University of Alaska

The University of Alaska Board of Regents elected new leadership Thursday morning to start off an all-day workshop on university structure and shared governance for the university. 

Eagle River Regent and current Vice Chair Sheri Buretta will replace Chair John Davies of Fairbanks following today’s meeting. Davies was appointed to the board by former Gov. Bill Walker in 2015 and has served as chair for almost a year. Davies was elected chair of the board Nov. 8, 2018, to replace Regent Gloria O’Neill. Davies previously served as a member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly from 1989-1992 before being elected to the Alaska House of Representatives where he served from 1992-2002.

Buretta, also appointed by Walker in 2015 is the chairman of the board of Chugach Alaska Corp. She is also director of the Native American Contractors Association, serves on the board of directors for the Alaska Federation of Natives, the board of directors for Alaskans Standing Together, the Tatitlek Corp. board and the ROSSIA Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska Inc.

Davies told the board he fully supported the change in ranks. 

“I’m happy to step down from the chair position for a number of reasons,” Davies said. “It’s been a long year. We’ve had something like 37 meets in the last 44 weeks.”

Davies also said he was feeling the need to take a step back from leadership to spend more time at home for personal reasons but did not elaborate.

Members of the board applauded Davies for his leadership during a difficult budget cycle. 

“I’m not sure if I can say this on record, but it’s been one hell of a year,” O’Neill said with a laugh.

The position of vice chair will also change, with second-chair leadership shifting to Regent Karen Perdue of Fairbanks. Walker appointed Perdue to the board in 2017. 

Perdue serves on the board of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and previously served as commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services for eight years — the longest serving health commissioner since statehood.

Following the unanimous approval of the leadership change, regents began the all-day workshop to discuss ideas for university structure, leadership roles and responsibilities and shared governance. The board received a letter from its accreditation agency in September which warned that the university’s accreditation could be in jeopardy if changes were not made regarding governance and communication with stakeholders throughout the budgetary decision making process. Since then, the board has taken the concept of a shift to single accreditation off the table but will continue discussions about possible structural shifts down the line. 

The board announced last week its proposed state funding request of $277 million for fiscal 2021. Regents will discuss and likely approve the request amount during its Friday meeting during which the board also plans to discuss a potential 5% hike in tuition to be instituted in fall 2020.

Public testimony will be accepted from 8-9 a.m. Friday prior to the regent’s meeting in room 109 of the Butrovich building. A sign-up sheet for testimony will be available beginning at 7:45 a.m. Testimony will be limited to two minutes per person. 

Friday’s meeting will be livestreamed at www.alaska.edu/bor/live.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.