The search for a new director of Kodiak College was launched last week, when a notice for the job was posted by the Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates Search Firm, based in the Lower 48.

A search was launched in the beginning of 2019, and a new director was hired in May for Kodiak College, an extension of University of Alaska Anchorage. However, Jessica Paugh, the selected director, resigned from the post before moving to Kodiak, after Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced draconian cuts to the University of Alaska system. 

“I have spent days agonizing over this decision and, in light of the unprecedented drastic budget constraints and pending changes to the university, I cannot uproot my life to come to Alaska with a very bleak future ahead … This would be a soul crushing role in a very isolated situation.” Paugh wrote in an email to UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen in July.

The governor’s proposed budget cut to the University of Alaska amounted to $135 million for the 2020 fiscal year, translating to an unprecedented 41% cut in state funding. However, the Alaska Legislature later approved a bill restoring $110 million in state funding to UA.

In a November meeting, the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted to approve an additional $25 million cut to the university system for the 2020-2021 school year. As a result of the vote, UAA stands to lose $9.1 million in direct state support. 

Paugh wasn’t the only one to jump ship when budget woes loomed for the college. Fall enrollment at Kodiak College declined by almost 10% between 2018 and 2019, going from 757 students to 683 students. 

More than five months passed between the Paugh’s resignation and the launch of a new search process. College officials say the long wait is due to the financial uncertainty that faced UAA in the past few months.

“Last year, we conducted an extensive search that concluded with the hiring of a highly qualified candidate, but uncertainty surrounding the university budget prompted her to rescind her acceptance of the position,” Sandeen wrote in an email. “Since that time, we have achieved more clarity regarding the university’s fiscal situation, and we are well-positioned to launch a new search and fill this important leadership position.”

Tom Fitch, a consultant with the search firm, is leading the effort to cast a nationwide net to draw in candidates for the positions. Fitch was also involved with the search process last year, during which 50 applications were reviewed, eight candidates were interviewed, and three were invited to visit Kodiak in May. 

“We are dedicated to identifying and hiring a director who exhibits a commitment to student success and an ability to inspire and lead Kodiak College through future challenges while advocating for community education and maintaining a focus on supporting students, the community and Alaska’s workforce,” Sandeen wrote. 

The deadline to apply for the position is March 1. A search committee comprised mostly of Kodiak community members will then select candidates for interviews. Interviews are tentatively scheduled for April. The final hiring decision will be made by Sandeen, and the position is anticipated to begin in the summer. 

The chair of the search committee will be Dan O’Connor, director of the Prince William Sound College, another extension of UAA located in Valdez. A college official declined to name the remaining members of the search committee, but said it will be “more or less the same” as the committee that reviewed candidates last year. 

Until then, the college will be led by Betty Walters, who assumed the role of interim director in October 2018, after previous director Alan Fugleberg announced his retirement in April 2018. 



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