At the heart of the UArizona campus, a new district is dedicated to student success

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – The student experience at the University of Arizona involves many areas of student life: academics, social activities, health and well-being, and more.

Students now have a single place to go, at the heart of campus, to find services and support in all these areas.

University leaders on Wednesday celebrated the grand opening of the Student Success District, a nine-acre span of four buildings that house resources students need to thrive, including library services, learning support, tutoring, advising, mentoring, career services and health programs.

The district connects the Main Library, the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library, Bear Down Building and the Bartlett Academic Success Center. Three of the buildings – both libraries and Bear Down Building, formerly known as Bear Down Gymnasium – underwent extensive renovations, while the Bartlett Academic Success Center, a new building, was completed in late 2020.

The district is central to the first pillar of university’s strategic plan; the pillar, called “The Wildcat Journey,” focuses on student success.

“The renovation and construction of these buildings is an implementation of our strategy to adapt to the future needs of our students and our state, from recruitment and initial enrollment to timely graduation and a course to achieve their hopes and dreams and go out and make the world a better place,” University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said during a ceremony in front of the Bear Down Building Wednesday afternoon. “I am incredibly grateful for our donors and all of you who are here who supported this initiative, and our incredible faculty, staff and students who have worked tirelessly to make this vision come to life.”

The go-to place for studying, creating and collaborating

The district was conceived in 2015 as leaders across campus decided to merge their construction and renovation projects to design something unique. The design process included gathering input from students, faculty, staff and architects.

Sundt Construction, in partnership with UArizona Planning, Design and Construction, led the work on the district, beginning with the Main Library in 2019. With the updates, students from all disciplines now have access to University Libraries’ creative spaces, individual quiet study rooms and digital technologies for collaborative and individual learning.

Among the most significant changes to the Main Library was the renovation that established CATalyst Studios, three studios on the second floor where students can engage with technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, computational research and more. A new cascading staircase has also transformed the second floor of the Main Library, creating a seating area that leads down to the first floor where students can borrow technology, get IT help with their devices, or use multimedia software and equipment for projects.

The Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library is now a hub for teaching and learning and houses a number of technology-rich spaces, while continuing to provide materials on topics such as life and physical sciences, engineering and technology, and military sciences.

The Weaver Library is home to the university’s first collaborative learning classroom, which seats up to 270 people. The space is designed to engage students in more active learning through features such as flexible seating arrangements and various classroom technologies. The library also features more study rooms and spaces, a learning studio for instruction, computer study areas and a family study room for university students who care for children. Feedback about furnishings and indoor and outdoor study spaces in and around both libraries was incorporated in the renovations, which were completed in late 2020.

“There was no preexisting prototype or template for the Student Success District,” said University Libraries Dean Shan Sutton. “Instead, we created it from our own collective vision for optimizing the UA student experience with an emphasis on the whole student and every single student at the U of A. And we dreamed of at a scale you just won’t find at any other university with this project.”

The Bartlett Academic Success Center, the newest building in the district, located immediately south of the Main Library and Bear Down Building, houses student support services and acts as a hub for academic advising.

The building is home to Student Engagement & Career Development services and Student Success & Retention Innovation programs, such as Support. Outreach. Success., the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center, the Thrive Center and THINK TANK.

The Bartlett Center also offers advising services from the College of Humanities, the College of Science, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and The A Center, which supports students with undeclared or transitional majors, as well as pre-health professions and pre-law students.

“I’m thrilled to see this vision for student success come to fruition in this very, very concrete way, and it’s my hope that we will see the benefits for our students in the years and decades ahead, write large, in terms of successful graduates who have a deep affinity for the university and for their experience here as Wildcats,” said Liesl Folks, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Renovations also transformed the Bear Down Building, the iconic, two-story brick structure formerly called Bear Down Gymnasium. The 60,000-square-foot building now houses a wide range of services and spaces for students, including academic support programs and quiet study spaces that can be reserved.

The Bear Down Building also includes another location for Campus Health, and BearDownREC, a new Campus Recreation location with an 1,800-square-foot fitness room, community clubhouse, cabanas and more.

Built in 1926, Bear Down was home to the university’s basketball teams until McKale Memorial Center was completed in 1973. The building is famous for its curved roof, large semicircular terra cotta entrance, deeply recessed entry and copper-clad window frames, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. It will remain on that list even after the renovation, thanks to the university’s compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines as administered by the State Historic Preservation Office.

Gifts fueled district’s transformation

Generous private gifts helped make the completion of the district possible.

The Bartlett Academic Success Center was named in recognition of Patricia and Bruce Bartlett, who made a $10 million lead gift to help launch the district. The Bartletts are passionate supporters of the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center, known as the SALT Center, where students with learning and attention challenges receive support. A satellite office for the SALT Center is now located in the Bartlett Academic Success Center.

“President Robbins has been very supportive of the SALT Center, THINK TANK and the innovative holistic approach of the Student Success District to meet the needs of the students,” Patricia Bartlett said. “This project exemplifies to us that President Robbins is very forward thinking in how we prepare our students in a rapidly changing world where we need to engage, embrace and inspire students to a higher level of excellence. This University of Arizona we have grown to love. It is a very special place.”

The gift is one of many the Bartletts have made over the years to initiatives supporting students and health sciences. Their son, Ben, is an alumnus.

A generous $7 million donation from the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation renamed the Science-Engineering Library as the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library. Weaver joined the university as head of the Department of Physics in 1958, and was later appointed provost for academic affairs and executive vice president by then-Arizona president John P. Schafer. Weaver died in 2012.

“The Student Success District is greatly enhanced by generous private gifts,” said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. “Patricia and Bruce Bartlett and the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation have made long-term investments in our students and in the University of Arizona’s capacity to provide services and supports that will help them tremendously. I’m extremely grateful, and I know the students who use these facilities will be, as well.”

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