Dr. Gunnar Knapp, current director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), will retire at the end of June. As a professor emeritus, Dr. Knapp will remain actively involved with ISER, especially with research and outreach on Alaska fiscal policy issues.
Following a nationwide search, Dr. Ralph Townsend has been named to lead ISER beginning in August. Dr. Townsend has nearly thirty years of experience in higher education and government, including research, administration and teaching.
A native of Maine, Dr. Townsend earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For twenty years he held a faculty appointment in economics at the University of Maine, where he served five years as department chair, two years as associate dean of the graduate school, and developed a distinguished research record in the field of fisheries economics. He was also involved in a wide array of public policy issues, including health care policy, antitrust and regulatory policy, education finance, and waste management, and served on a number of boards and commissions.
From 2007-2010, Dr. Townsend served as Chief Economist for the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries during a period of significant change and innovation in the management of New Zealand’s fisheries.
Since 2010, Dr. Townsend has served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Winona State University in Minnesota, where he has had responsibility for administering a college with 135 full-time faculty in the humanities, social sciences and arts.
Dr. Townsend is a past president of the International Institute for Fisheries Economics and Trade and the North American Association of Fisheries Economics. He has served as an advisor to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Western Pacific and New England Fishery Management Councils, and the U.S. Department of State. During sabbaticals, he has lived and worked in Iceland, Australia and the Philippines.
In announcing Dr. Townsend’s appointment, Rashmi Prasad, dean of UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy in which ISER is situated, said “Ralph’s depth of expertise in policy research, distinguished work as a policy advisor to the government of New Zealand and leadership experience in higher education will greatly benefit UAA as we work toward increasing Alaska’s capacity to make informed choices during this critical transitional period.”
Retiring ISER Director Gunnar Knapp said, “I’ve known Ralph for many years because of our mutual interest in fisheries economics, and we have collaborated on several research projects. I’m absolutely delighted in his appointment. His very wide range of experience and skills in research and administration will be invaluable in addressing the opportunities and challenges facing Alaska, the University and ISER.”
In response to his appointment, Dr. Townsend said, “I have long respected both the outstanding research conducted by ISER and also the impact of that research on policy development in Alaska and nationally. I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to work with the excellent faculty and staff at ISER. I look forward to helping ISER both to sustain its current areas of excellence and also to identify new research and policy areas in which to make similar high quality contributions.
“ISER’s development will also help UAA enrich the scope of its contributions to Alaska and to Anchorage. Alaska confronts unique social and economic challenges, so it is important to have a strong research institute that can address those specific challenges. Finally, I am very grateful that Gunnar Knapp, despite his retirement, has agreed to continue to be engaged with ISER and with current Alaskan fiscal policy issues.”
Dr. Townsend will join ISER in August at the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic year. He becomes ISER’s 10th director since its founding in 1961 to provide non-partisan research on Alaska’s most pressing economic, health, industry, environment and education issues.
Download Dr. Ralph Townsend’s Resume (PDF, 203KB)