Welcome Back!

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Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Appointed Professionals,

Welcome to the start of a new academic year at the University of Arizona! I hope that you all had an enjoyable summer, and that you are ready for a wonderful year here at the University. We have had many promising developments for the UA and our community this summer, and many more to come over this year, and I would like to share a few with you.

First, there are exciting changes to our campus:

  • The Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium has been undergoing major renovations that will provide a wonderful learning experiences for all members of our local community. They will be reopening the doors of the Eos Foundation Planetarium Theater this weekend and I hope all of you make the most of this amazing resource.
  • Also exciting, the Geraldo Rivera Greek Heritage Park will open near First Street and Cherry in October. Made possible by Geraldo and Erica Rivera, this new park honors the century-long tradition of Greek life at the UA. Under the banner, “All Are Welcome,” this beautiful space will be a gathering spot for all members of the UA community.
  • Finally, you will also notice continued changes at the center of campus, as donations are being accepted to begin the new USS Arizona Mall Memorial. This project honors the fallen heroes of the USS Arizona; there will be a full-scale outline of the USS Arizona made from bronze medallions inscribed with the names of the 1,177 sailors and marines who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, many of them who were around the same age as the majority of our current students here at the UA.

Further afield, the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission launches in just a few short weeks. The UA has a long and proud tradition of space exploration, and I am so thrilled that the UA is continuing this tradition with OSIRIS-REx. The spacecraft will journey to the asteroid Bennu and is the first U.S. mission that will return asteroid samples to Earth. I hope you all stay tuned for its exciting progress.

The UA Honors College also has some important developments. Dean Patricia MacCorquodale is stepping down after twenty-three years of dedicated service and leadership, and the search for her successor will be ongoing this year. The Honors College has a wonderful tradition of student engagement, and as we continue developing the UA learning experience to meet the challenges of the world around us, the Honors College must be at the forefront of those efforts. With that in mind, Provost Comrie charged a Task Force with brainstorming new ideas to enhance the distinctive UA Honors experience, and in July that group released a report with much insight and many great ideas to help guide our process moving forward.  I encourage all of you—faculty, staff, and students—to get involved. 

And we have had incredible success in the UA Health Sciences, with $106 million in medical research support awarded since May, including the $43 million award from the NIH for the UA and Banner Health in support of precision medicine research, as well as projects in acute respiratory distress syndrome and ventilator-induced lung injury led by Senior VP Skip Garcia, two projects focused on asthma led by Dr. Monica Kraft and Dr. Fernando Martinez, and the $17.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute accompanying the renewal of the UA Cancer Center as a Comprehensive Cancer Center

Equally encouraging is the recent success of UAHS in promoting diversity. Service to Arizona, excellence in research, and world-class medical education for the 21st century require that we understand the role that social, cultural, and economic conditions play in health and healthcare. For the UA to serve Arizona’s diverse population, we must recruit, retain, and train medical and other health science students from a diverse range of backgrounds, as it has been proven that patients have better outcomes when treated by professionals from similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds. With 35% of the College of Medicine – Tucson’s incoming class coming from underrepresented populations, we are on the right path to succeed in this important area. This accomplishment builds on the success that Dr. Skip Garcia has had in recruiting a diverse leadership team for UAHS and in promoting two areas of research excellence—Health Disparities along with Population Health and Health Outcomes—that seek to better understand and adjust to the diverse human condition in providing healthcare.

These are just a few brief examples, and we have even more to look forward to, as the efforts of the Arizona NOW campaign have ushered in unprecedented possibilities for the UA. The campaign is ahead of schedule, with $1.46 billion raised as of this July, 97% of the way to our goal of $1.5 billion by June 2018.

Finally, as we begin the academic year, I urge you to seek out and either use or contribute to the resources and learning experiences that make the UA a unique and incredible place. Students, the THINK TANK tutoring center, Writing Skills Improvement Program, and Office of Student Engagement are just some of the amazing places to find help from student and professional tutors or find ways to connect your classroom learning to engagement experiences that make a UA degree one of the best in the world. And whether you are a student or someone who works with students, these are wonderful points of learning and engagement here on campus and I hope you use them often.

I very much look forward to a productive and engaging year for all members of the University of Arizona community. I am so glad to see all of you back on campus, and I wish you the best of luck as you begin the new semester.

Best wishes, and Bear Down!

Ann Weaver Hart

President