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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Shelton: ‘Future never brighter’

    UA President Shelton gives his first State of the University address yesterday afternoon in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center.
    UA President Shelton gives his first State of the University address yesterday afternoon in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center.

    In his first State of the University address yesterday, President Robert Shelton spoke of the importance in receiving state funds to recruit and retain top-notch faculty and introduced new programs that will take effect during the next fiscal year.

    Delivering the address to about 600 people in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center, Shelton focused on the concept that the UA community is a family.

    “”We must put people first,”” Shelton said. “”It’s people who make a great university, and we must do all that we can to see that everyone who is a part of this university family has a chance to succeed, because that is how the institution will succeed.””

    Faculty salaries were a focus of Shelton’s plan for the upcoming year.

    Such salaries, he said, are too low compared to peer institutions, which hinders the UA’s ability to attract and keep top faculty.

    In next year’s budget proposal to the Arizona Board of Regents, Shelton has asked for $13.6 million in new funds for faculty salary adjustments – a seven percent increase – which will be awarded on the basis of market, merit and equity.

    Money for those funds will come from a combination of state, grant and private sources, Shelton said.

    While a shortfall in collections by the state of Arizona could strain university funding, Shelton is confident legislators will recognize the importance of allocations for

    higher education.

    To increase available research dollars, Shelton wants the state to create a competitive investment fund that would match state money with the money UA faculty bring in each year.

    This would reward success by making funding more competitive, he said.

    Attracting top faculty to the UA is a top priority, as accomplishing this brings in grant dollars and economic benefits that better the state of Arizona, he said.

    “”(The way) I want to make the argument for faculty salaries is return on investment,”” Shelton said. “”This is a way that the state can turn one dollar into 10.””

    Shelton also announced a new need-based financial aid program aimed at attracting students to the UA.

    Arizona Assurance, developed by the Office of Financial Aid, will offer financial support to eligible students who wish to attend the UA.

    “”This Arizona Assurance program, it will have meat and it will have resources, but it is going to be a way for us to communicate simply to folks who may not be thinking about higher education that they should think about the U of A,”” Shelton said.

    The program does not yet have an income limit but seeks to include lower-income and middle-income families who may need assistance to send their children to the UA, he said.

    The financial support will come from state and private donors, he said, adding that the program is set to begin

    this spring.

    Emphasizing the past successes and future hopes of the UA as a research-focused university, Shelton spoke of some of the university’s achievements, including its acquisition of the Biosphere 2 facility, Mars research and associated missions, global climate change research, Internet terrorism research and cognitive neuroscience research.

    The UA spent more than $530 million last year on research, the 13th highest total among public universities, he said.

    “”The range of discovery and creativity by our faculty is simply stunning,”” Shelton said. “”The U of A is the leading public research university in the American Southwest because of the extraordinary quality of our faculty.””

    After the applause-studded speech, Shelton spoke candidly to reporters about men’s basketball head coach Lute Olson, whose leave of absence has been the cause of much speculation within the Tucson community.

    “”I never worry about Lute,”” Shelton said. “”Lute is (a) consummate human being, and giving him some personal time after not only 25 years as a premier basketball coach in the country but as someone who gives himself minute by minute, not just day by day, to the whole Tucson-Southern Arizona community, I think it’s probably been long overdue.””

    Shelton’s focus for the UA’s athletic programs is to increase graduation rates by supporting the students.

    And as for football, “”I want to make it to a bowl game,””

    he said.

    Shelton ended his address on a high note.

    “”Never in my career have I felt such excitement as I do now, looking at where this great university is going,”” he said. “”The state of the University of Arizona has never been better, our future never brighter.””

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