Dr. Andrew Comrie has been serving the University of Arizona as the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost since August of 2012. When asked, what is the role of a Provost? Dr. Comrie responded, “The Provost is the chief academic officer of the institution, responsible for all academic affairs including degree programs and the faculty. The academic departments and the deans of their colleges report to the Provost, who reports directly to the President.” Dr. Comrie began his academic career at the University of Arizona in 1992 as a professor and climatologist in the School of Geography and Development and he says that the role of professor is still his academic identity. This identity and an interest in working with graduate students is what ultimately led him to an opportunity to take a larger leadership role at UA. Prior to becoming Provost, Dr. Comrie worked as the Associate Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College for six years.
This fall, Dr. Comrie and his wife Lee have taken on a new identity at the University of Arizona: parents of a Wildcat. Their oldest daughter Alison is a freshman at UA majoring in neuroscience. With this in mind I asked what insights he had to share as an administrator and parent. Dr. Comrie responded, “College is an outstanding investment although it appears to cost a lot. The single most important way to keep the cost down is to create a plan to finish in four years and stick to it. To succeed, the student must also be interested and committed to his or her success as an independent person and not just there because mom and dad said so. Do suggest that students interact with their professors. Do encourage students to become involved in a few groups to make friends as soon as possible -- it eases the transition, helps students belong, and creates a support network. Resist the parental urge to be too involved -- provide support without being intrusive as our students spread their wings to fly on their own.”
As a member of our teaching faculty, Dr. Comrie was asked what makes the University of Arizona special in regards to its student-professor relationship. He responded, “Our faculty are simply world-class, and we compete with the very best public and private universities to attract and retain them. Because of that, our students have a phenomenal opportunity for a top-notch experience. Students and professors both thrive off common interests, and I encourage all students to seek out opportunities to interact with our professors not only in class but also in labs, on trips, and for mentoring.” For advice on how students can best be prepared, Dr. Comrie advises that students should “ study well, be engaged in class, get help from teaching assistants, friends, tutors, and the professor if you don't understand something, show up for class and turn in assignments on time, and of course, choose your classes well with one or more advisors so that you are doing the right classes for your interests and major.”
In sharing his favorite UA traditions, Dr. Comrie had trouble choosing just one. The list included, hearing the Pride of Arizona Band play after a home football game in Alumni Plaza, wearing red, seeing Wilbur and Wilma. He also loves commencement, “especially the spectacular ceremony (in May 2013) in Arizona Stadium.” Dr. Comrie also enjoys living in Tucson and notes that he enjoys, “the mountains, scenery and sunsets, the marvelous mix of culture, the food, and the "hidden hipness" of this college town of a million people.”
In closing Dr. Comrie was asked what message he would like to share with parents and families of our Wildcats. Dr. Comrie stated, “I am truly proud of the University of Arizona, the people who work here, the excellent education and research that we provide, and of the absolutely amazing achievements of our students and graduates. I like to promise incoming students that, together, we will change their lives. There are few roles more satisfying than helping those students change their own lives and sharing in the discovery of knowledge that enables them to do that. I am honored to be a part of something so important to all of us.”
Having had the opportunity to see Dr. Comrie in action, I would say that we are fortunate to have such a knowledgeable, compassionate and dedicated person serving as our chief academic affairs officer. As you can see he is an advocate for students and wants every Wildcat to have an extraordinary experience at the University of Arizona. I am also excited to report the Dr. Comrie and Lee Comrie have graciously agreed to officially put on their “parent hats” to serve as members of the Parents & Family Association Board.