As we quickly approach the end of the spring semester, excitement is building for the University of Arizona's 151st Commencement on May 16. We are delighted to have Jon Huntsman Jr., former governor of Utah and former ambassador to China and Singapore, as our speaker. Governor Huntsman exemplifies the kind of engaged career and life we hope our graduates will have as they leave the UA ready to make their mark on the world.
Spring is also when tuition is set for the upcoming academic year. Last week, all three of the state's universities participated in a public hearing to discuss the tuition recommendations made by the universities for the 2015-2016 year. To keep costs predictable for our students and their families, the UA has requested no increase in tuition and fees for students who signed up for the inaugural Guaranteed Tuition Plan last fall. The University also has proposed that current students who did not opt in to the program last year have the chance to do so now, at last year's rate. Once the Arizona Board of Regents makes its decisions on tuition, we will begin identifying reductions that will help us address the $28.5 million state funding shortfall for next fiscal year. To see the University's full tuition proposal, please visit my website.
I am also pleased to share news from the Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC). Dr. Rick Silva has been named executive director of biomedical corporate alliances at AHSC, and Dr. Zain Khalpey, associate professor of surgery at the UA, has been selected for a prestigious Fulbright Distinguished Chair award.
Finally, I want to congratulate the UA's ZonaZoo – our student section at athletics events – which was selected as National Student Section of the Year by the National Collegiate Student Section Association. The award is an opportunity to celebrate the strength of the UA's spirit and pride: these students represent a bright, loud and energetic campus community that reminds us of what it really means to be a Wildcat.
A collaborative digital media strategy designed to raise awareness and understanding about water issues in Arizona has received the $100,000 grand prize in the New Arizona Prize: Water Consciousness Challenge. Developed by a creative team from the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Arizona Public Media and marketing professionals, the entry "Beyond the Mirage" proposed innovative Web and social media strategies to engage Arizonans, who will create and share their own mini-documentaries on a website expected to debut in January.
The University of Arizona is helping veterans and first responders build the skills they need to better deal with stress. Last month, in response to a request from emergency personnel in Sierra Vista, UA South offered a new workshop series targeted at individuals who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder or other forms of trauma. The workshops were aimed at helping them develop emotional and mental capacity. This fall, the UA will further expand its offerings for returning veterans with courses in resiliency and leadership.
What some might consider "over-sharing" on social media could be a blessing for hospitals. By examining Twitter posts along with medical records and air quality data, a UA-led research team created a model that was able to predict with 75 percent accuracy how many asthma-related emergency room visits a hospital could expect on a given day. The finding could help hospital emergency departments nationwide plan better with regard to staffing and resource management.