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It was in 1885 that the Thirteenth Territorial Legislature founded The University of Arizona with an appropriation of $25,000 -- but no land. This appropriation was not welcomed by many residents of Tucson and Pima County, as they were looking for either the state capitol, a prison, or even an asylum for the insane -- but definitely not a University.

The money was conditional on the community providing a suitable site. Just before the $25,000 was to be returned to the Legislature, two gamblers and a saloon-keeper donated 40 acres of land "way out east of town," and thus the University could become a reality. Classes began in 1891 with 32 students and six teachers, all accommodated in one building. The original building, Old Main, is still in use, housing student services. The first class graduated in 1895 when three students received their degrees.

Since the mid-20th century, The University of Arizona has continuously offered credit courses, as well as degree programs, in the Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca community. Course and program offerings date to a time before the establishment of Cochise Community College in Douglas in 1964. Lower-division, upper-division, and graduate courses were offered until the formation of the Sierra Vista Campus of Cochise College in the late 1970’s. Since that time, The University of Arizona efforts in Sierra Vista have focused on upper-division and graduate courses, with selected lower-division classes offered occasionally when community needs could not be met by Cochise College. Classes were held in donated space in the Army Education Center until 1990, when shifting community demands precipitated a move for most classes to space rented from the Sierra Vista Public Schools. Classes offered in Sierra Vista did not receive state support and were run on a "pay-as-you-go basis."

The Division of Continuing Education maintained responsibility for classes in Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca through its Tucson offices until the early 1980’s. A local program coordinator was hired who staffed an office at the Fort Huachuca Army Education Center in the mornings and a storefront office in Sierra Vista in the afternoons. In 1987, Cochise College’s student services area in Sierra Vista became the new afternoon home of the program coordinator. Classes were still self-support taught by part-time faculty approved by the home departments in Tucson. Some of the faculty were from the local community, but most commuted once a week to teach evening classes.

In fall 1984, Fort Huachuca was electronically connected to classrooms on the Tucson Campus via a direct microwave transmission path between the Harvill Building and the Army Education Center. This live connection made it possible to offer the masters degree in electrical and computer engineering, and other specialized certification programs and classes. This microwave link was built by the military without state expenditures and represented a federal commitment of over $250,000. In 1992, responsibility for maintaining the equipment was transferred to the University.

The Sierra Vista Program Center was made an official Off-Campus Center by the Arizona Board of Regents beginning fall 1988. This designation provided state funding to expand services, add a director and staff, and most importantly, hire the first permanent faculty assigned to Sierra Vista. Offices and 2 classrooms were rented in Sierra Vista for new staff and faculty at 2500 E. Fry Boulevard. The microwave-receiving site was moved from Fort Huachuca to one of the Sierra Vista classrooms. Additional classrooms were rented from the Sierra Vista Public Schools./p>

On March 9, 1995, the Arizona Board of Regents voted unanimously to designate the Sierra Vista Campus as an official branch campus of The University of Arizona. This designation allowed The University of Arizona Sierra Vista to request separate funding from the Arizona Legislature in 1996 to expand the degree programs and services available to students in southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

Several important developments occurred in 1999. In April, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a new name, The University of Arizona South. This change was in recognition of the expansion of responsibilities throughout southern Arizona, particularly the establishment of an office in Douglas through a partnership with the Mayor and City of Douglas. Also, the Arizona Legislature appropriated and the governor approved $4.25 million to construct the Academic/Technology Building to house classrooms, a Learning Resource Center, and offices.

In the fall of 2002, UA South began a new partnership with the East Campus of Pima Community College and the Vail School District. This year was also distinguished as the first time UA South was federally designated as an eligible Hispanic Serving Institution. In fall 2003, Cochise College assumed responsibility for providing classes and degree programs to Santa Cruz County with the establishment of a center in Nogales. UA South anticipates partnering with Cochise College in Nogales to provide baccalaureate programs.

A $530,700 CCAMPIS Grant was awarded to UA South in September 2002, to establish an Early Learning Center to serve the needs of students, staff, faculty, and the community. UA South is also partnering with Cochise College on a $3,077,000 Title V Grant to improve baccalaureate completion rates among Hispanic students.

During the summer of 2003, UA South reached a landmark in its development. Under the auspices of the Arizona Board of Regents’ Changing Directions and the University of Arizona’s Focused Excellence initiative, UA South’s faculty received authority to develop and implement curriculum and degree programs unique to UA South, enabling faculty to respond more creatively to community and regional needs. In 2004, the University South Foundation opened the Patterson Observatory, designed to be a research venue for local astronomers, a resource for K-graduate students and educators, and a public viewing site for the community.

The "traditional" student at UA South has been, and continues to be, the "new traditional" student, returning to school with work and family responsibilities. To meet the needs of these students, most UA South classes are offered in late afternoon or evening sessions, one day per week. Classes are held on the UA South Campus in Sierra Vista, at the Douglas Office (1997), at the Arizona Folklore Facility (2002), Pima Community College East Campus (2003), in the Vail School District (2003), at the UA South Science and Technology Park (2006), and other locations throughout Cochise and Pima counties.

Careful articulation allows students to complete all lower-division degree requirements through the "2 + 2" program with any in-state community college and upper-division requirements through UA South.