With the UA’s 100th homecoming this weekend, the UA campus was filled with excitement for a wonderful celebration of our heritage as Wildcats. There was an exciting football game (and victory!) against the University of Colorado and alumni and other friends joined us for the Homecoming parade featuring five past presidents of the UA. We also had campus tours that, for the first time in years, featured Old Main, which has just undergone a much-needed rehabilitation.
The weekend’s celebration of the UA’s history also presented an opportunity to reflect on the vital impact that the University has in Arizona and around the world. As I wrote last month, our mission as the state’s land-grant university means that we are at our best when our work is fully integrated with the communities we serve. This is why our continual evolution into the nation’s leading super land-grant university must depend on the unique strengths that we have developed over the past 130 years by engaging with our setting here in the Sonoran Desert.
Our impact is strong because the UA’s local roots run deep. For instance, our global leadership in astronomy that I referred to in my April blog post would not have emerged in the way that it has without the climate patterns that bring us 350 days (and nights) of clear skies every year. Equally important are the mountain peaks that surround Tucson and provide ideal vantage points for peering back to the earliest moments and into the furthest corners of our universe. Today we are able to make extraordinary contributions to international astronomy (and bring new industry to the state as a result) because early UA researchers took advantage of our unique setting.
Another vital example is our Cooperative Extension system, which also is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, marking a century of statewide impact through the application of research. Cooperative Extension’s success has depended on the ability of UA Extension faculty to use their research to benefit the people whose challenges and needs are defined by the climates, cultures, and other defining characteristics of the state of Arizona.
As we implement the Never Settle academic and strategic plan, our Arizona roots will remain vital for our ongoing success. Wonderful examples can be found in programs throughout campus, including the Office of Arid Lands Studies within the UA’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment, the closely related Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Arid Lands Resource Sciences, the UA’s nation-leading Department of American Indian Studies, our population health research initiative, and the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture. You can read more about several of these programs in this month’s insert.
Another program with transformative potential is the new Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice. The result of an incredibly generous gift from the estate of Mrs. Haury, this program is a reminder of how vital the Arizona NOW campaign is for the success of the Never Settle plan and for the future of the UA. We saw great enthusiasm for the campaign and all that it can accomplish at a luncheon celebrating the UA Foundation’s President’s Club just last week. The event provided an opportunity to share some of the amazing things that UA faculty members are doing and I am very excited for the positive impact that the campaign will create for Arizona.
Our local roots also extend to outreach and community partnership. The recent Downtown Lecture Series from the UA’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences gave community members an opportunity to learn about the research of several faculty members on topics related to food and its connections to health, culture, and our environment. You can learn more about the annual series at downtownlectures.arizona.edu.
Nourished by our deep connections with the state and its many diverse communities, the University of Arizona’s history is one of achievement and impact. As distinguished as that history is, we now have the opportunity to create an even more distinguished future if our roots remain strong. I recently discussed the importance of our connections to Arizona in a post to my blog. I encourage you to read it to find out more about the ways that UA research is benefitting people here and around the world. Thank you for your continued support.