UA Regents name five finalists for interim president, all with ties to UA

Dana Thomas, Michelle Rizk, Dan White, Cathy Sandeen and Pat Pitney.

The University of Alaska’s Board of Regents this morning announced its slate of finalists to take over as the system’s interim president while a search for a permanent replacement gets underway.

All five finalists have experience with the University of Alaska system and interviews will be conducted today and Monday with a decision expected on Tuesday, according to the university’s announcement.

The finalists are:

  • Acting president Michelle Rizk, whose 20 years in the university includes time as the Vice President of University Relations and as the university’s chief budget and strategy officer.
  • UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, whose previous experience includes time as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and UW-Extension.
  • UAF Chancellor Dan White, who previously worked as the University of Alaska’s vice president for academic affairs and research.
  • Dana Thomas, who previously worked as UAF’s interim chancellor and as the statewide vice president of academic affairs and research.
  • Legislative Finance Division Director Pat Pitney, whose experience includes time as UAF’s vice chancellor and as Gov. Bill Walker’s budget director

Rizk stepped into position of acting president following Jim Johnsen’s announcement that he would be resigning amid a near-revolt form university faculty over a failed foray with the University of Wisconsin’s search for a chancellor and his handling of the system’s budget cuts.

Yesterday, the Board of Regents approved a list of attributes they’re looking for in an interim president including: Existing experience with the university system, experience with the university’s academics, experience with building collaboration, management experience and willingness to work as the executive agent of the board (which has seemed to be flexing its muscles a bit more in recent months).

Whoever gets the job will be tasked with navigating the University of Alaska system through continued financial turmoil—brought on by continued funding cuts handed down by Gov. Mike Dunleavy as well as the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic—all while trying to mend infighting in the university system.

The interim president will also be in charge of seeing through the Board of Regents’ directive to investigate the possibility of folding the University of Alaska Southeast into the University of Alaska Fairbanks as the only significant cost-cutting measure currently on the table.

Additional information on the candidates can be found here.

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