The UA's Standing Pledge to Serve

Aug. 30, 2012

In the context of the UA's land-grant mission, what does it mean to work in partnership with communities beyond campus in ways meant to aid in development and growth?

It means being in persistent communication with communities and both organized and informal groups in a way meant to be responsive to community-based needs. But communication is not enough. The mission evokes the need for timely and relevant community-based sponsored projects that directly address needs.

Consider, for example, the work of those within the both the UA James E. Rogers College of Law and the Eller College of Management.

Law faculty oversee clinical programs where students, under the supervision of professors or professionals in the field, address veteran rights, civil rights and the preservation of tribal lands, among other demands. Also, the college collaborates with Eller to offer the Business Law Program, which assists regional business owners and members of nonprofits around issues such as finance, economics and litigation.

"Service to the citizens and communities of Arizona has been a hallmark of the College of Law’s 97-year history," said Lawrence Ponoroff, the College of Law dean. "Our history is grounded in the concept of professionalism and service to Arizona, and while we have served this mission with distinction, there is always more to do. The land-grant mission continues to reflect our commitment to improving the lives of others, with law as our primary tool."

Also at the UA's business school, offerings include Eller's executive education and economic development program, which are designed to support entrepreneurs beyond the UA. As such, the programs help business developers and leaders to improve their ideas and their output.

Another strong example of a college deeply invested in the community is the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, or CALA, where members of the Drachman Institute engage students and faculty in outreach projects directly in response to community-based needs.

"As a campus leader in community engagement, CALA advances the university’s historic land grant mission through design and planning assistance to diverse communities throughout the state of Arizona," said Janice A. Cervelli, CALA's dean, who added that an emphasis on interdisciplinary, applied engagement is part of the college's mission. 

"The college often leads the University in outreach activities as the disciplines and professions of architecture, landscape architecture and planning have direct impact on the communities they serve," Cervelli said.

Of note, CALA's students, faculty and staff work at a regional level, collaborating with neighborhoods, builders, developers and other partners on designing affordable housing, producing prototypes of energy-efficient structures and designing conservation-conscious housing. CALA affiliates also rely on grants to help plan features like parks and walkways and also facilitate workshops about healthy living for low-income neighborhoods. 

And CALA's new downtown facility will "serve as a 21st century urban counterpart to the UA's traditional agricultural experiment station," Cervelli said, noting the collaborative Sustainable City Project.

In a partnership between CALA, the UA’s Institute of the Environment and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the project will develop community-based solutions to complex urban challenges like renewable energy, climate change, economic development, public health and affordable housing, Cervelli said.

"UA Downtown also serves as a forum where academic, civic, cultural, and business leaders can meet to discuss sustainability scenarios for the future of Tucson and Southern Arizona," she added. "The facility embraces Tucson and Arizona in the creation of a 'communiversity' – a laboratory for the development and testing of design and planning strategies that envision urban sustainability, engage a diverse public with decision making tools and also sets into motion the regulatory environment and public services to enable that vision."

Thus, the land-grant mission offers a promise and a pledge to communities that the UA will continue to be embedded in the community or, as Cervelli noted, offering to stand as a "professional service to the community."

Photography by Patrick McArdle and Norma Jean Gargasz of UANews