Provost hopes to engage students
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA Provost Andrew Comrie addresses members of the community at a town hall meeting on Nov. 16.
Provost Andrew Comrie’s fourth town hall meeting again addressed the university’s strategic plan and aimed to gather public input about increasing student engagement.
The provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and J.C. Mutchler, the chair of the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, hosted Friday morning’s town hall after having three others during the week. Each town hall has been open for campus members to provide feedback that could help change the current draft of the strategic plan.
“We’re trying to get everyone to feel like this is something that’s our campus plan, not a plan that’s being dictated from somewhere up above,” Comrie said. “That’s a process that requires a lot of engagement like this to get people buying into it.”
The last town hall meeting, which was held Friday, allowed Comrie and Mutchler to explain the goals of the plan in different areas such as teaching, research and outreach.
One specific goal Comrie touched on throughout the presentation is the need to create “100 percent engagement” with students.
Comrie described the engagement experience as students using their knowledge and participating in an internship, a research experience or an activity on campus to get out of the classroom.
Providing distinct engagement experiences could help attract undergraduates to the UA, Comrie said. Furthermore, this could help create “the best students and the most engaged students.”
“We will therefore use that approach to graduate tomorrow’s leaders,” he said. “That’s what we want to produce, is tomorrow’s leaders. It sounds lofty, but it’s true.”
Mutchler stressed the need to promote university strengths to address challenges, diversify the support for research and attract doctoral students. He also said there is a need for community outreach.
“We want to share our knowledge, our research and our creativity to enhance the quality of life for the people of Arizona and beyond here,” Mutchler said.
In order to increase the impact on the community, Mutchler said the university would need to form multiple engagements, partnering with communities and industry.
Following their presentation, Comrie and Mutchler opened the floor for questions and comments from the audience. Questions focused on topics such as an online strategy for the university and how to create partnerships in order to increase student engagement.
Both staff members emphasized that the current plan is only a draft and that they are interested in gathering feedback to improve it.
“The whole idea is this is a draft and this is supposed to be a working document that will change in response to what people tell us,” Comrie said. “This will not be the final thing.”
Comrie said the draft was derived from comments obtained at the forums and from stakeholders. Once feedback is received, the administration can start to refine the plan and turn the ideas into actual documents.
The work will not end there, as staff will go back to the colleges in the spring and make sure the department plans align with the overall university plan, Comrie added.
“I think people are prepared to give it a chance,” Comrie said. “They see that we’re trying to get input and listen … and get their brains around how this isn’t going to be easy, but it’s going to be something we can all work on together, and move the university forward as a giant team.”