Spring Semester Updates

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TO: UA Campus Community
FROM: President Ann Weaver Hart
DATE: March 13, 2015
SUBJECT: Spring Semester Updates

 

I hope the semester is going well for everyone here on campus. As we move towards spring break, I want to share some of the many developments that are taking place.

As many of you probably know, at the beginning of February the UA Leadership team presented on the progress of the Never Settle strategic academic and business plan to the Board of Regents. The team demonstrated that the UA has made significant strides in all areas of the plan. We continue to enhance and expand student engagement, including achieving greater student diversity, improving transfer student retention and graduation, and expanding student engagement opportunities through new resources like theInstitute for Career Readiness and Engagement. The team also showed significant advances in the innovating pillar of Never Settle: UA faculty have reached important achievements in securing new grants and contracts, and we are strengthening ongoing efforts through initiatives like the Arizona Health Science Center white papers that are guiding the UA’s efforts in four areas of excellence: health disparities, population health and health outcomes, precision health, and neuroscience.  

These four critical areas of research and teaching will be further strengthened by the recent closure of the UA Health Network’s merger into Banner Health and the University’s Academic Affiliation Agreement with Banner as our clinical partner in the health sciences. Some of you may have even noticed the new signs at the Banner—University Medical Center, formerly the University Medical Center.  More than just a name change, this merger will bring better health care and more health care options for residents of Southern Arizona, as well as a new model of academic medicine that promises to more effectively coordinate research, education, and patient care. This is an important step forward for the University’s leadership in health sciences, both here in Arizona and nationally. I hope you are as excited as I am for the good things that it will bring to the UA.

And there are other changes on campus. For instance, signs will soon be up reminding everyone that the UA is a tobacco-free campus, marking the UA’s commitment to the health and well-being of students, employees, and visitors. A more temporary change is the many tents on the UA mall for the Tucson Festival of Books. The University is proud to be a sponsor of the event and I hope that many of you are able to attend and meet some of the authors and speakers who have joined us from around the world.

We have also had a remarkable year expanding the UA’s impact through international partnerships. Just before the ABOR meeting, I travelled to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates to meet with UA alumni and leaders from industry and government to discuss opportunities for collaboration. During those meetings, I stressed the UA’s unique capabilities in astronomy, engineering, and arid land studies, among many other fields.

I also signed an agreement with Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for the United Arab Emirates and leader of Dubai World Expo 2020. The culmination of efforts that began when we visited Dubai last year, and that draw on the UA’s long presence in the Gulf region, the agreement establishes the UA as the preferred in-house consultant for the next eight years on the Expo’s master plan; Dubai’s sensor network and data integration as a model smart city; the design and construction of a legacy research arboretum related to desert plants and arid lands; and a collaborative, global research laboratory on water, climate, and sustainability. This is a truly remarkable opportunity and the outcome of a great deal of work from many members of the UA community and our partners in Dubai that will allow the UA to have a truly global impact in a critically important part of the world.

Another signature achievement is the agreement the UA and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, or UNAM) recently finalized for UNAM to open a branch here on the UA campus. There are only four centers like this in the U.S. and the UA will now host the fifth. Like our role in Dubai, this agreement is the culmination of a relationship of many years with UNAM, one of the most influential research institutions in Mexico, and the new UNAM Center for Mexican Studies will be a unique expression of our deep partnership.

In addition to these important developments, I have been working to share the UA’s story with elected officials here in Arizona and Washington. At the state house and senate appropriations committees, I emphasized the importance of mitigating cuts to higher education and funding distribution based upon the student full-time equivalency (FTE) standard. I also emphasized the need for regulatory reform, which would allow Arizona’s universities to manage their affairs in a way that is more efficient and effective for each individual institution. At the state house higher education committee, I presented on the many innovations happening here at the UA and stressed how our four-year no-tuition-increase program will protect students and Arizona families from increases in tuition. I emphasized the importance of implementing a student-based financial-aid system as a way of additionally protecting students at Arizona’s universities. I also shared how the UA has been a responsible steward of state investment: over the past five years in response to cuts, the UA has managed to save $2,500 per student FTE not recovered through tuition. Finally, I met with Senator John McCain, the Presidents of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the President and CEO of Northrop Grumman, who was representing the Aerospace Industries Association. We discussed the negative impact of the federal sequester and I hope to have positive news to share with you soon on that front.

It’s been a busy couple of months! I know you are all hard at work on behalf of the University as well and thank you for your continued dedication to our mission.