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The Daily Wildcat


UA unveils new, far-reaching Strategic Plan

Dr. Robert Robbins
A celebration of gratitude for our #UAStrategicPlan. TY to Lisa Ordóñez, Elliott Cheu, and all our initiative and pillar leads for their incredible work. Now, on to exciting times @UofA as our 90+ initiative leaders begin working towards implementation.

After months of preparation, University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins publicly unveiled the UA’s new Strategic Plan during the Arizona Board of Regents’ Nov. 16 meeting on campus. 

The plan lays out a series of goals through over 90 specific initiatives and five pillars to be achieved by the year 2025. These include initiatives to increase UA’s global footprint; streamline its services; reorganize its administration; boost diversity, recruitment and student success; and leverage its research infrastructure to grow the state’s economy and enhance the student experience. 

The Arizona Board of Regents, which serves as the governing body of Arizona’s three public universities, voted unanimously to approve the plan.  

Creating a New Strategic Plan

Last December, the then-recently appointed Robbins named Elliott Cheu, associate dean for the College of Science, and Lisa Ordóñez, vice dean of academic programs for the Eller College of Management, to co-chair a committee tasked with creating a new Strategic Plan and vision for the UA and Robbins’ tenure. 

The committee, which included a number of other campus leaders, moved through five stages of production  — discovery, ideation, testing, development and implementation — before publishing the upwards of 90 initiatives that form the backbone of the plan. 

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“We crowdsourced our plan within the UA community. We want to know what a big, bold and new path for the university looks like to students,” Cheu said in an interview last March. 

In that spirit, the committee hosted close to 100 campus focus groups and received input and ideas from students, faculty, alumni, donors and community members. 

Pillar One: The Wildcat Journey 

“We need to educate the next generation of leaders. We need to help give them the skills and the education to be productive members of their communities and their societies at large,” Robbins said.  

The plan’s first pillar, The Wildcat Journey, aims to accomplish this goal by recruiting a high-quality student body and increasing access to a higher education at UA. 

By 2025, the Strategic Plan aims to boost retention and six-year graduation rates by 10 percent each, to 91 and 75 percent, respectively. UA also plans to increase transfer student enrollment by about 50 percent. 

To this end, UA plans to quadruple the number of classes using active learning or flipped classrooms, reform general education and close the gap in graduation rate. 

Both the new Student Success District, centered around Bear Down Gym and both the Main Library and the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library, and the Honors Village will provide collaborative learning spaces for students and increase the visibility of student success programs and access to mental health services. 

A new first-year student curriculum focused on critical thinking, communication, collaboration teamwork, cultural understanding and creative problem solving, with pilot courses beginning next fall, will form the backbone of a re-imagined core of Wildcat education. 

Pillar Two: Grand Challenges 

“We need the research infrastructure and intellectual talent in place to win national grants and use them to their full potential … addressing grand challenges,” Robbins said. 

With increased investment in research infrastructure, UA aims to jump into the top 25 of national universities in research and development, with at least $800 million in activity by 2025. 

Robbins envisioned the UA leveraging its established scholarship in space exploration, arid environments, precision medicine and health and intelligence systems to create new interdisciplinary collaborations and private partnerships to propel UA into the international spotlight. 

To facilitate new research, UA plans to deepen its partnerships with Banner Health, construct two new research buildings on campus, expand its campus in Phoenix and increase resources to attract graduate students. 

Pillar Three: The Arizona Advantage 

“As Arizona’s land-grant university, I want to focus on service to the state of Arizona, to the people, to the place, to the soul of Southern Arizona and all its connectivity,” Robbins said. 

To support and celebrate the diversity of UA, the plan dedicates the university to increase the graduation rate of Hispanic students by 15 percent and the retention rate of Native American students by 21 percent. 

As part of its new designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution, UA plans to hire new faculty to support (Hispanic scholarship) as well as hosting new community summits, including a summit for Native American tribal leaders.

The UA also plans to leverage its art and research infrastructure to spur economic growth in Arizona by making UA a hub for Southwestern art and commercializing its entrepreneurial research, utilizing new collaborations with Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and outreach centers in Northern California and Washington, D.C. 

Pillar Four: UA Global 

“Micro-campuses differentiate us from every other university in the world. They deliver our brand around the world, provide local students with a U.S. education, develop research collaborations and serve as a launchpad for new study abroad programs for our students,” Robbins said.

UA currently has four micro-campuses but aims to expand to 20 by 2025, educating 10,000 students abroad. Micro-campuses are partnerships with universities around the world where students complete UA-created curricula taught by local faculty to receive a joint UA degree. 

Robbins also said they hope to almost double international student enrollment and increase the multilingual student population to 75 percent in that same time period.  

The UA plans to accomplish these goals by creating a hub for international student resources, establishing an Office of Global Projects to confront global challenges in public health and natural resources and conservation, and increasing yearly global investments 20 fold.

Pillar Five: Institutional Excellence 

“We want to run the university in a more efficient manner; focusing on sustainability … getting financial aid to students sooner … [and] using a common platform for administration,” Robbins said. 

By 2025, the UA aims to optimize its business and support systems and introduce new digital platforms for student resources and success. 

The Strategic Plan also calls for increased cybersecurity and awards for high-performing faculty.  

During his presentation to the regents, Robbins began the conversation to rewrite UA’s core mission statement and values, with the goal of ingraining their message in the student experience and mindset. 

Finally, the UA aims to become carbon neutral by 2040.

Implementation and Financing

“The Strategic Plan is the end of the beginning. We will create a Strategic Implementation committee and hire a new faculty member to oversee the plan,” Robbins said. 

To keep with the Strategic Plan’s goal of institutional transparency, the UA will release a progress report on the plan’s initiatives quarterly, tracking which initiatives are in progress and the results so far. 

At the administrative level, UA plans to designate faculty leaders for the plan’s five pillars and initiatives, who will participate in weekly check-ins. 

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The initiatives and investments laid out in the plan are not free. 

“Currently, we have resources set aside for strategic investment, and many of the aspects of our plan will require no investment,” Robbins said. 

To fully realize the plan, UA plans to free up resources in its current budget, launch a fundraising campaign and expand current programs, like UA Global’s micro-campuses and UA Online, that provide revenue to the university.

“If we execute these strategic initiatives, we will win more national research grants and grow our student body and in the end be able to accomplish more of our goals,” Robbins said. 

More information on UA’s Strategic Plan can be found at its official website. Check back to the Daily Wildcat for continuing and more in-depth coverage of the Strategic Plan. 

Vanessa Ontiveros, Daily Wildcat Assistant News Editor, contributed to this article. 

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