A University of Arizona that is student-focused emerged as the leading priority of a large group that assembled on campus to provide input to the University's new strategic plan.
More than 500 students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors and community members attended an interactive discussion held Jan. 29 in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center. After hearing from strategic plan co-chairs Lisa Ordóñez and Elliott Cheu, the participants met in small groups at their respective tables to consider the question: What impact will the UA have on students, society and the community in 10 years?
Each group drafted a statement representing its consensus, and all of the statements then were posted in the back of the room for the other groups to review and evaluate.
A total of 65 percent of the statements mentioned being student-focused, defined as "producing tomorrow's leaders, preparing adaptable critical thinkers who are ready for the world and equipped to drive meaningful social and economic impact."
Society focus was mentioned on 58 percent of statements, community focus on 46 percent. The former was defined as "aiming to have far-reaching societal influence as a leader poised to solve problems and address challenges through trailblazing research and innovation." The latter was described as being "a solution-oriented community partner, offering affordable education and job creation, while fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion."
The lively discussion was part of the plan's discovery phase, which earlier in January included a visit to four classrooms of students by President Robert C. Robbins and the strategic plan team, along with nearly 100 focus-group discussions.
At the Student Union event, participants used their smartphones to give real-time feedback and then worked in groups.
"For all of you who thought that strategic planning was not very fun, welcome to the kickoff," Robbins said at the start as he stood among members of the UA Pep Band, which had just played "Bear Down, Arizona" and "All Hail, Arizona."
The president thanked the members of the audience and noted the initiative they took to make sure they claimed one of the spots available at the event. Organizers said that those who registered for the event included about 100 undergraduate and graduate students and 80 community members, many of them alumni.
Their voices joined the 4,000 to 5,000 who already had shared their thoughts about the UA as part of the strategic planning process.
"This is a really important process for the future of the University," Robbins said.
Robbins began calling for a new strategic plan since shortly after he became president in June. The campus event was part of his commitment to an inclusive process that draws on feedback from people inside and outside the University to create a roadmap for the next 10 to 20 years. Robbins also has emphasized the potential for the UA to be a leader in what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is characterized by a convergence of the digital, biological and physical sciences.