University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart is among a national group of experts preparing to tackle a number of challenges in higher education today.
The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education – an initiative of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences – was created to address challenges related to declining state funding for public higher education and to assess the role of the federal government in funding public research universities.
The project will focus on the development of new federal, corporate and philanthropic sources of support for public higher education to ensure that public universities can continue to serve as engines of economic development and be accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Hart is a member of project's 25-member advisory board, which includes current and former university presidents, provosts and chancellors; state and federal policymakers; foundation presidents; and corporate, media, and business leaders.
The board will meet for the first time on Oct. 10 at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge, Mass.
"Investment in higher education is critical to our nation's success, and with funding models for our public universities changing as they have, it is imperative for us to look for new and innovative ways to do business," Hart said. "I look forward to participating in this very timely and important discussion about the future of our public research universities."
The Lincoln Project, announced in January, is named for 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, creating the nation's land-grant universities and paving the way for the modern public university system.
"Arizona has been ground zero for state budget cuts to higher education yet our universities have continued to innovate, increase access and affordability, and have pressed for a complete redesign of our funding model in recognition of the critical role our public research universities play in driving our economy," said Eileen Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state's three public universities. "President Hart is a pivotal leader in these endeavors and will be an excellent ambassador for our state and our nation in this important project."
The UA's land-grant mission is at the core of the University's new academic strategic plan, "Never Settle," which offers a contemporary take on the key land-grant tenets of teaching, research and outreach.
"We are bringing our land-grant mission into the 21st century by looking at how we can take its core principles to the next level," Hart said. "We want to do more than just teach our students in the classroom; we want to engage them in hands-on activities that let them experience the real world in real time, and help prepare them for life after graduation. At the same time, we want to see the amazing work of our researchers move from the lab to the marketplace, where it can make a real difference in people's lives. Finally, we want to build strong partnerships with our community wherever we can."
The Lincoln Project is co-chaired by Robert Birgeneau, chancellor emeritus, professor of physics and professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, professor of chemistry and professor of molecular biology.
Coleman said of the project: "Vigorous concerted action to support basic research is paramount in contemporary America. Putting a man on the moon was extraordinary but relatively simple compared with tackling complex problems such as global climate change. Our country can claim 35 of the world’s top 50 research universities, but we face intense competition from other nations that see the economic advantage of strong research universities."
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780, brings together leaders from education, business and government to address critical social challenges. The academy provides nonpartisan policy advice to decision-makers in government, academia and the private sector.