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Deans named co-chairs of Robbins Strategic Planning Initiative

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Rebecca Noble

President Dr. Robert Robbins speaks during a press conference at the UA College of Medicine Phoenix on March 7. 

University of Arizona President Dr. Robert Robbins has chosen Elliot Cheu and Lisa Ordóñez to co-chair his strategic planning initiative. The decision was announced Monday, Dec. 4 in an email sent out to the university.

Cheu and Ordóñez have been at UA for over twenty years. However, they recently started working as deans.

Cheu serves as the associate dean of the College of Science in which he oversees academics for the college. He feels that this and his research side has prepared him for this role because he’s always thinking about students. 

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“From my research side, it’s just the fact that I think about how do we make the best experience for students at the University of Arizona,” Cheu said. “And I believe that research background, and getting students involved in genuine, authentic research experiences is very important aspect of their education.” 

Ordóñez currently serves as the vice dean for Eller College of Management. Having been in the position for three years, she says her work in that position is connected to strategic planning. 

“Myself working concert with our dean, we have to implement a plan for our college to make sure we’re going the right way,” Ordóñez said. “That we’re teaching our students the right way, that we’re providing enough resources and enough staff and all in alignment.” 

Ordóñez recently finished working on a new strategic plan for Eller College with new dean Paulo Goes. Combined with her three years as vice dean of Eller, she feels experienced in this area. 

“The things that I’ve been doing for the last three years have particularly suited me for this role because I’ve had to do this at a college level, so now I’m taking it up to the university level,” Ordóñez said. 

Robbins’ announcement noted that “both have deep relationships and longstanding ties” to UA, which have been “cultivated over their more than 20-year careers with the University.” 

According to Cheu, both have worked together in the past. They even had similar responses when they heard that the other was being considered for the role. 

“When I heard her name, I said ‘oh that’s a great choice,” Cheu said. “And she said the same thing.”

For Ordóñez, an important part of the planning process will be thinking about the future and preparing UA students to strive. 

“What I can bring is letting those bold ideas come through,” Ordóñez said. “Instead of holding back, instead of keeping it tame.” 

In this new role, Cheu calls himself the ‘head minion.’ He sees his role as helping to guide the process so that UA has a successful product. 

          RELATED: President Robbins outlines UA’s future to regents

“I think what I bring to the table to that is trying to help manage the process, and making sure that we’re successful,” Cheu said. 

However, the two will not be working alone on the strategic planning process. 

“We’ve got a great team of people, we’re going to be hearing from a lot of people,” Ordóñez said. “Our job is to frankly pull it all together.” 


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