Thursday, August 11, 2016
I have been a member of this board for nearly 18 years now. Earlier this year, I filed paperwork for getting re-elected, but without enthusiasm. I would run only if no well-qualified candidate stepped forward. I would rather focus my life on my new job, restrict my college activities to forming better industry and customer connections to educational institutions, and of course, advocating for higher expectations and high-return-on-investment programs.Stewart will remain on the board through the end of the year. For more information about the state of the college and other candidates for the board, see our cover story on the college from April.
I asked a number of individuals I respect to keep their eyes open for such a person and a highly qualified candidate did step up. I am pleased to have helped Meredith Hay getting signatures on her nominating petition, and getting my friends and supporters to help her as well. Indeed, all of my petition efforts went for her campaign instead of my own.
She is extraordinarily well qualified and sees the higher education landscape in ways not too unlike mine, but I believe her experience, reputation, and communication style will be able to obtain better results.
Meredith Hay is probably best known in Tucson as the former Executive Vice President and Provost (chief academic officer) at the University of Arizona from 2008 – 2012 and while in that role she also served as Special Advisor to Chair of the Arizona Board of Regents for Strategic Initiatives.
She is also President of ProNeurogen, Inc., a biotechnology company here in Tucson while also currently a tenured professor in Physiology at the U of A. In addition, she serves on the Board of Trustees of San Miguel High School, one of my two favorite K-12 institutions.
Through both her business experience and her higher education experience, she understands the importance of improving education at all levels and how those levels interact. She has a good understanding of what businesses want from Pima graduates and understands what is required of Pima College students to hit the ground running when they transfer to the U of A.
We live in an era of declining resources, and that means we have to face tough choices, and tough choices come with controversy and pushback. Dr. Hay had to deal with much of that while Provost at the UA as well.
I still have my concerns about the incoming side of the supply chain and the number of under-prepared, sometimes severely under-prepared, students coming to Pima. While we must take them, I believe we also have to make sure that we preserve and keep affordable those high-value programs that lead to well-paying jobs that can grow our local economy such as our Aviation program – a program recognized as strong enough to attract employers, Pima County’s most endangered species. Without a healthier private sector economy, there won’t be the tax revenue to support all the other programs people say they want.
Pima College is a government institution and our government institutions often disappoint us. However, I still believe Pima is more of a part of the solution than it is a part of the problem. I love this place and what you do. I truly do. I just think it can do more to improve the educational standing of Pima County. I don’t claim to have gotten everything right, but I have tried my best to create dynamics that push in the right direction.
While Pima has made progress fixing internal problems and addressing fundamental issues in education, I wish I could tell you that all is now sunshine and rainbows at Pima College. I cannot. Pima still has a significant distance to go. The more we peel back the onion, the more problems we find, some of them seemingly built into the DNA of the institution.
As I said 6 years ago, the college will face increasing challenges, many of them financial. The state legislature has ceased funding urban community colleges. Making sound choices about what to keep, what to shed, and what to change will be more pressing than ever.
While Chancellor Lambert is doing an excellent job cleaning up problems and positioning the college for the future, there are some whose interests are served by keeping the college as a low-expectations institution. He will need strong board members and strong engaged community leaders who will stand with him as he tries to transform the institution into the high-functioning organization the citizens of Pima County need it to be.
I firmly believe Dr. Hay is such a strong board member and she has my full support.