Bear Down Tradition
Bear Down Gymnasium, the original home of the men’s basketball team and intramural athletics, is front and center in the success district plan.
“It’s a very special place for a lot of our alumni, and I believe this initiative will breathe new life into the campus core and impact whole generations of students,” says Kasey Urquidez, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs advancement.
Melissa Vito, senior vice president for student affairs and senior vice provost for academic initiatives and student success, likens the project to Tucson’s downtown revitalization. “We’re not knocking buildings down and building new ones,” she says. “We’re keeping the soul of that campus district, infusing it with fresh purpose and re-envisioning it for the next century.”
Bear Down will return to its original function as a gym, with exercise classes, health and wellness services, and intramural sports.
An addition, south of the gym, will house the Think Tank, leadership programs, career services and the 100% Engagement initiative — which is proving transformative in preparing UA graduates for careers or graduate and professional school.
The Bear Down Breezeway, a passage underneath Bear Down Gym that will offer a mix of retail and food services, will link the Main Library, Science-Engineering Library and Bear Down Gym.
The success district will only add to reported accomplishments in student engagement and talent pipelines for employers. Nearly 90 percent of employers rate UA grads as exceeding the quality of their peers and 92 percent of employers say UA grads possess the skills needed to succeed on the job — 70 percent higher than the national average of 23 percent.
The need for a re-envisioned UA library environment is driven largely by curricular changes that emphasize collaborative, hands-on learning and deep engagement with technologies. This vision is also based on integrating library and student support services to comprehensively meet student needs in a reinvigorated campus core.
“The traditional model of the library is a place to find books, to do research, and a place for quiet study,” Shan Sutton, dean of University Libraries says. “We are retaining those elements but also pushing forward in other areas that have evolved over time as student needs change and technology plays a larger part in student learning and the workplaces they will enter.”
The library component of the Launch Pad initiative includes renovations to the Main Library and the Science-Engineering Library. Changes call for flexible spaces and furnishings that can be reconfigured for individual study and collaborative learning with full technological support.
In these spaces, students take an active role in the learning process by working together on group assignments from their courses and solving problems in small groups using an array of technologies.
For example, UA Libraries loan out more than 400 pieces of equipment, from GoPro cameras to tablets, with 40,000 loans to students in 2015-16. Students also have access to 3-D printers, a virtual reality lab and cutting-edge modeling software.
Sutton says the renovated Main Library will help expand services to train students to use the latest technology for needed skills in the classroom and the modern workplace. In addition, collaborative work teaches important soft skills like the ability to communicate, prioritize, delineate roles and hold colleagues accountable, which are critical in today’s workplace.