Friday, February 21, 2014

UAF merges Extension and Natural Resources School

The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Friday officially created the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Extension. The new unit is a merger between the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the Cooperative Extension Service.

The Regents’ action comes after months of planning by UAF, which announced the proposed change in July 2013. The goal of the merger is to strengthen the research, teaching and outreach missions of both units. Stephen Sparrow, interim dean of the school and interim director of the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and Fred Schlutt, vice provost for outreach and director of Extension, will lead the new school.
Stephen Sparrow
The collaborative structure is common at many land-grant institutions around the nation. UAF is Alaska’s land-grant university, designated by the state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Act of 1862 and the Hatch Act of 1887.

“Each unit carries out different aspects of the land grant mission,” Sparrow said. “By merging we’ll more effectively carry out that mission for the entire state of Alaska.”

AFES has four major research sites: Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Palmer and the Seward Peninsula. Extension has offices in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Bethel, Delta Junction, Palmer, Juneau, Kenai Peninsula, Nome and Sitka. Extension also serves Alaska Natives through its Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program administered through Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Bristol Bay Native Corp.

Fred Schlutt
Schlutt noted that constituents of both entities should not notice a change in service, however there may be opportunities for additional services as the units become fully integrated.

“We are hoping for better cooperation and communications between research and Extension faculty,” Schlutt said.

In addition, both Sparrow and Schlutt predict that the merger will save money in the long run, although they don’t anticipate any immediate changes to staffing levels. They do plan to slowly move both units into common space, although that will take time. Already there has been some integration, with two Extension agents being located in the UAF O’Neill Building with school faculty and staff.  In Palmer the Extension staff will be housed at the Matanuska Experiment Farm with the school and AFES by summer.

Agriculture was one of five subjects taught when UAF opened its doors as the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in 1922. The Cooperative Extension Service in Alaska became part of the college in 1930. A year later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture transferred ownership of its experiment stations to the college.

The UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension awards bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Faculty and students conduct research in natural resources management, forest sciences, agriculture and geography, while Extension agents provide practical outreach in the areas of agriculture, natural resources, economic development, energy, food safety and food preservation, health, families and youth development.

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