University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen resigns from the university system

Jim Johnsen speaks at the Alaska Chamber Fall Forum in Girdwood, Alaska (Oct. 29, 2019)
Jim Johnsen speaks at the Alaska Chamber Fall Forum in Girdwood, Alaska (Oct. 29, 2019)(KTUU)
Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 1:17 PM AKDT
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University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen will resign from the University of Alaska on July 1.

According to a statement from UA Board fo Regents Chair Sheri Buretta, the decision was "mutual and was made after considerable reflection by the Board."

"You know we are in a place where we have to change and we have to transform the university, data shows that presidents of universities average around six years, President Johnsen was coming on his fifth year and so we are looking at the next five to ten years and how we transform the university, so it's timely for this transition to be happening," Buretta said.

In a statement Johnsen said, “It has been a real challenge leading the university over the last five years, but we made a lot of progress, too. Looking forward, there is no institution more important for creating opportunities for Alaskans than the university.”

Johnsen became president in 2015 and oversaw three universities, 13 community campuses and about 30,000 students as leader of the UA system.

The University of Alaska is facing an uncertain future. Large state budget cuts, declining enrollment and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have all impacted the University recently.

"Change is always difficult and we understand that and we want to be sensitive to that, but we also think that there are a lot of opportunities for the community to come together and focus on solutions that will stabilize the university for the next 100 years to come and the generations to come," Buretta said.

The move also comes after the university's faculty union released a petition calling for Johnsen's immediate resignation, after the Board of Regents cut or reduced more than 40 academic programs.

Johnsen had also previously been looking for a job and was selected as the only finalist under consideration for the position of president of Wisconsin's university system. But, he rescinded his application after the faculty, staff and students signed a petition calling for a new search for a president.

At the time, he rescinded his application and released a statement saying that after deep reflection his calling remains in Alaska.

Vice President Michelle Rizk will serve as acting president, effective immediately until an interim president is named.

A formal search for UA’s next president will occur later this year.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.
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