Hart of the UA
A day with the university's president is stacked with meetings, lectures and presentations across campus
Kyle Mittan/The Daily Wildcat
The view from UA President Ann Weaver Hart’s office typically extends far north, interrupted just beyond the foothills by the Santa Catalina Mountains. But Monday is no typical day, and ominous gray rain clouds leave nothing to be seen past River Road.
At 7:48 a.m., Hart steps out of the elevator wearing a black-and-white spotted jacket and black slacks, briefcase in hand. With her is Chris Sigurdson, the UA’s senior communications adviser. The downpour outside is the main topic of small talk.
Sigurdson waits in the lobby as Hart steps back into her corner office to put the briefcase away. She doesn’t waste time — she has a breakfast to attend.
Hart’s first stop is Breakfast Club, which she organized last year with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, in the Student Union Memorial Center’s Ventana Room. The meeting allows a select group of student applicants to sit down with Hart over French toast and scrambled eggs, learn about her role as president and ask any questions they might have.
An entourage comprised of Hart, Sigurdson and David Caballero, a detective with the University of Arizona Police Department, piles into the elevator and rides it down to the first level.
At the bottom, the trio files out. The walk to the student union is a short one, but Hart is still prepared with a red umbrella. She climbs the stairs to the fourth floor, careful of the puddles that have collected on each step.
Just before making her entrance, Hart explains the importance of engaging students.
“My job is so isolating, I wouldn’t know what was going on in their lives if I didn’t,” Hart says.
She stops briefly to speak with ASUA President Morgan Abraham, but soon begins making her rounds. The five students at the first table beam as Hart pulls up a chair, each of them eager to ask questions.
Gabriella Gutierrez, a junior studying English, asks Hart how she began her career in higher education, and says she was surprised to learn that Hart also studied English as an undergraduate.
“I always like to know just the backgrounds of all my professors or Dr. Hart just to see the route that they took and how they were able to get to where they were,” Gutierrez says. “I thought it was interesting that … she never thought she would become a university president.”
Hart rotates counterclockwise through the room, stopping at each table. She visits with a variety of students, including ROTC cadets, graduate students and ASUA officials.
Soon after, Hart gives a speech presenting her new strategic plan titled “Never Settle.” She addresses the pitfalls currently facing education, focusing heavily on funding, and urges students to use their own critical thinking skills to help find solutions.
“Think of yourselves as Einstein and Edison rolled into one,” she says.
After a few minutes, she opens up the floor for questions. The inquiries from students ask for Hart’s thoughts on everything from a campus-wide non-smoking policy to requiring freshmen to live in residence halls.
Following the question and answer session, Hart makes herself available for a group photo, as well as a few with individual students. The line for photos quickly lengthens, and it’s evident she’ll be there for a while.
“Back when this wasn’t digital, they couldn’t take this many,” she says.
Back in the tower
By 9:15 a.m., the rain has stopped, and spots of sunlight paint the foothills gold again. Clouds drift around Mt. Kimball.
Like the lobby outside, Hart’s office is adorned with hardwood floors, and there’s a wooden kitchen table in the center of the room. Southwestern-themed paintings from as early as the 1900s adorn the walls. A lounge chair under the window serves as a display for Hart’s own collection of Arizona football and basketball jerseys, her name stitched across the back of each.
In the adjacent corner, Hart types away on her computer, checking emails and preparing for her next meeting with staff advisory councils from the three Arizona universities. As she works on her desktop computer, her iPad sits on the marble desk directly behind her. She’s the first to admit that she’d be lost without all of her devices.
“One of the things I love about technology is that I can start checking emails as soon as I get up,” Hart says, adding that she was awake by 6 a.m. on Monday. “I do a lot of communication via text.”
Amy Taczanowsky, senior executive associate to the president, enters with a soft knock and hands Hart a red leather folder filled with agendas, timelines and the layouts of the rooms Hart will be speaking in. The Staff Advisory Council from Northern Arizona University is here, but the rain has slowed the arrival of the group from Arizona State University. Hart will go on 15 minutes later than planned.
In the Santa Rita room on the third floor of the student union, Hart is welcomed again with smiles, and she shakes hands with Shanley Ten Eyck, the UA Staff Advisory Council’s president.
Immediately after, the room quiets, and Hart takes the podium.
“Many groups have been talking about how we can do better at what we do,” Hart says. “From my vantage point, locked up on the seventh floor of the Administration building … it’s really important to me and very vividly apparent to me on a regular basis that I help to lead an institution with the permission and support of all of you who do the work.”
Hart’s appearance at the meeting lasts less than 10 minutes, and then she’s out the door and in the Administration building elevator once again.
No governance behind closed doors
Hart’s 11 a.m. meeting with UA Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer James Moore is spent behind the closed door of her office, as it involves discussion concerning a number of the foundation’s private donors.
Before the meeting, Hart explains the necessity of private discussions with other university officials, offering assurance that no decisions that affect the university as a whole are ever made without the consultation of the university community.
“Nothing we do that has anything to do with governance is in private meetings,” Hart says. “Everything we do isn’t a public meeting, but everything the regents do is a public meeting. We’re talking student arrests, student disciplinary action, lawsuits, property issues — all of those things require confidentiality in order to manage a university.”
When Moore arrives, he greets Hart, and their voices fall to a murmur as the door shuts.
It’s not all business, though — toward the end of their hour-long meeting, the two are heard laughing before the door opens again.
Hart has already given two speeches by the time she sits down to lunch, but she’s just getting started.
The president’s next event is a lecture with the Heritage and Traditions of the University of Arizona class. A golf cart ride gets Hart to the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building in five minutes, dodging class-bound students. Campus has grown humid since the earlier rains.
After an introduction by professor of agriculture education James Knight, Hart is met once again by applause as she takes a seat in front of the nearly 200 students filling the auditorium.
Hart uses her time with the class to present her “Never Settle” plan, adding that she aims to make the most out of the funding the university has.
“We have many opportunities and many options, but we will never settle for anything less than what could benefit our well-being,” Hart says. “That’s the spirit of the UA.”
During another question and answer session, Hart speaks about the strangest thing she’s ever seen on campus — “untoward behavior toward bushes at tailgates” — and shares an anecdote about how renovators recently discovered dirt being used as sound insulation between the floors of Old Main.
But she doesn’t mince words when a student asks her about her favorite part of the job.
“I am an academic voyeur,” Hart says. “I get to hang around with the smartest people on Earth.”
After her lecture, Hart slips out a back door and boards the golf cart with Det. Caballero close behind. Back in her office, Hart prepares for another private meeting, this time with James Hyatt, the interim senior vice president of business affairs.
Almost directly after, she packs up her things. It’s 2:40 p.m., and the first Faculty Senate meeting of the semester begins in 20 minutes. Hart is listed on the agenda for a 25-minute presentation on “Never Settle.” It’s a presentation she’s given twice today, but this time she’ll be talking to faculty instead of students.
Hart takes her own vehicle to the James E. Rogers College of Law building — she’s headed home after. The unusual weather and shade of the Second Street Parking Garage has chilled the black leather seats inside her late-model white Toyota 4Runner.
Hart parks in the lot to the north of the law building and makes her way inside. Introductions with faculty are short, as she arrives right on time. The meeting starts at 3 p.m. sharp.
Hart takes the floor 20 minutes into the meeting, and it’s clear she’s been there before. As with her other meetings today, she starts off with an anecdote, which is met with laughter. But once the projector warms up and displays the title slide on the screen behind her, she’s all business.
“‘Never Settle’ consolidated some of our great traditions, missions and visions into a distilled, 21st-century look forward to where we want to be and what we want to become,” Hart says, by way of introduction.
The meeting runs until 5 p.m. and sees presentations from other senate members before it is adjourned. Hart lingers for small talk with faculty.
Some of Hart’s colleagues express their appreciation for having a president who works so closely with them.
“It’s very gratifying to have a university president who respects faculty and expects their input in the operation of the university,” says Wanda Howell, the Senate’s faculty chair and professor of nutritional sciences. “It’s not even a question to her, and it would never occur to her to try to avoid this. You can see how open she is with us, how candid she is with us. Our president understands what it’s like to be a faculty member.”
Hart leaves the building and makes her way back to her car, chatting with Caballero about the day. The two shake hands before she climbs in.
Caballero stands in the parking lot as Hart pulls away, watching to make sure she isn’t followed.
As he walks back to his unmarked patrol car, the detective pulls out an iPhone — different from the other smartphone he’s been using throughout the day — and dials Sgt. Juan Alvarez.
“President Hart has left campus,” he says.