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President Hart covers UA mission in town hall

Carlos Herrera/The Daily Wildcat
Carlos Herrera/The Daily Wildcat University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart holds a town hall meeting at the James E. Rogers College of Law on Wednesday. Hart answered questions from audience members, staff, and faculty on various issues that affect the university including teh state budget, funding, and hiring.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart held a town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon at the James E. Rogers College of Law to address the proposed budget for the UA and the progress of the 100 percent enhancement plan.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jan Brewer released the Executive Budget proposal for the 2015 fiscal year.

This budget plan included a two-page summary of the allotted money for higher education, giving both Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University about $27.5 million.

The UA received roughly $3.5 million for Cooperative Extension, which works to “engage with people through applied research and education to improve lives, families, communities, environments, and economies in Arizona and beyond” through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, according to its website.

According to the budget proposal for the 2015 fiscal year, the Cooperative Extension program has seen a reduction in state support and contributions in the past few years. Due to its unique mission and funding model, the program does not receive the money it needs to keep pace with the university.

Wendy Miley, assistant director of institutional research at the Office of Institutional Research Planning and Support, asked how the UA works to better explain the university mission to the state Legislature.

“The U of A is the premier land grant research university with a degree mix that costs more to provide,” Hart said. “We need to be thoughtful [about] how we address the best way to fund higher education in the state.”

She added that a funding model that worked 40 years ago will have to adapt to the changing nature of the UA’s mission.

“We aren’t arguing that the state shouldn’t appropriately fund, nor are we arguing that we don’t believe [in] fairness,” Hart said. “We believe that all three of Arizona’s public universities need proper funding, and we want and think that all three of our public universities need to succeed in order for our state to succeed.”

Hart also discussed the progress of the “100% Engagement Initiative.” This initiative is a commitment by the UA to every undergraduate student to provide a structured experience for them to apply knowledge outside of a formal learning setting in a new situation.

Formally titled an Undergraduate Research Opportunity, the experience would be more like an internship than running coffees and filling the printer with paper, Hart said.

It would be students applying their knowledge in a setting other than a normal classroom, in which each undergraduate student would have the opportunity to participate, Hart said.

“Doing a [particular] job is so different than taking a test,” Hart said. “Students need to be able to apply their knowledge to different settings.”

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