This month we have a "guest blogger" -- our Provost, Bear Baker
As a new graduate of Clemson University, I was hired as faculty in the mid-1970s, just as the textile industry went off-shore. It was the only industry left in South Carolina, and it was a real crush. The state legislature turned to the university and said, “Help us to create an economy.” That’s how I’ve viewed what a university is for, first as a new faculty member, then as Dean of the College of Business & Public Policy, and now as the chief academic administrator.
All of my life I’ve been out there engaging with community and getting students engaged. It’s good for the community and good experience for our students. My philosophy is, “If we’re not connected to community, why should our community see value in our university?” Universities are being challenged more than ever to contribute to their communities. As Provost of UAA, I recognize that we are one of those universities.
We are grateful to have a community that works with us and with our students, getting them involved in real-life projects. A group of civil engineering students this spring is working with their professor and the Fairview Community Council to design a better snow removal process, a critical need here in Anchorage. Our nursing students are traveling out to rural communities in Alaska and doing health screenings for youngsters to keep Headstarts open. In every college of the university, I can find projects and partnerships that remind me of the work our community and state are doing with us and the difference it makes for all of us.
We want to make very visible our commitment to improving student success while helping with real needs in the community and getting our faculty involved too. I’m committed to working with the Municipality of Anchorage and the State of Alaska in the same way that I was committed in my early days as faculty for Clemson University and the state of South Carolina. I’ve never stopped doing that. “How can we help, and in what ways can we be partners to realize the very best outcomes for our students, our communities and the state of Alaska?”
We’ve become an engaged university, and we welcome input from everyone – students, faculty and community members - as to what more we can do to be in this reciprocal partnership – one community, one university. The Center for Community Engagement & Learning is a portal to our university for community engagement, as well as my office. UAA was one of only sixty-two universities nationwide to receive designations from The Carnegie Foundation for curricular engagement and outreach and partnerships in 2006 and again in 2010. This year, UAA will apply again for that designation as “An Engaged University,” trusting that our many and deep relationships with community organizations and state agencies in Alaska demonstrate our commitment to community partnership. The Carnegie recognition nationwide affirms the value of the opportunities that we have in working together.
Provost Elisha “Bear” Baker