UA’s New $ 81 Million Project Designed to Help Its Students Succeed

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – When University of Arizona students return from vacation soon, they can meet some of their health and wellness needs at the newly renovated Bear Down Gymnasium.

The renovation, slated for completion this month, is the latest piece in an AU $ 81 million construction project called the Student Success District.

Construction on the massive project, which aims to seamlessly connect students to all the resources they need to be successful in college and beyond, began in early 2019.

Three years later, that $ 81 million was spent on renovating the old gym – which will open next semester with a restored basketball court, new tutoring rooms, a Campus Health satellite office, and spaces for exercise, among other services – and connect it with the neighboring neighborhood and the newly renovated main library and the Albert B. Weaver science and technology library.

The Success District also includes a fourth – and brand new – building: the Bartlett Academic Success Center, which is connected to the gymnasium by a pedestrian walkway.


It opened last fall and is now the centralized location where students can access academic support resources through Think Tank and SALT tutoring centers, UA Thrive Center, student engagement, and student development. career, student success and academic retention.

The Bartlett Center has also become an academic counseling center for students enrolled in colleges of humanities, sciences, and social and behavioral sciences.

Ezequiel Jimenez, senior at UA, works part-time at the Bartlett Center as a peer mentor for first generation students through Thrive Center.

When Jimenez thinks back to his first two years on campus as a first generation student – when the Student Success District was still a vision under construction – he wishes he had had a place like the Neighborhood.

Previously, the resources that many students sought were scattered across campus. Much of the career guidance and academic support offered by the AU now lies between the four buildings included in the single 9-acre neighborhood in the center of the campus.

“It would have been a lot more helpful, especially as a first generation student, because everything feels so new to you and everything is intimidating. Going and looking for something and not knowing where it is is enough to make you say ‘I’m not going to do this’, ”Jimenez said. “One of the challenges facing first generation students is just starting their careers. For example, if they wanted to be a doctor, but don’t know any doctor in their life, then it is difficult to know what to do to achieve that goal. “

But now if one of his mentees says he needs help with tutoring or career advice, for example, Jimenez just has to walk him down the hall or up the stairs to get there. to arrive.

“It’s much more accessible,” he said. “There just aren’t many excuses not to get that support.”

Improving access to the tools students need to get the most out of their college education has been a key driver in the creation of the district.

Shan Sutton, Dean of AU Libraries, said the university hopes to bring all of these services together and locating them right next to libraries will help both recruit new students and retain current students.

“We believe that potential students will have a level of confidence that what they need is readily available there in the district and will make AU more attractive to them,” Sutton said. “We also believe the same is true for students already enrolled. The central location of these services and programs makes students more aware of their existence. They might go to an office or program, but they’ll come across five others on the path they might not even have known.

The two libraries that make up part of the neighborhood have also been renovated with a new approach to experiential learning in mind. Libraries still have plenty of physical books and quiet study spaces, but now they also have spaces for students to freely experiment with 21st century equipment, like 3D printers, laser cutters, and podcast studios. , and engage in lively discussions and study sessions with their peers.

In addition to these material supports, the project architects also delivered two products that students interviewed about the project said desperately wanted: more natural light and outdoor seating.

“The science and engineering library was a dismal building with no light. There was a five story brick wall on the east face of this building and we cut a huge hole that brings light to this library, but also physically connects it to the Bear Down Gym, ”said Corky Poster, architect. and lead designer with Tucson-based company Poster, Mirto and McDonald, who partnered with Sundt Construction to form the design and build team for the project.

“We are very proud of this hole,” Poster added.

And AU senior officials are also proud of the district’s completion. They present it as an innovative and one-of-a-kind project focused on educating students as full-fledged individuals and on interdisciplinary critical thinking skills to translate what they learn in the classroom into problem-solving in the classroom. real world.

“It’s a holistic approach,” said Nina Bates, director of operations and strategic initiative for the provost’s office. When she was put in charge of overseeing the project, she looked to see what other universities had done to improve access to student supports, but none had done so as the AU had done so. did.


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