisters lost her home in Pascagoula and is living with friends.  Our son, Heath, evacuated his apartment near the beach in Gulfport before the storm.  He returned a week later to find that most of his apartment complex had been destroyed and his apartment had been filled with water.  At the moment, he is homeless (living with friends) and jobless (building damage), although his employer is paying him for the next three months.  He will visit us in Fairbanks soon.

Twenty (20) new graduate students joined SFOS when the semester began this month, evenly split between Fairbanks and Juneau.  Two students will eventually reside in Kodiak.  Total graduate student enrollment is now 155, with 104 seeking M.S. degrees and 51 Ph.D. candidates. Academic Coordinator Christina Neumann arranged a student orientation in Fairbanks on August 31 and Fisheries Division Director Bill Smoker hosted a similar orientation in Juneau the same week. Eight new undergraduate Fisheries students joined the program this semester bringing our total undergraduate enrollment to 24.

Associate Dean Mike Castellini and I spent August 15 in Anchorage promoting SFOS activities.  We met with Ben Ellis, Managing Director of the Institute of the North, and with Kent Crandall and Krystal Nelson of Rise Alaska to discuss potential development opportunities. The same day we had brief visit with Governor Wally Hickel who described how the legislation was crafted that created the State of Alaska. Gov. Hickel gave us a signed copy of his book “Crisis in the Commons: the Alaska Solution.”

One highlight of the month was the visit on August 16 and 17 of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director, Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr. and Associate Director for Geosciences, Dr. Margaret Leinen, to Seward and Fairbanks. We are encouraged that the NSF Director chose to visit the place where the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV) will be stationed. In Seward, they toured the Seward Marine Center (SMC) and the Alaska SeaLife Center to see where we plan to dock the ARRV.  SMC Director Tom Smith gave a presentation on our plans for the new SFOS facility.  At a luncheon following the tour, the Mayor of Seward, a representative from the Governor’s Office (DED Commissioner Bill Noll), and other city leaders told Dr. Bement of their support for the new facility that will host the ARRV.  Dr. Karl Erb, Office of Polar Programs Director, joined the group in Fairbanks the next day. Mike Castellini organized a set of presentations in which Drs. Bement, Leinen and Erb heard presentations on Arctic research from SFOS faculty Bodil Bluhm, Rolf Gradinger, Russ Hopcroft and Tom Weingartner.  Chancellor Steve Jones also hosted a dinner for the NSF contingent in Fairbanks.

The Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center (PCCRC) met in Juneau on August 17 to consider research topics for funding next year.  SFOS Advisory Council member Heather McCarty chaired the day-long meeting along with former Dean Vera Alexander. The PCCRC anticipates having a total of $325,000 available for projects in 2006.  The PCCRC has also endowed the Ted Stevens Distinguished Professorship in Marine Policy.  The search for this position is ongoing.

The SFOS Faculty Meeting held in Fairbanks on August 22 and 23 was a resounding success.  Thanks to the 48 faculty who participated and to Jennifer Vetsch and Carin Bailey for organizing the meeting.  I was delighted that UAF Chancellor Steve Jones was able to attend to welcome the faculty and that Provost Paul Reichardt spent some time with us describing his plan for “Assuring Academic Quality at UAF.” His comments on the importance of the unit peer review in the tenure process were especially timely as we begin the tenure and promotion review process next month.  The Faculty of the Future (FOF) Committee chaired by Kate Wynne stimulated an informative discussion of how to move the school forward.  The presentation by Graduate Dean Susan Henrichs helped us focus our attention on the needs of our graduate students.  The energetic participation of faculty in the discussions of how to improve our degree programs and how to improve student mentoring provides strong evidence of the commitment of SFOS faculty to our academic programs.  Faculty evaluation of the meeting will be posted on our web site before the end of the month.  I believe everyone found the evening at the Alaska Salmon Bake the most enjoyable part of the meeting.