Jim Johnsen

Jim Johnsen

University of Alaska president Jim Johnsen has resigned as UA system president.

Following a meeting that included the UA Board of Regents and Johnsen, board chair Sheri Buretta called the decision mutual, according to a press release issued by the university Monday.

While the board understands that a change in leadership can be unsettling, it is confident that this decision, though difficult, is the correct one for the university,” Buretta said in the release. “We ask the university community to recognize that the state and university’s current fiscal situation requires significant change. To thrive, UA must come together to address our significant challenges – working to transform, reversing declining enrollment, and adapting to declining state support. The board also asks our community to move forward together and to work with the Board and university leadership as we address these challenges.”

UA vice president Michelle Rizk will serve as acting president, Buretta said, until an interim president is named. Rizk was the university’s vice president of public relations, chief budget and strategy officer, and system liaison for facilities and land management. Rizk has been with the university for 22 years. She is also a graduate of UAF.

“I have long admired Jim’s commitment to UA. During his five years as president he has led the university through unprecedented challenges with integrity, unparalleled effort, and distinction. We appreciate all he has done for UA and wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” Buretta said.

Johnsen was named UA president in 2015. Prior to his time with the university, Johnsen was an executive at Alaska Communications and Doyon. He also worked at both the University of Minnesota and UA from 1992-2008.

“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 said in the release.

The board is expected to name an interim president by July 15, according to university officials. Johnsen’s last day is July 1.

Contact the Frontiersman at news@frontiersman.com.

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