Roundtable – The State of Higher Education in Arizona E3
Arizona proudly boasts of having some of the best universities and educational institutions in the country, and in the world. Arizona is home to three world-class universities— Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona.
Moderated by Phoenix Business RadioX President Karen Nowicki and Arizona Technology Council CEO Steve Zylstra, the state university presidents, Dr. Rita Cheng of Northern Arizona University, Dr. Michael Crow of Arizona State University and Dr. Robert Robbins of the University of Arizona discussed the state of higher education in Arizona and how COVID-19 has shifted higher education, the university programs that are helping to create a highly skilled workforce, collaborations with the private sector, how each university is working to bring about innovation-based economic development to the state, the relationship between the tech community and the university system, as well as what challenges and opportunities are on the horizon.
Students, educational institutions and faculty have all been tossed into an unprecedented situation during the pandemic. Home to three world-class universities—Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona—the state university presidents shared valuable insight into what the new paradigm will look like to keep students and faculty safe in the fall, as well as discussed the importance of fostering local start-ups and the exciting new innovations coming out of each university.
The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation’s top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the UA is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.
The UA ranked in the top 25 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures.
The UA advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 62 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.
Dr. Robert C. Robbins assumed his position as the 22nd president of the University of Arizona on June 1, 2017. Previously, he served as president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston from 2012 to 2017. In this role, he significantly enhanced TMC’s commitment to collaboration, introducing five cross-institutional research initiatives centered on innovation, genomics, regenerative medicine, health policy and clinical research.
Prior to his time in Houston, Dr. Robbins served as professor and chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, founding director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, president of the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation, president of the Western Thoracic Surgical Association, president of the American Heart Association Western States Affiliate, president of the Bay Area Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and chair of the American Heart Association Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia Council, among other roles. In 2016 he served as president of the American Heart Association Southwest Affiliate.
An internationally recognized cardiac surgeon, Robbins has focused his clinical efforts on acquired cardiac diseases with a special expertise in the surgical treatment of congestive heart failure and cardiothoracic transplantation. His research work includes the investigation of stem cells for cardiac regeneration, cardiac transplant allograft vasculopathy, bioengineered blood vessels, and automated vascular anastomotic devices. Robbins is the author of more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and a former guest editor of the Circulation Surgical Supplement.
In addition to his role at the UA, Dr. Robbins serves on the boards of the Arizona Commerce Authority, Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also a member of the Chairman’s Circle of Sun Corridor, Inc., and a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership. While at TMC, Robbins served on the Houston branch of the Dallas Federal Reserve board, the board of directors of the Welch Foundation, and the American Heart Association Southwest Affiliate in 2016. He served on an independent blue ribbon committee to evaluate the Veterans Affairs health system, and the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston honored him as the 2016 International Citizen of the Year.
His educational background includes a B.S. in chemistry from Millsaps College, medical degree from the University of Mississippi, general surgical training at the University of Mississippi, cardiothoracic training at Stanford University, postdoctoral research at Columbia University and the National Institutes of Health, and congenital heart surgical fellowships at Emory University and Royal Children’s Hospital.
Founded in 1899, Northern Arizona University delivers world-class academic programs for a world-ready generation. In every classroom, top-flight research powers personalized teaching. With a commitment to delivering research-driven curricula and personal attention to our students, NAU provides the college experience, elevated.
NAU has much to be proud of, including nationally ranked programs, high-research status, and emergence as a leader in sustainability, science, business, green building and cultural arts.
Recognized as an institution that has thrived due to strong leadership, the devotion of alumni and faculty and community support, NAU offers more than 150 combined undergraduate and graduate degree programs, all distinguished by an ongoing commitment to close student-faculty relationships.
Dr. Rita Cheng serves as the 16th president of Northern Arizona University. As a first-generation and non-traditional college graduate, Dr. Cheng firmly believes in making higher education accessible and affordable for all students.
Under her leadership, NAU has embarked on an aggressive agenda to thrive in the fast-changing environment of higher education. She has amplified the university’s strengths and set forth a vision of excellence in education through student-centered teaching, a robust research environment, an extensive global engagement program, and inclusive support services focused on success measured through retention and graduation rates.
Prior to NAU, Dr. Cheng served as chancellor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She previously held positions on the faculty and various administrative roles including, provost and vice chancellor, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is internationally recognized for her research in government and nonprofit accounting.
Dr. Cheng earned a Ph.D. in management from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management, where she was recently recognized as one of 100 notable alumni in the school’s 100-year history. She also holds an MBA from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s in business administration with honors from Bishop‘s University in Quebec. Committed to service, Dr. Cheng also serves on a variety of local and national boards.
Arizona State University is a public research university ranked #1 in the U.S. for innovation, dedicated to accessibility and academic excellence. Commonly referred to as ASU, the university is comprised of five campuses across the Phoenix metropolitan area and four regional learning centers throughout Arizona.
One of the largest public universities by enrollment in the country, in 2019 the university had nearly 90,000 students attending classes across its metro campuses, more than 38,000 students attending online, including 83,000-plus undergraduates and more nearly 20,000 postgraduates. The university is organized into 17 colleges, featuring more than 170 cross-discipline centers and institutes.
ASU offers 350 different degree options for undergraduates students, as well as more than 400 graduate degree and certificate programs.
Dr. Michael M. Crow is an educator, knowledge enterprise architect, science and technology policy scholar and higher education leader. He became the sixteenth president of Arizona State University in July 2002 and has spearheaded ASU’s rapid and groundbreaking transformative evolution into one of the world’s best public metropolitan research universities. As a model “New American University,” ASU simultaneously demonstrates comprehensive excellence, inclusivity representative of the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the United States, and consequential societal impact.
Lauded as the ”#1 most innovative” school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, ASU is a student-centric, technology-enabled university focused on complex global challenges related to sustainability, economic competitiveness, social embeddedness, entrepreneurship and global engagement. Under Dr, Crow’s leadership, ASU has established twenty-five new transdisciplinary schools, including the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and launched trailblazing multidisciplinary initiatives including the Biodesign Institute, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and important initiatives in the humanities and social sciences.
About the Show
AZ TechCast is dedicated to covering innovation and technology in Arizona and beyond.
Through the art of connected conversation, AZ TechCast’s guests will share their expertise, success stories, news and analysis about the region’s leading startups, companies and emerging technologies, as well as the latest industry trends and critical issues propelling the state’s growing technology ecosystem.
About Your Hosts
Steve Zylstra serves as president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, a role he assumed in 2007. He is responsible for strategy, operations, finance and policy development. Zylstra is a vocal spokesman for the value technology can provide in raising social and economic standards in Arizona.
Zylstra serves on numerous councils, committees and boards, was named “Leader of the Year, Technology,” by the Arizona Capitol Times, and “Most Admired Leader” by the Phoenix Business Journal. In addition, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science in technology from the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Ariz.
Zylstra earned a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering technology from Western Michigan University.
Karen Nowicki is a successful author, speaker and the creator of Deep Impact Leadership™ and SoulMarks Coaching™. She is a two-time recipient of the prestigious national Choice Award® for her book and personal development retreat. Karen was crowned the first-ever “Mompreneur of the Year” Award in 2010 for the southwestern states. She was recognized for her leadership, business acumen, and work-life balance.
Karen has been an expert guest on regional TV and radio shows, including Fox Phoenix Morning Show, Sonoran Living, Good Morning Arizona, The Chat Room, and Mid-Day Arizona. She has been a regular contributor to many print and online magazines – publishing articles and blogs for business and education.
In addition to working with private coaching clients, Karen is also the Owner & President of Phoenix Business RadioX. The Business RadioX Network amplifies the voice of business – serving the Fortune 500,000, not just the Fortune 500. Phoenix Business RadioX helps local businesses and professional associations get the word out about the important work they’re doing to serve their market, profession, and community.
Of all the experiences Karen has had the privilege of participating in over her vast career, she shares that Phoenix Business RadioX is a pinnacle adventure!
About Our Sponsor
The Arizona Technology Council, Arizona’s only statewide organization serving the technology sector, fosters a climate of innovation to enhance technology in Arizona.
A trusted resource in strengthening Arizona’s technology industry, the Council proactively eliminates impediments that companies face, accelerates the entrepreneurial mindset in the state’s expanding innovation ecosystem, and works to create a destination for companies to be, thrive and stay.