February 9, 2017
Does university research matter? In other blog posts I have argued that the impact of research is important for national, state, and local economies, and that it is a vital source of new knowledge as we confront the challenges of our day. But how do we know if that new knowledge actually does anything? In my previous post I discussed why this impact (if research actually does anything) is hard to measure apart from things like research expenditures, new patents, publication counts, and the like, and I argued that seeing universities as anchor institutions can be one way to begin appreciating the broader, “behind-the-scenes” benefits. The topic that I want to take up in this post is how we can effectively support and encourage research and inquiry that may have less obvious (but ultimately no less important) benefits for a university’s home and the other communities it serves. This question touches on two related and recent discussions in higher education: Whether new and innovative...

 


 

October 10, 2016
In early September, the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission launched from Cape Canaveral. Years in the making, and with a budget of over $800 million, the project is a major point of pride for the University of Arizona. For one thing, attracting a grant of this size is a major accomplishment by the University, as well as the local and state communities, which benefit from high-paying jobs and other opportunities that come with the grant. However, the ultimate outcomes of the mission – whether it performs as expected, what we learn from it, and what that new knowledge enables – remain in question.  OSIRIS-REx launches atop an Atlas V rocket on September 8, 2016 Therein lies one of the major complications for university research, particularly in an era of major pressures on federal, state, and other research funding: Calls for accountability, more oversight, and other perspectives skeptical of the benefits of big science, or even (relatively) less funded research in fields like the...

 


 

July 6, 2016
Since my post in September on the future of the public research university, I have been thinking and writing about ways that the University of Arizona and our peers can position ourselves as agents of change in the world, rather than simply as points of access to knowledge and education. This is a crucial difference that will allow us to sustain our impact as the political, economic, and social landscapes around higher education continue to change. Equally important, having impact in a global context means that universities like the University of Arizona are institutions that can help reshape for the better the ways that we think about international relationships generally. We can do this by reshaping ourselves as transnational institutions that collaborate across national borders, emphasizing our awareness and commitment to the intellectual, cultural, economic, and many other bonds that we have with other universities and communities around the world. Reshaping the public research...

 


 

April 1, 2016
A few months ago, I shared some of my thoughts on the ways that student learning and faculty research are intertwined at a research university like the UA. I argued for the importance of an immersive learning environment, particularly in classroom and curriculum design, and tried to show why the collegiality of the university environment and faculty members' technical expertise in research methods are important contributors to student learning. In this post, I would like to continue that discussion by examining the links between faculty research and what we have called student engagement at the UA. My aim is to show why the professional expertise that faculty develop in particular content areas, coming from their training and research endeavors, is critical for student learning. If immersive learning in the classroom prepares students to deal with the complexity of the world, engagement experiences test and deepen that knowledge, and faculty expertise is profoundly important to that...

 


 

December 14, 2015
Walking around a major research university such as the University of Arizona, you will often hear and see the word “innovative” used to describe a diverse range of activities, from the development of collaborative learning spaces that benefit student engagement experiences to the creation of cutting edge technologies. The idea of innovation is one way to understand evolution of public research universities as they transition from a role focused on providing points of access to knowledge to one that emphasizes acting as social, economic, and cultural agents that both create and apply knowledge with and in their communities. In Tucson, we have seen this kind of impact in the success of UA startup SinfoníaRx, which I wrote about as an example of the University’s commitment to an inclusive view of scholarship in an earlier blog post, and there is potential for similar impact in other ongoing projects at the UA. For instance, Regents’ Professor Roger Angel, who was recently inducted into...

 


 

November 24, 2015
Thanksgiving Message       Dear faculty, staff, students and friends,   As we pause this week to give thanks, it is an opportunity to reflect on a tremendous year for our university. I am inspired by all of your countless contributions to the University and the many wonderful achievements we have accomplished together.   In August, we welcomed the UA's largest incoming class of students and we expanded UA Online offerings, ensuring more Arizonans have access to a UA degree from anywhere their careers or families might take them.   With the UA proudly ranked 16th in the...

 


 

November 3, 2015
The University of Arizona recently held its 101st Homecoming. It was a wonderful celebration of the UA community, and we welcomed many many alumni back to campus for the weekend. Early fall is homecoming season, and most other colleges and universities around the U.S. have likely held their events recently as well, so it is a good moment to reflect on the importance of alumni engagement and the relationship that alums have with their alma mater. The next generation of University of Arizona alumni Effective alumni engagement can be a challenge, partly because once students graduate and leave campus, they take on a whole host of new responsibilities that often occupy space in their lives once held by commitments on campus. At the UA, for instance, it has become apparent that we need to do a better job of creating a culture of alumni engagement while students are still here so that graduates know and feel that they are part of a broad community of learning even after they receive their...

 


 

October 13, 2015
Like many of our peers around the country, the University of Arizona has invested heavily in student engagement over the past several years. These efforts include a focus on student retention and academic support and on giving students the opportunity to apply knowledge from formal education in other settings through the UA’s 100% Engagement initiative. I have more than once argued that the research university is a unique place for this kind of engagement because of the collegiality that characterizes the academy and because students learn with scientists and scholars who are working at the forefront of human knowledge. But why, in fundamental terms, do these qualities matter? To really start answering why research and teaching elevate each other we need to understand how students learn, what that learning does for them outside the classroom, and what impact a university education has in their lives beyond finding their first job after graduation. "Contour gauge w pot" by Tenbergen....

 


 

September 1, 2015
Over the past year and a half, I have written on the future of the University of Arizona and how our efforts to transform the land-grant model of a public research university are geared to have the greatest and most widely accessible impact for our state and for the other communities around the world. As we work to transform the UA, other colleges and universities throughout the U.S. are engaged in similar efforts, many of them at least partly in response to the challenges for higher education that have emerged in the wake of the 2008 recession. Shared Characteristics from a Shared History Viewpoints in the national discussion responding to these challenges are diverse, and many times their differences hinge on particular ways of understanding the history of higher education in the United States. For instance, in July Christopher P. Loss responded to the perspective that higher education is facing a post-golden age existential crisis by arguing that “doubters have been predicting the...

 


 

May 28, 2015
As I have discussed in previous blog posts, investment in higher education is fundamental to creating economic prosperity and civic well-being in the 21st century. By educating future leaders, conducting research, and partnering with businesses and communities, public research universities like the University of Arizona have played a unique role in establishing higher education as a public good. States with higher levels of productivity and income have achieved those results partly by developing, retaining, and attracting a well-educated workforce, and public universities have a critical role in their success. When that synergy falters, the impact on the lives of workers and in the economies that shape our communities can be significant. Thus, while there is no substitute for state and federal investment in higher education, it is vital that we find ways to better leverage that public investment for improved outcomes in teaching, research, and public engagement for institutions like...