One week ago, the University of Arizona community learned it would have a new president in the next two years, and now people on campus are trying to figure out what that means.
President Ann Weaver Hart did a lot of good for the university, from merging UA Medical Center with Banner Health, to advocating for state funding, said Lynn Nadel, a psychology professor and chairman of the faculty.
On the other hand, the students and professors are the lifeblood of a university and will keep it running during the transition to a new leader, he said.
The average president serves five to eight years, he said. Hart began at the UA in 2012 as the first female president in the institution's history.
Students on campus for summer lab and class work said they welcomed the opportunity for new leadership in the next couple of years, although they also recognized that students don't have much interaction with senior leadership at the University.
"I believe the university students as well as faculty will miss our current president, but maybe change is good," said Majd Almohassan, a senior studying communication. "I'm not sure really if it would be a really huge impact. I don't know if students really notice that we have a president."
Controversy This Year
Undergraduate student Daniel Osorio said he wondered why Hart decided not to renew her contract.
"I think it might be seen as her not caring as much for the university to be the president for longer," said Osorio, who is a junior studying molecular biology. "And I’m not really sure if her leaving is related to her new position at DeVry University."
Hart announced June 10 she would not ask to renew her contract at the end of its term, which is mid-2018.
She recently stirred controversy when she accepted a position on the board of directors for DeVry University. Twenty-two state lawmakers called for her to resign and said it was a distraction from the UA's business.
She said at the time she accepted the DeVry position after consulting with the Board of Regents, which is her employer, and that she would use personal time for her DeVry service.
"I plan to maintain my (DeVry) board appointment because I understand the challenges faced by nontraditional students, having been one myself, and view my board membership as a way to contribute to positive outcomes and quality for students in higher education who will never have the opportunity to attend the University of Arizona," Hart wrote in a statement to Arizona Public Media in April.
Although her contract ends in mid-2018, if the regents hire another president before that date, the transition could begin sooner.
Hart said in her announcement via email to the university's faculty and staff that she will remain as a professor on campus in the College of Education after she steps down as president.
Transition Process and New Goals
"The president is a very important office," said Ronald Marx, dean of the College of Education. "You need a person who understands the academic world, the research agenda for the university, what we do in terms of our teach and instruction, and our outreach and service to the community. So, it's a big job."
Marx said he expects students, faculty and the outside business and "all members of the community" to be part of the search committee.
But one thing is clear, he said, the regents will select a strong leader.
"That person's going to bring in their own flavor of leadership and what they want to do," he said.
Big universities are economic drivers for their community, he said, and therefore a strategic plan, such as the Never Settle plan Hart drafted, or a new plan, will be important.
Diversity will also remain a big issue, as it is on all campuses, he said.
"Universities are somewhat different kinds of organizations than a corporate giant like Raytheon," he said, referencing another of the region's largest employer. The university runs on its excellent programs for students, he said, and those are not influenced very much by the president.
"The university does its thing, in a way, regardless of who the leader is. The leader plays an important role because they help redirect resources and resources fund and support those different kinds of efforts," Marx said.
He said it is typical that a university president with a background as an educator, like Hart and most others, return to faculty positions at the end of their administrative tenure.