Chancellor's Update 1-29-21
January 29, 2021
Dear U of A Employees:
With the gradual rollout of a COVID-19 vaccination, we’ve begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While nothing will change overnight, I think we can begin to turn our attention to a post-pandemic world. Specifically, I would like to get back to tackling the 10 Action Items announced in the fall of 2019.
These action items were a means of refining our Guiding Priorities, which had been in progress for several years. Last spring, I released a series of white papers explaining what I was thinking and giving examples of specific actions we might take. I also began an extensive series of meetings throughout the colleges and units to discuss how we might move forward on these. We made it through about half of these meetings when COVID hit, and then we had to devote much of our time, energy and resources to getting through this – plus I prefer meeting in person, when possible!
Nevertheless, we’ve continued to make progress on these items:
- Last year, our six-year graduation rate exceeded 66% for the first time.
- We anticipate this year’s graduation rate will exceed 68%.
- Our freshmen retention rate is also expected to hit 85% — another record.
Based off this, as well as continuing progress on the construction of the Student Success Center, I anticipate that exceeding our expected graduate rate by 5% could be a reality in the next few years (Action Item #1).
We also established the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (or I3R) with a $194.7 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to help create a more collaborative research environment (Action Item #4). $14 million of this grant will also be used to build a smaller location in Bentonville (Action item #2). Planning is now underway for how we will outfit and populate this space.
We also hired a new inclusion liaison, Anthony DiNicola, to support and advise the Chancellor’s Office on issues of diversity and inclusion, a component of some of the D&I initiatives discussed in action item #8 and also responsive to the needs expressed by underrepresented members of our community. He’s been a welcome addition to campus. We’ve also received some major grants that will enhance diversity efforts on campus, including a $1 million grant to promote equity for women in the STEM fields.
These are just a few accomplishments that have been somewhat overshadowed by the pandemic — but overall, I’m pleased with the fact that we’ve been able to advance some key action items. Once the long tail of COVID begins to taper off (I hope, but please don’t let down your guard!), I’ll begin rescheduling meetings and get back to discussing how we can make even more progress on our Action Items. We can’t do everything, but we can prioritize the things we think will have the most impact. In the meantime, I encourage you to review the white papers and begin thinking about how we might tackle some of these actions. I look forward to hearing your feedback.
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.