University of Alaska Board of Regents Chair Sheri Buretta announced today that after consultation with the Board of Regents, UA President Jim Johnsen is resigning as UA System president. Buretta said the decision regarding a change in leadership was mutual and was made after considerable reflection by the Board. At a meeting today, the board accepted Johnsen’s resignation, authorized Buretta to implement the resignation, and to appoint an acting president. Johnsen will be available to assist with the transition until July 1.
Buretta announced that Vice President Michelle Rizk will serve as acting president, effective immediately until an interim president is named. Rizk serves as the University’s VP of University Relations, Chief Budget & Strategy Officer, and serves as the system liaison for facilities and land management. During her 22-year UA career, Rizk has served the university in areas including finance, 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.
“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. “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.”
Johnsen stated, “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.”
“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.
The board will appoint an interim president no later than July 15 after consultation with the chancellors, governance leaders and other UA stakeholders. A formal search for UA’s next president will commence later this year.