University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart and other UA leaders presented their ambitious plan for ensuring the University's success as a world-class institution of higher education and an economic engine for Arizona, the region and the nation.
In a presentation to members of the Arizona Board of Regents on Friday, Hart and several administrators introduced the vision and detailed the goals contained in the Never Settle Strategic Academic and Business Plan.
Never Settle is designed to ensure that the UA can more aptly address some of the state's most pressing education and workforce development needs while graduating more students who are better prepared for the workforce, doubling research expenditures and improving health care – fulfilling the mission of what Hart described as a “super land-grant institution."
"We mean it when we say 'Never Settle.' It captures the spirit of the future that we believe is strong," Hart said, noting that the plan represents significant cultural and institutional change.
"Those who demand an unrelenting approach to teaching, research and service will love Never Settle, and that's our future," Hart said.
Regent Rick Myers said Never Settle dovetails well with ABOR priorities, including the goals the board set for the state's public universities in its 2020 Vision plan.
"When regents put these 2020 challenges in place, it was to say that this is the vision we have for our state and for the prosperity of the people of our state, and if you can achieve the goals set forth, we know that this state will be a better place," Myers said. "We recognize the hard work, the passion and the sense of leadership to make this a reality."
Regent Anne Mariucci congratulated Hart and the campus community for developing a comprehensive, robust and responsive plan.
She said it was the first time the UA has created "a true linkage of vision, mission, values, strategies, tactics and a financial model, plus accountability loops to support it and individuals behind it. It’s a long time coming." Her comments drew applause from the audience.
"I think it's bold, ambitious and well-documented," she added.
Achieving the mission
The UA will strive to achieve the goals established under Never Settle through differentiated academic programming, research expansion and growth in alternative pathways to a degree.
Overall, the UA plans to grow enrollment to more than 54,000 by 2020 to meet goals set by ABOR. UA will work to achieve this goal, in part, by attracting online learners and working more deliberately with community college transfer students.
The UA already has increased the number of articulated pathways for transfer agreements in partnership with Arizona community colleges from 10 during the fall of 2012 to nearly 140 as projected for the spring of 2014.
To aid in enrollment growth and help improve retention and graduation rates – especially around efforts to shorten the time to degree – the UA will provide learning experiences tailored to students' needs.
Graduating more and better-prepared students will address workforce and knowledge needs, including those disciplines with critical needs, such as health care, while also contributing to improved national competitiveness.
"It is through real-world experiences that students will be able to translate formal academic experiences into applied settings, helping to make them even more competitive for jobs,” said Melissa Vito, senior vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
"The UA is promising every student an opportunity to apply classroom learning in a real-world environment, starting this year. Called '100 percent Engagement,' we will create a meaningful type of engagement opportunity that will absolutely make our graduates the ones who are sought out by employers, graduate schools and doctoral programs around the country," said Vito, also vice provost for Academic Initiatives and Student Success.
Eventually the engagement experience will be a graduation requirement and all employers and graduate schools will know that UA graduates are real-world ready. For now, students will receive a notation on their transcripts confirming completion of a 100 percent engagement experience, such as an internship.
Speaking to the organizational goals within Never Settle, Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, noted that the UA is investing in interdisciplinary units and the hiring of clusters of faculty members, "powerful groups that can tackle changes in multidisciplinary ways," he said.
A shift already is occurring that aims to redesign and consolidate academic units into more effective configurations and creating areas of study ripe for both demand and growth, Comrie said.
And while the UA already ranks high in faculty research productivity, Never Settle sets challenging goals for research expenditures. To ensure these ambitious goals are met, Hart said the UA will provide enhanced central research development resources, including people and tools, to facilitate large or complex team-based proposal preparation.
New initiatives also will expand access to services to aid faculty and researchers in finding grants and collaborators. And a new website is launching that will consolidate "idea-to-closure" information for research grants and contracts.
In particular, administrators noted seven focused areas of interdisciplinary research that have the potential to double research expenditures: population health/health outcomes, health care disparities, precision medicine, neuroscience, defense and security, space systems, and water and the arid environment.
Also important, the University seeks to enhance its research infrastructure. Through a $1 billion bond package that ABOR will ask the state Legislature to authorize, the UA would receive $450 million for the construction of new research facilities and the renovation of existing buildings. If approved, the work would begin in 2016 and be available for use 2019.
Efforts around private support will accelerate with a goal of raising annual gifts to support the academic and research enterprise. As part of this effort, the UA is preparing to launch a major capital campaign in the spring.
"I want to remind you that Never Settle allows us to promote the goals our regents have set for us. We can promote student learning and success, advance educational attainment in Arizona and expand the University's research and impact in Arizona," Hart said.
"We have emphasized over and over again how cross-cutting synergies are important for the development of a very different mission for the University of Arizona," Hart said.
"Never Settle captures the whole of the universe, from the mind to the earth sciences, to poems and particles and patients. We know this is a necessary combination for us to achieve our goals."