The University of Arizona’s iconic Bear Down Gym is undergoing a transformation. The fences are up and construction is starting, and the UA Student Success District is taking shape.
When UA President Dr. Robert Robbins introduced the UA’s new Strategic Plan last November, the new Student Success District was a key component of his project to improve the student experience at the UA.
“The Student Success District will be the center point for all student services, advising, mentoring, gathering [and] activities and will serve as a place for students to gather,” Robbins said during his presentation.
The district will consist of a new Student Success Building behind the newly renovated Bear Down Gym as well as new linkages between the UA’s Main and Science and Engineering libraries. The $81 million project is funded through gifts to the university and a student fee and is expected to be completed by fall 2021.
The district will centralize tutoring and academic advising services for students, host mental health and campus wellness programming and provide students a hub to access library resources and technology, according to the district’s website.
“The main goal of the project is to take the burden off students and provide them one place to go to get their questions answered and feel supported,” said Natalynn Masters, the UA’s student body president who has been a part of the district’s planning.
For Robbins, the district will also serve as a tool to accomplish some of the goals, like increasing student graduation, retention and recruitment, that he set out in his strategic plan.
According to Nicci Ainuu, the administrative services manager for the UA’s Think Tank, students should not expect to experience any disruptions in the resources they can access through Bear Down Gym during the construction of the new district.
The UA’s Think Tank, a tutoring resource for students, will be housed in the new district. Ainuu said she expects the new district to improve the Think Tank for students.
“The goal for the Student Success District is to have a much more collaborative and dynamic space in Bear Down Gym for the Think Tank that allows more students to have a comfortable space,” Ainuu said.
Joining the Think Tank, the UA’s Student Engagement and Career Development will move into the district from its current office in the Student Union Memorial Center.
Annie Kurtin, associate director for student engagement, said she is excited for this move and believes it will allow her and her colleagues to see the impact of their programs and work together to better serve students.
“Currently, our department is tucked away in the Student Union. This new shared space will allow us to more effectively collaborate with our peers,” Kurtin said. “This melting pot will allow us to better support students’ journeys.”
While the district will serve as a campus hub for student services, the UA’s interim provost, Jeffrey Goldberg, also said he imagines the new space as a collaborative hub for students to meet, share their ideas and chase after innovation.
“Many of the district’s spaces will provide increased access to cutting-edge technologies that enable students to collaboratively design, prototype, and fabricate physical and digital creations as part of the learning process,” Goldberg said in an email to students.
According to Goldberg, the easy-to-find space will encourage learning outside of the class and augment the UA’s curriculum, directing more students to 100% Engagement opportunities like campus research and career internships.
Students can view mockups of the UA’s plan for the district and the surrounding environment on the district’s website.
The university is still seeking student input on the project.
“Our student government and I have been involved in workshops with UA’s libraries to gain feedback from students on what they want this district to look like, all the way down to the furniture for the new spaces,” Masters said.
Robbins said he has high hopes for the project, one of the backbones of his ambitious Strategic Plan.
“The Student Success District will be a special place — it will not only help us recruit the brightest students, but it will also be one of the center points of academic life,” Robbins said last November.
Once completed in 2021, students on campus will certainly have a new space to explore.
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