Unfolding my deck chair … some personal news

Monday, March 26th, 2018

One of my favorite Peanuts comic strips features an exchange between Lucy and Charlie Brown. In her recurring stint as the psychiatrist in the booth offering advice for 10 cents, Lucy suggests that life is like a deck chair on a cruise ship. She explains, “Passengers open up these canvas deck chairs so they can sit in the sun. Some people place their chairs facing the rear of the ship so they can see where they've been. Other people face their chairs forward - they want to see where they're going!” She then asks, “On the cruise ship of life, Charlie Brown, which way is your deck chair facing?”

Charlie Brown replies, "I've never been able to get one unfolded..."

Lucy’s simile is a good reminder of living life and leading with purpose and intention.

Nearly 10 years ago, I moved my deck chair from the private sector to serve our governor with a simple purpose and intention - to help reposition Arizona in the wake of the Great Recession and prepare it for enhanced prosperity into its second century as a state. Recognizing that the success of our state and the people who live here is tied more than ever to educational success, I came to the Arizona Board of Regents to help ensure a vibrant university system for students today and those of tomorrow.

I’m proud of what we have accomplished for our universities since I climbed aboard here five years ago. This has been some of the most rewarding work of my life, knowing that students and our state will benefit for years to come.

Working side by side with regents, our university presidents, our students and countless business, philanthropic and community leaders across Arizona, together we have unified our public universities with a plan that puts students squarely at the center of our work. In doing so, it is no surprise that our outcomes in both quantity and quality continue to increase.

By virtually every measure, these institutions of higher learning are more competitive and successful than ever. Graduation rates are up. So is student success and diversity. Our university campuses are economic hubs for the state, contributing more than $11.1 billion in economic impact and 102,000 jobs in 2015 alone. Tuition growth has slowed, and our financial position has been fortified.

Today, I write to share some personal news: I’ll be leaving ABOR later this year to take some time off before deciding what my next adventure will be.
While we have worked hard to strengthen our universities in the past several years, there is still much work to be done. That is part of life.

Public higher education will continue to face turbulent waters as America continues to search for new education delivery options to reduce costs, expand access and improve student outcomes amidst dwindling public investment. These are some of the most pressing and compelling challenges America faces today. Our state is no different.

I am confident that our universities will meet these important challenges with conviction and clarity. A college degree remains one of the surest routes to job security and higher education is one of our most awesome privileges as Americans.

The people of Arizona can take great pride in our universities, which are among the finest in the world. These universities belong to the people of this state. They are part of our rich history and are fundamental to the growth of our state and the prosperity of future generations.

It has been an enormous honor and privilege to serve you, our students and the public in this role. I will work closely with the board on my transition in the coming months, and then take a little time off before I decide where next to unfold my deck chair.