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UA Presidential Candidate Begins Public Meetings
Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart, who is a candidate for the UA's top administrative position, spoke on campus Monday in one of a series of events to introduce her to the community.
Hart, currently president of Temple University, spoke before hundreds of attendees in the UA's Gallagher Theater on Feb. 13, emphasizing her vision for the UA should she be chosen to lead the institution as its chief executive.
"I am extremely honored to be brought in as a candidate of the University of Arizona," said Hart, adding that she always had the intention to return West and seek out other higher education-oriented opportunities after leaving Temple. "My career has prepared me to join you at this great time."
Arizona Board of Regents members have led the search for the UA's 21st president and are planning to discuss a decision Feb. 17 during a regularly scheduled board meeting, which will be held at Arizona State University.
Hart shared several personal and professional experiences that she said has shaped her thinking about the important role of higher education.
She explained that she pursued her graduate studies while she and her husband raised four daughters – each of them now college-educated with eight children between them.
Hart later served as a faculty member, a dean and, eventually, university president, among other positions. In referencing her current place in life, Hart said it has been "a lifetime culmination of a career for me," adding that each "has added a new skill and new love."
For Hart, higher education is clearly associated with improving peoples' lives, whether it is through artistic and cultural exchanges, the transference of technology to practical use or the practice of engaging students in research. It is through that integration of social, cultural and economic realms, she said, that substantive benefit and change can occur.
She also explained that this does not go without difficulty.
Over the years serving as an academic professional, institutional leader and community partner, Hart said she has developed a keen awareness and understanding of the particular challenges the higher education sector faces in a time of increased demands for degrees at decreasing state-level financial support.
In speaking about what would be important for the UA if she should take the helm, Hart offered several suggestions. Among them, she said the University community must improve its graduation rates and should not look only to national and international rankings to gauge its status, but evaluate its own goals, progress and successes.
"The rise of great universities and great cities happen simultaneously and side by side. That is no accident," Hart said, also addressing the importance of supporting students of both traditional and non-traditional ages and situations and, above all, meeting the community's needs as the community defines them.
"I do believe that a great university should be part of the community," she said. "It would be my hope to be as involved in Tucson as I was in Philadelphia."
In introducing Hart, Regent Rick Myers said the UA contributes much to the local, state and national communities, thus it was important to ask a broad base of community members – both on and off campus – for the characteristics sought in the next University president.
"This university doesn't exist in a bubble," said Myers, the selection committee's co-chair.
"People wanted someone who is charismatic, someone who is inspirational, and someone who truly understands that this is going to be a very different future. We need a visionary, and we believe we have found this in Dr. Hart."
All told, the regents considered more than 80 prospective candidates, said Regent Dennis DeConcini, who also co-chaired the selection committee.
Of that pool, 86 percent had been in some way involved with the Association of American Universities – of which the UA is a member, 60 percent were current university presidents or CEOs, more than 35 percent identified as either female or a person of color or both, nearly 30 percent were serving as provosts or vice presidents, and 13 percent were deans.
Myers, DeConcini and others said Hart has a proven track record in a number of important areas that are crucial to the continued advancement of the UA.
Of note, Myers said that during her six-year tenure at Temple, Hart and her team increased undergraduate and graduate student enrollment and graduation rates – particularly among students of color – and led about $1.2 billion in new building projects, improved the academics and athletic performance of Temple's major athletics teams, and grew the endowment by $80 million, among other notables.
Hart stressed her role and prior experience in building strong, proactive teams, in redesigning general education requirements to more closely align with community-based demands and in working directly and consistently with communities of color via nonprofit service, which she said she wants to continue in Arizona if she is named to the UA presidency.
Outgoing ABOR member Fred DuVal said the board believes it has found the "right person at the right time," spotlighting that Hart brings with her the very strong capability to improve student retention and graduation rates while also expanding the research enterprise, supporting enhanced philanthropy and also managing and growing the medical and biomedical enterprises in a national context, among other key responsibilities.
"We found the candidate that not only proves that she has the experience," DuVal said, "but also the success."
Later, speaking about her decision to take the position at UA having been pursued by other institutions, Hart said: "This is the part of the United States where the future will be forged. The young future of the U.S. and higher education is reform and change. For me, it's like coming now. It's not convenient, but challenging and compelling."