University of Arizona Ranked Top Ten for Highest Enrollment of Peace Corps Fellows

University of Arizona Ranked Top Ten for Highest Enrollment of Peace Corps Fellows

By Corinne Murdock |

According to the Peace Corps, the University of Arizona (UArizona) ranked sixth in the top ten for institutions offering graduate degree financial aid for returned volunteers. UArizona had a total of 48 students enrolled.

UArizona’s ranking was determined by enrollment in the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program: an opportunity for Peace Corps volunteers to receive financial aid for a graduate degree, becoming Coverdell Fellows. Another perk includes the potential to obtain up to three years of an extended noncompetitive eligibility (NCE) status for federal employment, which Peace Corps volunteers normally enjoy for 12 months. NCE status ensures that returned Peace Corps volunteers are given an edge in the hiring process.

Eligible Peace Corps volunteers are those who complete a full two years of service, are given “completion of service” or “interrupted service” status, medically separated, or Response or Global Health Services Partnership Volunteers that complete 12 months of service in a 24-month period.

The other universities ranked in the top ten were as follows, in order: American University, University of Denver, Brandeis University, Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Emory University, John Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, and the Teachers College of Columbia University.

In a press release, Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn explained that these universities put Coverdell Fellows on track to continue their volunteer service while obtaining higher education.  

“We are grateful to partner with these universities to support our returned volunteers as they work toward their academic goals and continue their commitment to lifelong service,” said Spahn. “A graduate degree, in combination with the perspective and skills gained through Peace Corps service, enables returned volunteers to become and inspire our next generation of global leaders.”

UArizona also achieved a similar distinction last February at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ranking 17 out of the top 20. Over 120 universities and colleges across 38 states accommodate Coverdell Fellows, totaling over 200 programs amounting to over 300 graduate and postgraduate degrees.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

University of Arizona Ranks High for Most Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Staff

University of Arizona Ranks High for Most Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Staff

By Corinne Murdock |

The University of Arizona (UArizona) ranked high for its number of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) staff compared with 65 other universities. Arizona State University (ASU) ranked toward the bottom. This data was published in a study by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in D.C.

The data was organized into four categories: the total number of DEI personnel at the university, the ratio of DEI personnel to American Disability Act (ADA) personnel, the average number of DEI personnel per 100 faculty members, and the ratio of DEI personnel to history faculty.

Out of all 65 universities, UArizona ranked #13 for having 59 total DEI personnel, #54 for their nearly two-to-one DEI personnel per ADA faculty ratio, #19 for their average number of nearly 4 DEI personnel per 100 faculty members, and #7 for their over two-to-one DEI personnel/History faculty ratio.

By comparison, ASU ranked #49 for having 28 total DEI personnel, #63 for their one-to-one DEI/ADA personnel ratio, #58 for their average number of two DEI personnel per 100 faculty members, and #48 for their one-to-one DEI personnel/History faculty ratio.

The Heritage Foundation only catalogued the 65 universities within the Power 5 conferences – those athletic conferences with the nation’s top football programs – which is why they didn’t include Northern Arizona University (NAU).

In a summary report of the data, The Heritage Foundation found that the average university sampled had more than 45 people with formal DEI promotion goals, 4.2 times more DEI staff than student disability accommodation staff, 1.4 times more DEI staff than professors in corresponding history departments, and 3.4 people working to promote DEI for every 100 tenured or tenure-track faculty members.

Three schools nabbed the number-one ranking for their number of DEI personnel. The University of Michigan (UM) earned two number one slots for having 163 DEI personnel total, nearly 15 DEI personnel for every one ADA faculty member. New York’s Syracuse University (SU) earned a number one slot for having over 7 DEI personnel per 100 faculty members. Lastly, Georgia Tech (GT) earned a number one slot for having over 3 DEI personnel for every history faculty member.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Professor’s Underwater Tent Invention To Appear On Shark Week

Professor’s Underwater Tent Invention To Appear On Shark Week

An underwater tent co-invented by a University of Arizona professor will be featured during the Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week this month.

Dubbed the Ocean Space Habitat, the portable inflatable tent allows occupants to essentially camp out underwater. Co-invented by UArizona professor Winslow Burleson and professional diver Michael Lombardi, the tent will be featured in the episode “The Great Hammerhead Stakeout,” which airs July 18 on Discovery+.

Burleson is a professor and director of research for the School of Information in the UArizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and has a joint appointment in the university’s Health Sciences Design Program. Burleson, who is also a member of the university’s BIO5 Institute, helped develop the technology for the tent when he was a professor at New York University.

“(The University of Arizona’s) Ocean Space Habit research collaborations are expanding what is possible and feasible in a broad range of underwater environments, ranging from coral reefs studies and novel fisheries to human robot collaborative teams and planetary analogue missions,” Burleson said. “Airing first-of-its-kind hammerhead research on Shark Week is certainly one of the highlights to date.”

The tent provides a relatively dry and protected space underwater for divers to enter, remove their equipment and carry out tasks before returning to the surface. The high-tech habitat provides a place for deep sea divers to decompress after deep scientific dives and for medical treatments to be administered for decompression sickness in remote locations. It also gives divers the ability to engage in long-term observations of wildlife behavior and to conduct science experiments before surfacing. The tent system is highly portable and can provide adequate life support to two occupants through an overnight stay.

Multiple experimental deployments of the tent have occurred since 2011, and the platform is now emerging as a viable scientific tool.

“The underwater value is analogous to a backpacking excursion – we certainly learn more from an overnight in the environment than a short walk in the park. That step has not yet been taken in the underwater world in an affordable and accessible way for the masses,” Lombardi said.

Burleson is a social inventor with expertise in human computer interaction and the learning sciences. He previously served as principal investigator for the NSF Experiential Supercomputing: A Transdisciplinary Research and Innovation Holodeck grant. He has authored more than 100 scholarly articles, holds 11 patents and twice received Time magazine’s Top Inventions of the Year Awards.

Arizona Board Of Regents Agree With Auditor General Finding Of Failure To Provide Adequate Oversight

Arizona Board Of Regents Agree With Auditor General Finding Of Failure To Provide Adequate Oversight

By B. Hamilton |

The Arizona Board of Regents has agreed “with all the findings,” the Auditor General reached in a recent performance audit related to Arizona’s state universities’ failure to consistently follow its guidelines.

The Arizona Board of Regents also agreed that it failed to provide adequate oversight of the universities.

On Thursday, June 3 the Arizona Auditor General released the second in a series of three audit reports on the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) as part of the organization’s mandatory sunset review.

The audit looked at whether ABOR’s guidelines governing university-affiliated organizations, such as university foundations and alumni associations, were consistent with recommended practices and the extent to which the universities complied with these guidelines.

The bottom line, according to the Auditor General: “The universities have not consistently followed ABOR’s guidelines governing university relationships with affiliated organizations, limiting full transparency and accountability for some university resources provided to and the benefits received from these organizations, nor did ABOR regularly receive information on affiliated organization activities.”
The Auditor General’s report includes the following findings:

• ABOR defines affiliated organizations as legally separate nonprofit corporations that hold economic resources and carry out activities primarily in support of the universities; and the State’s 3 universities have established relationships with 19 affiliated organizations, including fundraising foundations, real estate organizations, and alumni associations.

• In fiscal year 2019, the universities’ affiliated organizations made $253.5 million in payments to benefit the universities for various purposes, including donations and scholarships, and the universities paid $102.8 million to their affiliated organizations for various purposes, including service fees, real estate debt service, and expense reimbursements.

• Universities lacked current agreements and complete documentation and disclosure of some transactions with some of their affiliated organizations, limiting their ability to demonstrate the public purpose of university resources provided to these organizations and hold them accountable for providing expected benefits and agreed-upon services.

• ABOR’s affiliated organization guidelines lack some requirements to ensure full transparency and accountability and ABOR has not explicitly overseen universities’ compliance with its guidelines.

• ABOR has not required universities to report information it needs to identify, monitor, and mitigate risks associated with affiliated organization activities such as mismanagement, investment losses, and fraud.

The issues of ABOR have been ongoing. In July of 2019, the Arizona Attorney General filed a lawsuit against ABOR and Arizona State University (ASU) alleging violations of Arizona’s constitutional gift clause, and in October of 2019, the Arizona Auditor General released an audit that describes similar issues.

The Arizona Attorney General alleged that ABOR and ASU violated Arizona’s constitutional gift clause when they gifted Omni Hotel almost 37 million dollars upfront in discounted property valuations, paying for a parking garage, and paying an additional $19.5 million to build a conference center where ASU was only contracted to use 7 days per year.

The Arizona Attorney General’s records also indicated that ASU valued the property, located at the corner of Mill and University, at $85 per square foot, yet across the street, the Hilton Canopy paid $212 per square feet.

The courts, though, rejected the Attorney Generals’ arguments on the matter.

In the most recent audit, the Arizona Auditor General states that still “Universities have not consistently documented and disclosed some affiliated organization transactions, limiting full transparency and accountability, and ABOR has not explicitly overseen university compliance with its guidelines.”

This is after a response from ABOR in October of 2019, stating that due to the policies being revised in December 2018, they had not had the chance to implement the new policies effectively. Now, with the new audit, ABOR has agreed to implement the recommendations by the Auditor General.

According to the 2019 audit, the Campus Research Corporation (CRC) spent an estimated $38.1 million without written approval due to the UA not being able to demonstrate written approval from the UA president for the CRC’s budget and, instead, relied on the CRC’s Board of Directors to approve its own budget. The CRC also, contrary to the master lease agreements, inappropriately advanced $3.9 million generated at one property to another property, including approximately $1 million that the CRC advanced to the other property in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 instead of paying rent to the UA.

In 2019, ABOR had entered into 3 master lease agreements with the CRC, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization affiliated with UA to operate, manage, and sublease ABOR properties.

The UA also failed to retain records of its public activities related to overseeing ABOR’s master lease agreements with CRC, contrary to public records laws.

ABOR continues to lack comprehensive property information to independently oversee and manage the use of its properties. As of May 2019, ABOR did not maintain a complete list of all property that it owns, although its policy requires the universities to maintain some information on ABOR properties they use. A review of the Arizona county assessors’ and treasurers’ records identified 1,127 parcels in Arizona potentially owned by ABOR and compared this information to property listings the universities provided.

Findings indicate that NAU’s listing did not include a 23-acre parcel listed on the county assessor records as ABOR-owned and included 8 acres of property for which it could not demonstrate ABOR’s ownership; UA’s listing included 255 acres of property ABOR never owned and nearly 83 acres that ABOR had sold; and ASU’s listing was limited to its commercial properties, which is only a portion of ABOR properties ASU uses.

The Auditor General found that “Although the universities have developed processes for mitigating the risk of inaccurate property ownership information, ABOR’s lack of comprehensive property information limits its ability to oversee and manage the use of its properties.”