Pedestrians pass in front of Stevens Hall on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus Wednesday afternoon, July 12, 2017. 

What would you call a university that has earned the triple crown of “Land Grant,” “Sea Grant,” and “Space Grant”? Here is a hint, there are only 17 universities in the nation. Do you need another hint? One of them is in your backyard! Here is what this prestigious status means:

Land Grant

According to an article by Professor Emeritus Terrence Cole: “UAF was established as the land grant institution at its founding in 1917. In 1915, Congress reserved for Alaska's land-grant institution potentially more than a quarter of a million acres in the Tanana Valley, proceeds from the sale and development of which would help finance the operation of the school.

Under the terms of the measure, written by Delegate James Wickersham, the college was to receive every surveyed and unclaimed Section 33 in an area of about 14,000 square miles between Fairbanks in the north and the foothills of the Alaska Range in the south, in addition to the main campus of about 2,250 acres four miles from Fairbanks.

However, this large Tanana Valley land grant never materialized. For decades, almost all of the land in the Tanana Valley (like the rest of Alaska) remained unsurveyed and therefore unavailable. As late as the 1950s, only 0.6 percent of Alaska had been properly surveyed under the standard rectangular system, and a territorial report concluded that at the speed Alaska was being surveyed, it could take as long as 43,510 years to complete the job.

Due primarily to this incredibly slow pace of federal land surveys, Alaska's Land grant institution received only a fraction of the land Congress reserved for it in 1915; in addition to its 2,250 acre campus, the University of Alaska received less than 9,000 acres out of a reservation created for it totaling approximately 268,800 acres.”

Today, only the great state of Delaware’s land grant university has less land than UAF.

Sea Grant

The National Sea Grant program was established in 1966. Alaska Sea Grant began in 1970.

Alaska Sea Grant is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Alaska Sea Grant is administered by the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Quoting from the Alaska Sea Grant website "MISSION: To enhance the sustainable use and conservation of Alaska’s marine, coastal, and watershed resources through research, education, and extension.”

Broadly speaking Alaska Sea Grant is advancing the state's Blue Economy through a variety of education, research and public engagement programs.

Space Grant

UAF became a Space Grant institution in 1991. (See for more details about the Space Grant program in general. Also see

Alaska Space Grant provides a conduit for education, and development of a knowledgeable work force and research infrastructure in support of NASA’s mission. In other words we connect students and faculty to NASA. Through various funding opportunities UAF creates opportunities for students to become engaged in authentic, hands-on, co-curricular experiences in science and engineering. We also provide support for graduate students to enhance our research enterprise and collaboration between Alaska faculty and NASA scientists and engineers.

A 2017‐2018 Alaska Space Grant Program grant allowed a course to be revised to make the content current and establish NASA presence. One course component is a project in which students deal with real‐life energy‐related issues in their communities including hands‐on activities and theoretical analysis. The project addresses remote locations and extreme environments similar to NASA’s challenges.

The asynchronous version of the four-credit course enables students throughout Alaska to complete it in their own time through recordings and discussion boards. Its ultimate goal is to increase access to education and contribute to the development of the STEM workforce in sustainable energy, an interdisciplinary field relevant to NASA.

One of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate goals is to develop an energy efficient sustained human presence on the moon relying on renewable energy, using it as a springboard for future exploration of Mars and other destinations. Building a remote base entails challenges associated with the transportation of materials from the Earth with the systems needing to function in extreme environments.

Charlie Dexter is a professor of applied business emeritus. He may be reached by email at This column is provided as a public service by the UAF Community and Technical Colleges.