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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Q&A: New regent sees issues, opportunity

Regent Designee Jay Heiler was announced as the newest member of the Arizona Board of Regents earlier this month. Heiler worked developing policy in the Arizona state government and is the founder and chairman of the board of the Great Hearts Academies, a charter school network in Phoenix. Heiler will replace current regents board chair Fred DuVal in January 2012.

*Daily Wildcat: Why were you interested in becoming a regent? *

Jay Heiler: I was interested because I really believe the state university system is right up there with key institutions of Arizona serving people of the state well, attracting talent and for simply providing a college education solution to people raising families. In tandem with the K through 12 system, they have more to do with the arc of Arizona’s future than anything else. It’s a lot of work to be a member. It’s a long 8-year appointment. But to me, there’s no more important work.

What do you think are some of the main challenges facing the Arizona university system?

There is a list of big challenges. They have to figure out a way to secure sustained funding support into the future that allows them to execute their mission. They need to refine the mission in terms of each university itself and what it seeks to be truly excellent in and how all three will operate together, collectively. And then there’s always the challenge of change. They are all going to have to effectively manage change. In my view, if it’s not broken, fix it anyway. Constantly improve, try to get better every year. Strive to do what you do with a higher level of excellence. It’s hard for any institution, especially hard for large institutions.

What perspective or viewpoints do you bring to the board?

Some of them arise from my experience, most notably is that I would like to make the university system more actively involved in continuing to improve our K through 12 education system throughout the state. There could be some really good synergy there. I don’t want to begin with any concrete, unmovable ideas regarding how to do that, but I plan on working with university leaders during next few years on that. Universities are affected by the graduates in the state K through 12 system. That’s one perspective I bring. Another one is that of a parent. I have five children. Two are in the university system and three will follow, most likely in the state university system.

I have the perspective of someone who’s raised a family in Arizona. I also came to Arizona 33 years ago for the university system. I view the universities as critical in building the future of our state. They will also have much to do with how many bright, gifted people we have in Arizona and how many we can attract.

Do you have any other areas you want to focus on while on the board?

My view is that the most important thing for universities is once they’ve clarified collectively and individually their missions for the foreseeable future, they have to be provided resources to attract talent to execute them. And then good things are going to happen.

We need to put resources in hands of talent. If you get that wrong, it won’t matter what else you get right. I’m interested in what the universities can do in terms of attracting the most talented people in the U.S. in their disciplines to be here, and not only for the purpose of research, but the benefit of undergraduate education.

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