Fall Semester Beginnings

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TO: UA Campus Community
FROM: Dr. Ann Weaver Hart, UA President
DATE: September 19, 2012
SUBJECT: Fall Semester Beginnings

In my third month at the University of Arizona, I write to touch base with you and reflect on the issues and ideas that have dominated my conversations and decisions. Thank you to all of you who have provided me with your ideas and insights and for the incredibly warm welcome that you have accorded to Randy and me here at the University and in the community.

Members of the University of Arizona community envision the University as a leading public university of the 21st century, with regional roots and global impact. The UA is a hub for learning, knowledge creation and dissemination, and innovation – a place of boundless possibilities. To achieve this shared vision, the UA must move forward to define what will be required to be a leading, research land-grant university in the 21st century. Reaching that goal is a comprehensive effort for the coming decade. While grounded in the UA unique mission, emerging out of the 19th century and its statewide impact, the challenges of the new century require the UA to engage in a thoughtful and rigorous imagining.

The University of Arizona nurtures a rare commitment to carry out interdisciplinary research, scholarship and creative work in and among all disciplines in a collegial and open environment and with a minimum of rigid boundaries and hierarchy. Our unique location and areas of excellence and expertise, which we apply locally, across the state and around the globe, include aridity (i.e., water, drought, agriculture, invasive species), borders (i.e., border cultures, art, politics, trade, immigration, diversity), indigenous peoples (i.e., culture, history, anthropology, languages, diversity), technology (i.e., optics, engineering, bio tech, bioinformatics, space), science (i.e., space, biomedical, geology, aridity, agriculture) and medicine (working across all of these areas with particular emphasis on translational and clinical research). Some have captured this environment as the University of Arizona IDEA: Interdisciplinarity, Diversity, Engagement, Accessibility. I have heard the University described enthusiastically by members of the UA community as the most accessible research university in the world.

As we develop a renewed vision for the University of Arizona and detailed plans to achieve that vision, we will have an eye on not only who we are, but on whom we serve. We must offer our students the highest quality educational experience, as well as flexibility and innovation in how this experience will be delivered. We must be a major economic engine for our community and our state. Solving the problems of the world starts with making a positive difference for the people of Arizona. I believe that we always will be growing and improving as we master the many complex changes in our environment and change ourselves to build our destiny.

We are committed to achieving the 20/20 goals that the Arizona Board of Regents has asked of us. These goals tie directly to the impact that our great university will have on Arizona and on our world. Additionally, five major areas of interdisciplinary research opportunity at the University of Arizona are a specific focus of our Technology Research Initiative Fund (TRIP) with support coming directly from the people of the State of Arizona. They are space sciences, optical and information science and technology, environmental science, technology and policy, biological and biomedical science and biotechnology and borderland issues and culture. Technology and information sciences cut across all of these themes, as they do across all of modern society from music and art to oceans and space.

Each university president has preference about the structure of the key team based on past experience and the challenges of the moment. To emphasize the executive leadership team, I have reorganized the Cabinet to include the senior officers of the University who report directly to me. The Executive Finance Team has been restructured to include one key staff member with each senior executive and two key leaders to support government relations issues and budget development. Finally, I have established a Shared Governance and Campus Community Advisory Committee made up of our shared governance and constituents representatives. You can read more about these key groups and their members on the President’s website.

As many of you have heard me say in the special events and meetings of the past several weeks, I have begun to develop a framework to guide my transition over the first year. Conversations with many of you have led to my focus on key themes and goals that will guide my activities and time for the coming year, and I wanted to share some of these with you. These themes provide a framework for gauging progress and success. Priorities and activities will change as I learn more and situations arise, but I expect that the key themes will remain constant.

A major priority upon my arrival was to focus on the process of filling critical executive leadership positions at the University of Arizona. These include the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, Senior Vice President for the Office of External Relations (government, community, public relations and communications), Executive Director for Tech Launch Arizona, and the Director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. The search for leadership at the Cancer Center is well under way, and Dr. David Allen has joined us from the University of Colorado to lead the Tech Launch Arizona effort. All search committees have been appointed, and the selection of executive search firms to assist with the other searches is complete. I also serve on the search committee for the CEO of the newly reorganized University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN).

I have spoken with many of you about the critical importance of the health sciences in American higher education, policy and financial stability, and especially the challenges faced by academic medicine and academic medical centers. A major focus of my work has been in this area. It includes the preliminary accreditation by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME) of the College of Medicine-Phoenix that was approved this summer, the functioning of the newly constituted board of the UAHN on which I sit, the interdependence of the College of Medicine-Tucson, the University Physicians Health Practice Plan (UPH) and University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN), the future of the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson and Phoenix, including the search for a new Director and the plans for a new building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. These issues will be dramatically affected by what happens with national legislation and the decisions made in Arizona about the state’s relationship to the new structure. Many of you are deeply immersed in policy discussions and in decisions about the changes currently scheduled to take place in 2014 and are acutely aware that 2014 is less than 18 months away.

Another key theme for the University springs in part from renewed focus on our land-grant mission during the 150th anniversary year of the passage of the Morrill Act. When President Lincoln signed the act, he set in motion a series of steps that structured much of the future of American public higher education and the national commitment to knowledge creation, translation and application as an investment in our economic, social and cultural well-being. You will be hearing more about the University of Arizona’s current and future activities in pursuit of its mission as the land-grant university of the State of Arizona. These activities span every county and contribute to the success of every community. They include an impressive scope of activities across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and include contributions by virtually every other college as well.

When I arrived, I discovered that a great deal of discussion and planning about the University’s values, strengths, aspirations and accomplishments had taken place. At the same time, I found a need to think about complex and exciting ideas more systematically and in concert with plans for the physical, virtual and financial resources needed to achieve our goals, especially in a turbulent and financially challenged environment. Consequently, I have established an academic planning process that focuses on our full programmatic mission in teaching and learning and in the discovery of new knowledge. This planning is led by Associate Professor J.C. Mutchler and Provost and SVP Andrew Comrie and centered in SPBAC and is progressing rapidly. I have also set up a campus planning group led by Vice President Robert Smith and a financial planning group led by CFO Milton Castillo. These efforts will be fully integrated, recognizing the intense interdependence required for success. You previously have heard about this from me. I hope that you will follow these activities and participate whenever the opportunity arises.

The University of Arizona is a critical partner with the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), our governing board, in shaping the current and future success of higher education in Arizona. I pledge to work with the UA team to assure collaborative and transparent efforts in support of that role. Arizona Board of Regents members will make important governance and policy decisions for the system and for the three universities that make up that system, and we want to be effective in working with ABOR and with individual regents to advance that success.

I also have begun to get to know our community, regional, state and federal leaders. With the assistance of many of you here at the University, I am meeting with key leaders in Tucson, Phoenix and across the state, as well as our Congressional delegation. As I said earlier, we are the Arizona research and land-grant university, embedded in our great cities as well as in our towns and rural communities. I take this responsibility very seriously and hope that the leaders of Arizona will experience that commitment through our actions.

Another important theme you will hear a lot about this year involves the planning for and imminent launch of a new comprehensive fundraising effort for the University in partnership with the University of Arizona Foundation. This is happening even as we continue to focus on current fundraising efforts and success. I hope to be able to tell you more about this effort in the coming months.

Fundraising is often mentioned in the same breath as athletics. Although they are not synonymous, the success of our wonderful Pac-12 athletics program relies not only on competitive and academic success but also in securing support from our fans and friends for the many student athletes who provide such an enriched and cohesive environment for us. In the near future, we face serious shortcomings in facilities for athletic training and competition that will need to be addressed in order for us to sustain our current level of excellence. The most immediate example of the contribution of facilities to competitive success is the Hi Corbett Field baseball facility that has been in part credited with this year’s triumph of the UA baseball team in the College World Series. In the near future we will need to guide the successful completion of the North End Zone project and assess plans for the renewal of McKale Memorial Center. I know we have all enjoyed the 3-0 start to the UA football season this fall!

In addition to important roles here in Tucson and across Arizona, the UA is a global university with multiple existing and future opportunities for global impact and outreach across the state and nation. I have asked Vice President Michael Proctor to assure that global impact and outreach are part of our academic planning process and to work with a team to develop new internal and outreach recruitment and retention strategies, while assessing student opportunities through multiple points of access to the University. These will include such things as remote campus and digital offerings and transfer opportunities. The UA is and will strive to continue to be a modern and leading university in this area.

Another important focus for the UA is in the area of government, community and public affairs. I have met with the mayors of Tucson, Phoenix and Chandler and have scheduled a meeting with the mayor of Yuma. I also have met with key county leaders, Tucson community development leaders, and several key community groups such as the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Flinn Foundation and others. Some of these meetings will be ongoing and regular, including leadership groups in Phoenix, and we are also working to establish a UA presence across the state in key business, community and political associations. It will take a team effort, with many assisting in raising the UA presence in our state, and I am committed to continue this work. Importantly, our strong diversity within the University is also reflected in our diverse partners, and I have just begun to touch base with the large and exciting community, alumni and university groups engaged in partnerships with UA.

Finally, but not in any way of lesser importance, I have been working to develop relationships with our important shared governance groups, building and nurturing relationships with faculty, student and staff leaders. I have met with many of you in this process but recognize that I have just begun. We have such a wealth of resource and talent and a long tradition of shared governance that I know will be important for the future of this great university. I encourage all of you interested in becoming involved in our shared governance groups to do so with the support of your colleagues at UA.

While this communication is already too long, I can assure you that there is much more to experience and tell about the University of Arizona, and I promise you that we will tell this story with the passion and clarity that it deserves. As each day passes, I am more excited than ever to be a part of the University of Arizona team. The University of Arizona is indeed a place of great possibilities! I look forward to working with all of you in exploring and advancing these possibilities as we move forward together.