James Johnsen

Job title: 
Senior Fellow, National Association of System Heads

Jim is Senior Fellow at the National Association of System Heads (NASH) and Lecturer in the School of Management at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. At NASH Jim is working with leaders and scholars on a major “rethink” of the role of public university systems in achieving societal goals in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. He is a member of the Westerrn Commission on Higher Education.

Jim was President of the University of Alaska system from 2015 to 2020 during a period of severe state funding cuts, administrative consolidation, and academic program integration. In addition to resolving the budget crisis through negotiation of a Compact Agreement with the Governor in 2019, Jim led creation of an innovative vision for the university as of 2040, set system level strategic goals and measures tied to the state’s needs, led the Strategic Pathways system wide program review process, invested in student success and faculty collaboration, led response to federal Title IX review, led response to COVID pandemic, increased philanthropy, and elevated faculty, staff, and students in system governance.

Previous roles include executive positions in the private sector with a telecommunications company and an Alaska Native corporation, and at the University of Alaska and the University of Minnesota. His early career was in labor relations. He has taught courses in management and political science, served on national and state boards and commissions, and published and presented on leadership, labor relations, and higher education. Jim was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (B.A.), the University of Chicago (M.A.), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ed.D.).

Key Publications

  • Johnsen, J. (2023). (ed). Recreating Multi-Campus University Systems, Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Johnsen, J. (2023). Visions for Alaska’s Future, University of Alaska Press.
  • Johnsen, J, Martin, R., Zimpher, N., Lane, J. (2022). The Power of Systems: Advancing Prosperity for the Nation. Change Magazine.
  • Johnsen, J. (2021). In Julius, D. (ed). Opportunities for Collective Bargaining to Advance Higher Education through Clarity of Role and Process. Unions on Campus: Managing Labor-Management Relationships Proactively, Fairly and Efficiently, Routledge.
Research interests: 

Higher education systems, policy, leadership, negotiation, collective bargaining