AIC opens doors to first students

By Jason A. Vrtis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 23, 1996

History was made yesterday as the inaugural class of the Arizona International Campus of the UA began its first day of classes after attending a special ceremony held in its honor.

Amid reporters, cameramen and a throng of guests scrambling for spots against the wall, students began their first class at 11 a.m.

Celestino Fern'ndez, executive vice president and provost of AIC, welcomed the inaugural faculty, 45 students, their families and members of the community to the opening ceremonies.

Included in the group were University of Arizona President Manuel Pacheco; George Garcia, superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District; Republican Winifred Hershberger, state representative from District 12; and Democrat Marion Pickens, state representative from District 14.

"It is going to be an exciting and challenging year for us all," Fern'ndez said. "I am pleased with our first class and our founding faculty. They've chosen to be part of our campus because they value the individualized education, interdisciplinary approach and student-centered learning we offer here."

In front of an audience of about 120 people, Pacheco told AIC's students and faculty that it should be an honor to be in the campus' first class. He said the honor also gives the students a responsibility to help the campus improve throughout their education and beyond.

Joseph Coyle, director of human resources at Hughes Missile Systems Co., also spoke and presented Fern'ndez with a check for $50,000 that will be used to buy all AIC charter students laptop computers to use while they attend AIC.

Fern'ndez read a letter from Arizona Regent John Munger, honoring and congratulating AIC's students and faculty.

Fern'ndez, Pacheco and Marco Lopez, AIC's first student, participated in an informal ribbon-cutting ceremony, but Fern'ndez said AIC will hold its official inauguration in December.

"The students and personnel here should be applauded for their courage to take a risk with this new, nontraditional form of education," said Anna Jolivet, a member of AIC's Community Advisory Committee, in a speech prior to the ribbon cutting.

AIC's first class includes 42 students from Arizona, two students from out of state and one international student from Beijing, Fern'ndez said. AIC has seven founding faculty members.

Of the 45 students, 12 of them live in residence halls on the UA's main campus and commute by shuttle, Fern'ndez said.

Fern'ndez said he expects enrollment to reach 1,000 students in five years.

"The Board of Regents has capped enrollment at 5,000, so it will always have a smaller flavor to it," Fern'ndez said.

And the "smaller flavor" and international focus attracted both students and parents.

"I think one of the biggest advantages here is being one of only 45 students," said Gabe Blanco, an AIC freshman and Salpointe High School graduate. "You know you are going to get individual attention."

Chris Cabrera, an AIC freshman and also a Salpointe graduate, was also impressed with AIC's student-to-faculty ratio.

"I really sense that the faculty is motivated to teach, and I think that will benefit everyone," Cabrera said.

Sharon Brawner, whose son, Trey Sealy, is attending AIC, said the international focus is important.

"I was initially intrigued by the international campus," Brawner said. "I have often seen the importance for students to learn a foreign language and become more globally aware."

AIC houses seven classrooms, a computer lab, a library and a bookstore on the first floor of the IBM "signature" building, Building 40. The classrooms offer Internet connections that allow all the students to tap in with their computers, and the library will be connected to the UA's SABIO database.

Wildcat photo editor Adam F. Jarrold contributed to this report.