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UA Regents Accept President Jim Johnsen's Resignation

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James Johnsen
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University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen is stepping down. His resignation was accepted during an emergency meeting of the UA Board of Regents today. Vice President Michelle Rizk will serve as acting president effective immediately, until an interim president can be appointed in July.

The vote by the 11 regents was unanimous in accepting UA President Jim Johnsen’s resignation. UA Board of Regents Chair, Sheri Buretta, wrote in an announcement shortly after the noon executive session, that the decision “was mutual and made after considerable reflection by the Board.” She was reached in the late afternoon on the dock in Valdez after a boat trip from Tatitlek, where she had attended the online meeting.

Time was right for a change in leadership. There’s no particular one issue that brought this to this decision. I think that there’s many factors at play, and ultimately, it’s the right time.”

She called attention to the dire fiscal situation of the university system. A $75 million cut is planned over three years, and pandemic expenses have cut deeply into university revenue. She did not say if Johnsen’s recent recruitment by the University of Wisconsin, nor letters of no-confidence by some UA faculty leaders played a part in Johnsen’s leaving.

“There are going to be significant changes that have to happen because of our financial position, and in the end, we’ll be stronger for it if we work together and focus on solutions and be respectful to each other.”

In the announcement after the meeting, Buretta complimented Johnsen’s dedication, sayin he has led the university through unprecedented challenges with integrity, unparalleled effort, and distinction.”

“I have much high regard and wish him well.”

In the announcement, Johnsen was quoted “It has been a real challenge leading the university over the last five years, but we made a lot of progress, too. Looking forward, there is no institution more important for creating opportunities for Alaskans than the university.”

Johnsen will be available to assist with the transition until July 1 when his resignation from the university goes into effect.

Rizk serves as the university’s Vice President of University Relations, Chief Budget & Strategy Officer, and serves as the system liaison for facilities and land management.

Buretta’s announcement says Rizk’s 22 years with UA covers finance and human resources and as the university’s chief advocate in Juneau. Raised in Alaska, Rizk earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Board will appoint an interim president after consulting with the three UA chancellors and other leaders. The board expects an appointment no later than July 15 and will start a formal search for UA’s next president later this year.