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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Amidst state-wide budget cuts, Hart embraces challenges for the new year

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart has a positive outlook and a plan for not only the upcoming year, but for the future of the UA.

“The UA faces many challenges and has many opportunities this year,” Hart wrote in an email. “Our approach to all of them will be guided by the Never Settle strategic academic and business plan, and so I hope to continue achieving the goals of the plan.”

Hart said the university will continue to face many challenges as it pursues its goals. Foremost: the impact of funding cuts that took effect this year.

“I think it is clear that we owe her a lot of kudos for minimizing the extent of the cut to the [UA],” said Lynn Nadel, chair of the faculty and regents’ professor of psychology and cognitive science. “It could have been a lot worse if she hadn’t done as good of a job as she did.”

Nadel said he has known Hart since shortly before she came to the UA, and that they share ideas and work together in trying to resolve a variety of issues that involve the campus and faculty.

Both Nadel and Hart mentioned the importance of hiring and keeping quality faculty at the UA.

“Retaining top talent in an environment of diminishing funding is incredibly difficult, and the quality of your education and of the UA’s other core activities depends greatly on our ability to attract and keep dedicated, world-class faculty and staff here as part of the campus community,” Hart said.

Nadel said there are always unexpected consequences, and those leading the effort have to be trusted to respond well. He said he operates on the assumption that the team will react intelligently when things don’t go as planned.

“Do we have people in these positions who we trust, who are going to do the right thing?” Nadel asked. “I think the answer there comes back to hiring good people, and I think that’s what [Hart has] done.”

To address the other challenges that have come from funding cuts in a way that meets the university’s long-term needs, Hart said that some of the most important work UA senior leaders will be doing this year consists of collaboration with the Arizona Board of Regents, the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey to create a new model for state appropriations that will be sustainable and allow the UA to achieve its mission.

“Other challenges that have come from funding cuts include finding resources for critical building maintenance, for creating new programs and also adapting current ones so that our degree offerings, research and community partnership programs remain engaged with the world that we live in,” Hart said.

Nadel said that what Hart has done is no neat trick right now in higher public education. Hart added that many institutions are struggling, but the UA is struggling for the lack of resources and not for the lack of a plan.

“I think she’s sort of helped the university reset its strategic course by being very alert to the political environment in the state and very alert to the changes that we needed to institute here without sacrificing our values,” Nadel said. “I think she’s managed quite well to position us in a place where we can succeed.”

Hart said she is looking forward to continued positive outcomes for UA students from the 100% Engagement Initiative, which is a core component of the “Engaging” pillar of the Never Settle plan.

“The initiative is focused on giving every UA student the opportunity to apply knowledge from formal learning experiences in new settings,” Hart said. “This translation and application of knowledge in new settings is an absolutely critical cognitive ability that the 100% Engagement Initiative is meant to help students develop.”

Hart mentioned the Office of Student Engagement, which provides valuable resources for students and faculty as an example of how this initiative is continuing to evolve.

“Another important area of work through the Never Settle plan is the UA’s partnerships,” Hart said. “For instance, I recently signed an agreement with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to create a Center for Mexican Studies on our campus. … UNAM is one of the most prestigious and successful universities in the world.”

Hart expects the partnership with UNAM to bring new opportunities for students and for faculty research in areas of study that are vital to the future of the UA and to the well-being of not just Arizona, but of the entire country.

When asked what she considers to be her greatest accomplishment within her presidency to-date, Hart said, “I am very proud of the collaborative approach that we used to develop and begin implementing the Never Settle strategic academic and business plan. This includes collaboration across campus, with faculty and staff in multiple colleges, centers and administrative units coming together to create innovative and pragmatic solutions to the challenges that we face as an institution.”

The agreements with Banner Health and UNAM, Hart said, are exemplary instances of the university’s collaborative spirit and the approach taken when working with partners from outside the university in the development of the Never Settle strategic plan.

Hart assumed the role of president in July 2012. She is the 21st president of the university and its first female president.

“I am so very glad to be a part of this community and very proud to have the opportunity to lead it,” she said.


Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.


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