• 2009 Alaska Health Workforce Vacancy Study

      Landon, Beth; Doucette, Sanna; Frazier, Rosyland; Wilson, Meghan; Silver, Darla; Hill, Alexandra; Sanders, Kate; Sharp, Suzanne; Johnson, Kristin; DeRoche, Patricia; et al. (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2009-12)
      Alaska continues to experience health professional shortages. The state has long had a deficient “supply side” characterized by insufficient numbers of key health workers whose recruitment, retention, and training have been impeded by Alaska’s remoteness, harsh climate, rural isolation, low population density, and scarce training resources. Alaska is the only state without a pharmacy school and lacks its own dental and physical therapy schools as well. Health professional shortages can be decreased through the start of new training programs, the expansion of existing programs, and the improvement of the effectiveness of recruitment and retention efforts. However, strategic planning and the execution of such programs require valid and accurate data. To this end, stakeholders such as the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA) and Alaskan's For Access to Health Care (ACCESS), along with schools and departments within the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), funded the Alaska Center for Rural Health-Alaska’s AHEC (ACRH) and the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) to conduct a comprehensive health workforce study during winter and spring of 2009. This report highlights employers’ needs for employees to fill budgeted positions. This is different from a needs assessment that would take into account population demographics and disease incidence and prevalence. This health workforce study is an assessment of health manpower shortage based on budgeted staff positions and their vacancies in organizations throughout the state. Respondents included part-time positions, which resulted in our counting full-time equivalent (FTE) rather than individuals (“bodies”). In situations where a position was divided among more than one occupation (e.g., Dental Assistant and Billing Clerk), we asked the respondent to count the position under which they considered the position’s “primary occupation.” This was a point-in-time cross-sectional study. Recently filled vacancies or imminent vacancies were not counted. Positions filled by relief/temporary/locum/contract health workers were counted as vacancies only if these workers were temporarily filling a currently vacant, budgeted position. Due to budget and time constraints, we were not able to conduct a trend analysis that is a comparison of this study’s findings and the prior 2007 study. The key questions this study sought to answer were (1) How many budgeted positions, either full- or part-time, existed in organizations providing health services in Alaska? (2) How many of these budgeted positions were currently vacant? (3) What was the vacancy rate? (4) How many of the organizations that employ these occupations hired new graduates of training programs? (5) How many of the currently vacant budgeted positions (#2) could be filled by new graduates of training programs? (6) What were the mean and maximum length of time, expressed in months, that the vacancies have existed? (7) What were the principal, underlying causes of vacancies? The study was designed in consultation with an advisory group that included AMHTA, ACCESS, and UAA. The study targeted 93 health occupations. The unit of analysis was the employment site by organization type, which allowed for the allocation of positions and vacancies by geographic region. For each employer, we identified the staff person most knowledgeable about hiring and vacancies. In large organizations this meant that one employer might provide information about multiple sites and organization types; smaller employers were responsible for only a single site.
    • After Broadband: A Study of Organizational Use of Broadband in Southwest Alaska

      Hudson, Heather E.; Sharp, Suzanne; Hill, Alexandra (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2015-06-01)
      The purpose of this research was to gain a preliminary understanding of how organizations including large and small businesses, Native corporations and organizations, and local and regional governments are using broadband that is now available in much of southwest Alaska. To learn about community access to broadband, interviews were also conducted with library and school staff in communities where broadband had been installed under the OWL (Online with Libraries) program. Further, the study identifies research from other sources that could help to predict what socio-economic impacts the availability and adoption of broadband may have in rural Alaska. Financial institutions use online connections for teller services and credit and debit card processing, and stated that more people in rural communities now have debit cards that they can use for online purchases and bill paying. Large retailers use online services for payroll, for pointof-sale (POS) transactions, and online ordering. Seafood processors rely heavily on connectivity with their head offices (generally in the lower 48) for administrative services including payroll, accounting, shipping and receiving, purchasing, and ERP (enterprise resource planning), and access data base software to track fish tickets. Seafood processors also provide Internet access for their employees, most of whom are seasonal and from other states or countries. Tourism businesses use broadband for online reservation systems and for guests, who increasingly demand connectivity even for remote vacations. Village corporations and tribal councils use online services to help their residents obtain hunting and fishing licenses and fishing permits, to learn about funding opportunities, and to file reports on grants. Local Governments connect online for interoffice communications and for payroll and other administrative functions. Other online applications and services include providing remote desktop access from other agency sites, use of online tools for land management and mapping, training including webinars for workforce development, and providing access to social services for clients. An economic development organization sends newsletters to communities electronically and packets of documents to its board members rather than relying on fax or courier. Websites are important for tourism-related businesses to advertise and promote their businesses and for nonprofits and local governments to provide information about their services. 5 Broadband now plays many roles in rural education. Most students are required to use the Internet for class assignments. High school students can connect to classes in advanced subjects in other communities, and may complete online courses for college credit. Libraries remain important locations for community access, with residents going online to connect with friends on Facebook, as well as to download content for e-books, file income tax, and apply for jobs and government benefits. School and library Wi-Fi provides access inside and near the buildings for residents with smartphones. Despite enthusiasm for broadband and the adoption of many broadband-based applications and services, most organizations interviewed identified problems with broadband, particularly with the pricing, stating that the terrestrial broadband network is too costly for them to take full advantage of online services and applications. While the scope of this study was too limited to estimate long-term benefits, it found that broadband is highly valued and increasingly important to businesses and nonprofit organizations and local governments in southwest Alaska. Broadband helps businesses to be more efficient in their operations and to extend their reach to new customers and suppliers. It also helps to improve the effectiveness of public sector services such as those provided by borough and city governments and extends access to education and training. Broadband is also likely to be an important component of strategies to develop ecotourism and other ecosystem services.
    • Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act: Selected Bibliography

      Sharp, Suzanne; Rowan, Irene; Antonson, Jo; Ongtooguk, Paul; Puller, Gordon; Templeton, Willie (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011-04-01)
      ISER prepared this list of books, reports, and other resources on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act for the ANCSA @ 40 Committee. It is the most comprehensive such list we are aware of, but there are likely additional resources yet to be identified. Some of these resources are now out of print and may be available at used bookstores or at libraries. More recent publications can be obtained from the publishers or at bookstores. You can also find resources on websites, as noted in the citations.
    • New Students in the Anchorage School District: Where Are They From?

      Lowe, Marie E.; DeRoche, Patricia; Sharp, Suzanne; Wilson, Meghan (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2009-11)
      In September 2008, the superintendent of the Anchorage School District and the mayor of Anchorage sent a letter to the governor of Alaska, reporting what they thought might be an influx of students into Anchorage from rural communities. Enrollment in the school district was higher than expected, and it coincided with the largest-ever Alaska Permanent Fund dividend and with a one-time payment of $1,200 the state made per person, to help offset high energy costs. Researchers at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at UAA have a longstanding interest in migration patterns in Alaska and the Arctic, and they saw the increased enrollment in Anchorage schools as a potential opportunity to better understand: • If rural Alaskans are moving to Anchorage • Where they are coming from • Why they are moving So with the cooperation of the Anchorage School District, ISER conducted a survey of the parents or guardians of students who had enrolled in Anchorage in the 2007-2008 or 2008-2009 school years and who had transferred in from other Alaska school districts. Besides finding out where students were coming from—and why—another purpose of the study was to provide the Anchorage School District and the Municipality of Anchorage with information about what they could do to help students and families who are new to the city. To our knowledge, this may be the first survey ever conducted to find out why people move to Anchorage from other areas of Alaska.
    • Thirty Years Later: The Long-Term Effect of Boarding Schools on Alaska Natives and Their Communities

      Sharp, Suzanne; Hirshberg, Diane (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2005-09-01)
      In 2004 and 2005 we gathered information on how boarding school and boarding home experiences affected individual Alaska Natives, their families, and communities. From the early 1900s to the 1970s Alaska Natives were taken from rural communities that lacked either primary or secondary schools and sent to boarding schools run by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), by private churches or, later, by Alaska’s state government. Some were also sent to boarding homes to attend school in urban places. We interviewed 61 Alaska Native adults who attended boarding schools or participated in the urban boarding home program from the late 1940s through the early 1980s, as well as one child of boarding-school graduates. Their experiences, some of which are shared in this report, reveal a glimpse of both the positive and negative effects of past boarding schools. Many of those we interviewed spoke with ambivalence about their boarding school experience, finding both good and bad elements. Some of the good experiences included going to schools that had high expectations of the students; educators and other school personnel who developed personal relationships with students; individualized support for students who were struggling; and discipline and structure that was supportive, not punitive. For many of those we interviewed, boarding school offered an opportunity to learn about the world beyond village boundaries and to develop lasting friendships. But these good experiences came at a cost. The cost for some was abuse,; interviewees reported physical and sexual abuse at theWrangell Institute. At that school, children were forbidden to speak their native languages and were even beaten for speaking them. The goal of many educators at the time of mandatory boarding schools was to assimilate people of different cultures and ethnicities into the dominant culture. This cost many students not only the loss of their language, but also their culture and identity. These practices had lasting effects on individual students, their families, and communities. Those we interviewed told of finding it difficult to return home and be accepted. They felt that by being sent to boarding school they had missed out on learning important traditional skills and had a harder time raising their own children. For communities, the loss of children to boarding schools created a tremendous void, one that interviewees said was filled by alcohol and a breakdown in society. Drugs, alcohol, and suicide are some of the effects interviewees spoke of as coming from boarding home experiences and the loss of cultural identity and family. In 1976, the State of Alaska agreed to build schools in rural communities having eight (later ten) or more school-age children. When these schools were built, it was no longer necessary to send Native children to boarding schools. However, there is now an ongoing policy debate over the cost and quality of these local schools and whether Native children might be better off attending schools outside their communities. We hope that policymakers consider Alaska Natives’ past experiences with boarding schools reported here and learn from them. Boarding Schools, p. iv One important caveat to this report is that it is not a comprehensive analysis of the boarding school experience. It is based on experiences of the people who were able to participate in our survey. There are many who were unable to participate, for a variety of reasons. Some have left the state; others are homeless; some live in remote rural villages and either did not hear about our project or were unable to come to the urban hubs where we did our work. Sadly, too, some have died. For these reasons, we use caution in drawing conclusions about the experience. Instead, we have done our best to present some of the stories shared with us in the hope that they will encourage others to come forward with more stories from their experiences. Only as people share their experiences can we learn more about the lasting effects of the boarding home experience on individual Alaska Natives and their communities.
    • Toward Universal Broadband in Rural Alaska

      Hudson, Heather E.; Hanna, Virgene; Hill, Alexandra; Parker, Khristy; Sharp, Suzanne; Spiers, Kent; Wark, Kyle (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2012-11)
      The TERRA-Southwest project is extending broadband service to 65 communities in the Bristol Bay, Bethel and Yukon-Kuskokwim regions. A stimulus project funded by a combination of grants and loans from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), TERRA-Southwest has installed a middle-mile network using optical fiber and terrestrial microwave. Last-mile service will be through fixed wireless or interconnection with local telephone networks. The State of Alaska, through its designee Connect Alaska, also received federal stimulus funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for tasks that include support for an Alaska Broadband Task Force “to both formalize a strategic broadband plan for the state of Alaska and coordinate broadband activities across relevant agencies and organizations.” Thus, a study of the impact of the TERRA project in southwest Alaska is both relevant and timely. This first phase provides baseline data on current access to and use of ICTs and Internet connectivity in rural Alaska, and some insights about perceived benefits and potential barriers to adoption of broadband. It is also intended to provide guidance to the State Broadband Task Force in determining how the extension of broadband throughout the state could contribute to education, social services, and economic activities that would enhance Alaska’s future. Results of the research could also be used proactively to develop strategies to encourage broadband adoption, and to identify applications and support needed by users with limited ICT skills.
    • Toward Universal Broadband in Rural Alaska

      Parker, Khristy; Sharp, Suzanne; Hudson, Heather; Spiers, Kent; Wark, Kyle; Hill, Alexandra; Hanna, Virgene (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 11/1/12)
    • Yup’ik Language Assistance Tribal Outreach: Report to the Alaska Division of Elections

      Martin, Stephanie; Killorin, Mary; Sharp, Suzanne; DeRoche, Patricia (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2009-10-15)
      The Division of Elections contracted with the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Alaska Anchorage to help develop a network of key tribal organization and village representatives in the Bethel census area to work with the division on their Yup’ik language assistance program. The division asked ISER to help them communicate with tribes about the division’s current programs and to document additional ways that the division can improve its language assistance program. The Alaska Division of Elections is required under the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) to provide language assistance to voters in areas where more than 5% of the voting age citizens are members of a single-language minority and are limited English proficient. In July 2008, a federal court ordered the division to take the following remedial actions, many of which the division had already taken prior to the court order: 1. Provide mandatory poll worker training. 2. Hire a language assistance coordinator fluent in Yup'ik. 3. Recruit bi-lingual poll workers or translators. 4. Provide sample ballots in written Yup'ik. 5. Provide pre-election publicity in Yup'ik. 6. Ensure the accuracy of translations. 7. Provide a Yup'ik glossary of election terms. 8. Submit pre-election and post-election reports. Although the division has a Yup’ik language assistance program and has been addressing the court order, interviews with Bethel census area residents show that some people are unaware of the elements in the division’s language assistance plan. In addition, some Bethel area residents said they feel the election workers and the division should interpret the meaning of the ballot measures and explain the positions of the various candidates—activities that are forbidden by state statute. ISER agreed to help the division address this lack of awareness and the misconceptions about their programs by contacting tribal organizations and inviting them to attend a meeting in Bethel, Alaska, on May 27, 2009. Part I of this report, issued in July 2009, describes ISER’s contacts with tribal organizations and summarizes the comments and feedback from the participants at the election outreach meeting in Bethel. Part II describes ISER’s post-meeting contacts with tribal organizations and meeting participants and summarizes their responses to the post-meeting survey.