At the University of Arizona, educational excellence to create tomorrow’s leaders is the driving force behind the Student Success District, a new, four-building constellation that aims to transform the way Wildcats learn.
Spanning nine acres in the heart of campus, the district offers a one-stop destination for everything from math tutoring and high-end digital production to peer-to-peer mentoring and 3D-printing facilities. This new hub includes the Main Library, the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library, iconic Bear Down Gym and the new four-story Bartlett Academic Success Center.
“It’s three existing buildings plus a new building, with all of their services and resources, conceived as one student experience,” says Shan Sutton, dean of University Libraries. “That’s the audacity of this vision — bringing that whole array of ideas into one central location.”
Bartlett is home to the THINK TANK’s innovative academic support. The Thrive Center, where the emphasis is on community building among underrepresented students, is also there. Other district buildings are more familiar — until you take a peek inside.
Bear Down Gym is undergoing a thorough renovation, while painstakingly preserving its historic gym floor, suspended mezzanine bleachers and bow trusses. Soon, it will offer health, academic and career services.
Interior space at the Main and Weaver Libraries has been redesigned with more group areas to encourage collaboration and cutting-edge tech to spur innovation. The renovation process has benefitted from student input throughout. For instance, students tried out sample library furniture and voted for their favorites. “Then we bought those pieces of furniture that our users most enjoyed,” says America Curl ’21, a former student assistant at the library.
Completion of this ambitious project couldn’t come at a better time. “The pandemic has made it clear that holistic support is vital for student success,” says Liesl Folks, senior vice president and provost at UArizona. “The Student Success District demonstrates our commitment to support student success by providing easy access to resources such as academic advising and tutoring, career planning, experiential learning, financial wellness and physical health.
“Additionally, as part of the university’s efforts to drive the value and practice of diversity and inclusion, the Student Success District includes dedicated interfaith and serenity spaces focusing on mental and spiritual health,” she says. “I am very excited to see these facilities coming to life and look forward to witnessing the positive impact they have for our students, now and for years to come.”
That impact of comprehensive, easy-to-access student support services is also being felt by students like Sam Thomas ’19, a forward for the women’s basketball team who was recently named Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She’s working on a master’s degree in educational leadership and credits programs like C.A.T.S. Academics (the name stands for Commitment to an Athlete’s Total Success) for helping her juggle classwork and sports. C.A.T.S. Academics is located east of the district in the Ginny L. Clements Academics Center.
“I was surrounded by so much support,” she says. “I was just able to focus on school and get a 4.0. My academic accomplishments were all because of the help I was able to receive.”
Or students like Ezequiel Jimenez, a political science and Spanish senior, who was the first in his Tucson family to attend college. Jimenez found the THINK TANK’s writing center invaluable. Now he’s giving back by volunteering as a peer mentor at the Thrive Center. To him, combining all those services in one spot is a master stroke.
“That’s why the Success District is really positive,” he says. “Everything a student needs to succeed is really right there.”
Honoring a Supportive Start
The Bartlett Academic Success Center was named in recognition of Patricia and Bruce Bartlett, who made the lead gift to help launch the Student Success District. This gift is one of many the Bartletts have made over the years to initiatives supporting students and the health sciences. The Bartletts are passionate supporters of the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center (SALT), 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.