Resiliency was at center of Robbins' presentation to ABOR on highlights from the last year
If University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins were to sum up the past 12 months in one word, it would be "resiliency."
The idea of resiliency was central to Robbins' hourlong Operational and Financial Review presentation to the Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday. Despite the myriad challenges brought as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robbins focused on accomplishments, noting a number of positive enrollment trends and groundbreaking research initiatives.
"We have not only survived this last year," Robbins said. "We are thriving."
Robbins pointed to significant increases in student enrollment, research expenditures and one-year retention rates. He also highlighted many of the University's most outstanding rankings, while mentioning that the University is one of only a handful of public universities that rank in the top 20 in the number of students enrolled (44,097 students) and in research expenditures ($734.4 million) – and the only institution among this cohort that is also a Hispanic Serving Institution, according to Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and Higher Education Research and Development Survey numbers.
In discussing a recent Forbes ranking of "America's Best Large Employers" – which placed the University No. 16 out of 500 employers overall, No. 4 in the education subcategory and No. 1 out of all employers with headquarters in Arizona – Robbins mentioned how it was the resiliency of the University's workforce that made it possible to continue executing key strategic plan initiatives amid the pandemic.
At the onset of the pandemic, when the impact on higher education was unclear, BIO5 Institute members and other researchers developed testing systems and the public health and safety were part of every decision, he told regents. The University's Test, Trace, Treat strategy, antibody testing initiatives, the COVID Watch app and the University's innovative wastewater-based epidemiology research allowed for a safe and data-driven return to expanded in-person learning options by the spring semester.
"When the pandemic first hit, we weren't sure what was in store, but we were able to persevere with resiliency," Robbins said.
This framework – led by Dr. Richard Carmona, who served as the 17th U.S. surgeon general and is a Distinguished Professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and director of the Reentry Task Force – allowed the University to assume a leadership role in the distribution and administration of more than 166,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in its point of distribution center on the University Mall.
In addition to the University's response to COVID-19, Robbins shined a spotlight on some of the University's most captivating projects: OSIRIS-REx, Hypersonics, the Center for Quantum Networks and the making of the mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope.
"The way the University of Arizona has engaged the public, both locally and throughout the world, on these research endeavors, particularly on the hypersonic project, is top-drawer stuff – truly impactful," said Regent Ron Shoopman.
Robbins also detailed the University's "Wonder" campaign and the effectiveness it has had in driving brand awareness in key markets in Texas and California through a blend of high-impact student profiles and eye-catching animations.
"It has been an incredible journey seeing what President Robbins has accomplished at the University," said Student Regent Anthony Rusk, who attends the University of Arizona. "Seeing the Wonder campaign develop from its origins to what it is now has been truly incredible."
In other board business:
- The regents confirmed the appointments of six faculty members as Regents Professors.
- The board approved the three state universities' tuition and fees proposals. The University of Arizona proposed no increase in base tuition for all new resident undergraduate students and a 1.4% increase for new nonresident undergraduate students. These tuition rates will be guaranteed for four years under the university's Guaranteed Tuition Program. All continuing students will see no increase.
- The board approved a second amended multiple-year employment agreement for women's basketball head coach Adia Barnes. After leading the Wildcats to the first Final Four in program history, Barnes will now be under contract with the University through 2026.
You can watch a recording of the presentation on YouTube.