Jim Johnsen named new University of Alaska president

Jim Johnsen at a meet and greet in Juneau, July 7, 2015. Johnsen is a candidate for University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)
Jim Johnsen at a meet and greet in Juneau, July 7, 2015. Johnsen is the incoming University of Alaska president. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Tuesday appointed Dr. Jim Johnsen as the next university president.

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In the weeks leading up to the Board of Regent’s unanimous vote appointing Johnsen as the next University of Alaska president, he spent time traveling to several campuses to talk with a variety of university constituents.

Jo Heckman is the chair of the Board of Regents. She says the board spent time reviewing feedback from those constituents before making a decision. Overall, Heckman says Johnsen was well received.

“Well over 80 percent of the responses were favorable,” Heckman said. “They liked him; people thought that he would make a good president for our University of Alaska system. And they were very favorable toward his candidacy.”

Johnsen was the only candidate still in the running for the job and was the sole finalist put forward by the Board of Regents in early June.

Heckman says Johnsen’s first, most-pressing task will be addressing next year’s budget, which is already in development.

“That is the biggest issue and the first and foremost issue for us, because we are looking at, fiscally, some very challenging years,” Heckman said. “We have had, the last three years have been very challenging and it doesn’t seem like this going to be any different. In fact, we anticipate this is going to be slightly worse than the last two years.”

The university faced a $28 million shortfall last year.

On top of tackling the budget, Heckman says Johnsen also committed to visiting every university campus during his first year.

“That means that he would be visiting the three major campuses as well as the rural campuses to get to meet people, get the hear what it is that they have to say, what’s on their mind, and start thinking about where are we headed in redefining this university,” Heckman said. “How do we preserve what we have in these fiscally challenging times?”

Johnsen is on a 5-year contract, making $325,000 dollars annually.

There will also be the possibility of an annual performance bonus of up to $75,000 dollars – which will be based on several still-to-be-determined metrics the incoming president and Board of Regents will set by the end of September.