The University of Arizona

The University of Arizona (UA or U of A) is a land-grant and space-grant public institution of higher education and research located about one mile northeast of downtown Tucson, Arizona. The UA offers 334 fields of study leading to bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees. The university maintains a complete list of colleges and schools at A degree search tool is available online at UA faculty and programs are among the nation’s best in such diverse areas as applied mathematics, analytical chemistry, engineering, entrepreneurship, dance, philosophy, Middle Eastern Studies, landscape architecture, photography, geosciences, astronomy, optics, pharmacy, and medicine.

UA was the first university in Arizona, founded in 1885 by the Arizona Territorial Legislature 27 years before the Arizona Territory achieved statehood. (Arizona State University was also chartered in 1885, but it was originally established as Arizona’s normal school – a teacher’s college, not a university). Because there were no high schools in Arizona Territory, the UA maintained separate preparatory classes for its first 23 years of operation.

UA classes initially began in 1891 with 32 students in the Old Main building. Located at the heart of campus, Old Main is a treasured historic icon that is still in use to this day (although it’s currently undergoing renovation and preservation). Today, total UA enrollment is nearly 40,000 students on a campus of 380 acres.

There are 179 buildings on the main campus, the oldest of which are located near Old Main. Most of the early buildings, including Centennial Hall (originally called The Auditorium) and the Arizona State Museum buildings (one of them the 1927 library), were designed by Roy Place, a prominent Tucson architect. It was his use of red brick that set the tone for the design of all UA buildings, even those built in recent decades. A grassy expanse called The Mall stretches from Old Main to the eastern border of campus. Just outside UA’s Main Gate are many retail shops dating from the 1920s.

UA’s new Student Union Memorial Center, opened in 2003, is the largest student union in the U.S. not affiliated with a hotel. The $60 million student union has 405,000 square feet of space on four levels – including a computer lab, game room, lounges, meeting rooms, grand ballroom, U.S. Post Office, Fast Copy/FedEx, Wells Fargo bank, U-Mart convenience store, food court (with such national restaurant chains as Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, Panda Express, and Papa John’s Pizza), and a two-story bookstore. The UA bookstore carries a variety of merchandise including textbooks, school supplies, apparel, gifts, fiction/nonfiction titles, bestsellers, children’s/young adult books, technology, and more. The bookstore also has a Clinique cosmetics counter, a Staples office supplies outlet, and a Starbucks.

The Student Union building was designed in memory of the USS Arizona. The clock tower houses a bell rescued from the battleship after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The bell is rung seven times on the third Wednesday of every month at 12:07 pm – symbolic of the ship’s sinking on December 7, 1941. The Rotunda, a spiraling stairway reaching three stories upwards, features four giant relief sculptures, each honoring a branch of the military. Water trickles from a pool down two giant anchor chains to the lower level where plaques list the individual names of UA students and alumni lost in World War II, Vietnam, and the Korean War. (An older memorial dating back to 1919 can be found at the west entrance of Old Main, where the Berger Memorial Fountain honors UA students who lost their lives in World War I.)

UA is classified as a Carnegie Foundation “RU/VH” (very high research activity university), formerly “Research 1” university. The National Science Foundation ranks UA 16th among public universities, and 26th among all universities nationwide in research funding. UA is the only university from the state of Arizona to join the prestigious Association of American Universities, an organization of premier public and private research institutions. Membership in AAU is by invitation only, in recognition of a high quality of academic research.

UA’s medical research focuses on some of the most pressing concerns of mankind: cancer, neurological disorders, heart disease, and diabetes. The UA College of Medicine, the only MD-granting medical school in the state, is home to the first Medical Simulation Laboratory in Arizona. The University Medical Center, a facility consistently ranked among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, has a long history of pioneering medical achievements including the world’s first artificial wrist (1974), Arizona’s First Heart Transplant (1979), and Arizona’s First Double-Lung Transplant (1993). More recently, UA physician researchers developed the Continuous Chest Compression CPR method (2003).

The UA is awarded more NASA grants for space exploration than any other university nationally. Students and faculty in the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory have actively shaped Mars missions, and the instantly famous image of the Curiosity Rover’s descent on August 5, 2012, was taken by a UA-operated camera. UA is also a member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. This consortium of institutions operates observatories and telescopes, notably Kitt Peak National Observatory located just outside of Tucson, and Mount Graham Observatory near Safford, Arizona.

UA’s Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory (SOML) has pioneered new techniques of large mirror production, and researchers in the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab at UA are working on the world’s most advanced telescope. Known as the Giant Magellan Telescope, the instrument will produce images ten times sharper than those from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Telescope. The mirrors of the Giant Magellan Telescope will be built on the UA campus and transported to a mountaintop site in the Chilean Andes where the telescope will be constructed.The telescope is set to be completed in 2016.

The UA manages Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. In addition, much of the main UA campus has been designated an arboretum. Plants from around the world are labeled along a self-guided plant walk. Two herbaria are also located on the campus, along with a controlled environment agricultural greenhouse laboratory. In June 2011, the UA assumed full ownership of Biosphere 2, which had been privately constructed for an early 1990s experiment to test the feasibility of self-sustaining space-colonization technology. The scientific research facility contains a rainforest, ocean, and four other biomes in a 3.14-acre living laboratory.

The UA campus features several world-class museums. The UA Mineral Museum (est. 1892) houses one of the best mineral and meteorite collections in the world with over 26,000 specimens. The Arizona State Museum (est. 1893) is the oldest anthropology museum in the region, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and the world’s largest collection of Southwest American Indian pottery and basketry. The Museum of Art exhibits European and American art from the Renaissance to the present. The Pharmacy Museum displays over 60,000 artifacts from historic Arizona pharmacies. The UA Poetry Center is the nation’s largest “open shelf” collection of contemporary poetry. The Center for Creative Photography contains key collections of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and other great 20th century photographers. UA’s Flandrau Science Center offers free, public astronomy programs in southern Arizona’s only Planetarium Theater.

The UA is home to more than 500 philanthropic, multi-cultural, social, athletic, academic, and student clubs and campus organizations as well as over 40 fraternity and sorority chapters, of which approximately 10% of UA students are members. In addition, the UA’s performing arts center presents outstanding student performances in music, dance and theater. Sierra magazine listed the UA at 24th place in its “cool schools” ranking based on the overall availability and type of co-curricular activities, education quality, research activities, dining options, carpooling, alternative transportation, energy efficiency, and other sustainability measures.

U.S. News ranks the UA among America’s Best Colleges, and the Princeton Review lists the UA as one of “The Best Western Colleges.” While nearly 72% of students are from Arizona, UA students hail from all states in the U.S. The UA also has over 2,200 international students representing 122 countries, comprising approximately 6% of the total enrollment at UA. UA students have been selected as Truman, Rhodes, Goldwater, and Fulbright Scholars. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, UA is among the top 25 producers of Fulbright awards in the U.S.

The UA Honors College provides over 3,000 students with a smaller community feel, like that of a liberal arts college within a larger research institution. Each honors student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and complete 30 credit hours of honors credit by graduation. To complete these credit hours, students may take courses specifically designated as honors at the UA or may turn a regular course into an honors course through the use of an honors contract. In addition, they must collaborate with a faculty member and write an honors thesis before graduating with honors.

Although UA is considered a “selective” university by U.S. News and World Report, UA has always considered homeschool applicants as attractive candidates for admission. According to the Arizona Daily Wildcat (May 3, 2004), UA President Peter Likins argued against implementing a minimum SAT requirement for homeschoolers. He noted that homeschoolers are already admitted at extremely high rates, citing the previous year when the university admitted 20 of its 24 homeschooled applicants – well above normal admission percentages. “Send them our way,” the President declared. “We love our homeschoolers.” Homeschooled students are considered on the basis of a course transcript/portfolio, SAT/ACT scores, and other factors such as leadership, service, work history, extracurricular activities, unique life experiences and personal achievements.

For over 125 years, the UA has been extending continuing education resources to non-traditional students in the state and beyond. The UA offers correspondence learning for nearly 147 undergraduate and graduate courses through their Outreach College program. For high-school age students who are homeschooling, the UA offers more than 120 high school courses. UA reaches out to homeschoolers, saying: “We have the courses you need. Your child can receive a quality education with homeschooling. Many parents have watched their children thrive with homeschooling and say the one-on-one interaction builds self-esteem.” Anyone may enroll in UA self-paced open-entry high school courses, no transcripts necessary. You receive nine months to complete each course. All tests are proctored, but if you live outside Arizona, there are procedures you can follow to take your tests in a proctored environment. Click here for a list of outreach courses:

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