UArizona Alumnus Gives $1M to Enhance Learning Support Services for Students

June 23, 2021

The gift creates an innovative partnership between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques, or SALT, Center.

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Lynn Ketchum College of Agriculture and Life Sciences adviser Serena Valle helps students understand the diversity of career paths within the college's 21 majors.

 

Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will soon have access to additional and expanded services to support their academic success thanks to a $1 million gift from a University of Arizona alumnus.

With support from the gift, the college will partner with the UArizona Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques, or SALT, Center, to provide learning assistance services to students. The college also will hire an additional staff person to provide mental health services to students.

The partnership is the first of its kind at the university and makes it possible for a larger and broader population of students to benefit from the SALT Center's nationally recognized model of support for students who learn differently.

Students typically pay a fee to use the SALT Center's complete suite of services. Through the gift-supported partnership, all CALS students will have access to an embedded SALT Center learning coach, a tiered program of academic coaching and support, and expanded life management counseling at no cost. Additionally, all CALS academic advisers will receive ongoing SALT Center training to recognize students with learning challenges and connect them with additional support.

"The University of Arizona is committed to each and every student's success, no matter what path they took to higher education," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "This partnership between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the SALT Center is an outstanding example of how we ensure every student has access to an integrated support ecosystem and the tools and resources they need to thrive. We are deeply grateful to this alumnus for supporting this innovative initiative, which I am certain will have a transformative impact on current and future Wildcats."

The SALT Center serves students with learning and attention challenges – such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Since its founding in 1980, the SALT Center has been a key player in increasing the graduation rates of students facing learning challenges.

The SALT Center supports hundreds of students. Services include: one-on-one support from peer tutors; access to tech coaches who guide them in the use of educational technology, helping them study more effectively and stay organized; and access to psychological and wellness services. Workshops, social events, career readiness programming and student leadership opportunities are also available to help students get the most out of their Wildcat experience.

"This partnership with the SALT Center will have a transformational and positive impact on student success in CALS," said Shane Burgess, Charles-Sander Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "Thanks to our donor's generosity and vision, CALS students with learning and attention differences will have access to the tools they need to stay on track and graduate prepared to tackle the challenges of the 21st century."

"We are honored to work with the incredible team in CALS to support all students, particularly those who learn differently," said Gabrielle Miller, executive director of the SALT Center. "This partnership exemplifies the power innovative vision and philanthropic leadership can have in supporting student retention."

In addition to funding SALT Center training for CALS advisers, student learning assessments and personalized support for the college's students with learning and attention challenges, the gift will fund a part-time position within CALS to offer mental health and wellness services to the college's students. In September 2019, CALS hired Life Management Counselor Ryan Daily to provide mental health and wellness services to students. It quickly became apparent to college leadership that more than one position was needed to service the needs of students within CALS.

"This donor's generosity is creating a beneficial new university partnership that will improve countless students' lives," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "It's heartwarming to see the care and thoughtfulness that went into the crafting of this gift."

The donor, who asked to remain anonymous, is a native of Southern California who transferred to the University of Arizona in 1966 and earned a bachelor's degree in general agriculture in 1968. The donor's family has been a longtime philanthropic supporter of CALS and has made numerous transformative gifts, making a difference in the lives of students through academic support and a scholarship endowment, Roczniak said.

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