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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA staff leaders to participate in academy for civic leadership


Photo courtesy of Karen Francis-Begay

Two UA staff leaders were selected to participate in an academy to learn about state-level civic leadership.

Karen Francis-Begay, UA assistant vice president for tribal relations, and Tannya R. Gaxiola, special adviser to the UA president for public outreach, have both been selected to be a part of the Flinn-Brown Civil Leadership Academy, a non-partisan organization that gives people from varied backgrounds the opportunity to learn more about civic leadership.

“Our goals are to help prepare future state-level civic leaders and to strengthen civic leadership throughout Arizona on all levels,” said Nancy Welch, vice president of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership. “Our interest is really in identifying people who want to be involved in public service at the state level and helping to develop and support them over the long run.”

The application and selection process is a rigorous statewide competition, according to Welch.
Participants must first fill out a formal application, then compose essays on their thoughts about the most important issues in Arizona, what the common good is in Arizona, how they see themselves benefiting from the academy and what they will bring to it. Applications are then reviewed by an external high-level selection committee. Interviews are conducted, and then the selection is made.

Francis-Begay, a UA alumna, has been working at the UA for roughly 20 years. Her initial position was with the American Indian Language Development Institute in the College of Education. She then went on to work for Student Affairs for seven years, working on outreach for and the retention of Native American students. In 2006, Francis-Begay began working at the UA president’s office as a key adviser to the president on a number of issues pertaining to tribal policies.

She said she applied to the academy last year because she liked what the academy had to offer in terms of getting a better understanding of the Arizona government, but she also liked how it works with people to strengthen the state’s future leaders.

“It just seemed like that was one element I could really gain more insight, because most of my work leading up to now has been working with the university and tribal community,” said Francis-Begay. “I haven’t done a whole lot with state government so I thought it was a real benefit to strengthen my knowledge in that area.”

Gaxiola, also a UA alumna, is an entrepreneur involved in the Tucson community. She has worked with the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson Immigrant Welcoming Task Force, among other programs.

Gaxiola said she applied to the Flinn-Brown Civil Leadership Academy because she wanted to look deeper into statewide issues, specifically public policy issues, which impact the entire state. Her main focuses include economic development and helping underrepresented minorities gain access to higher education.

“Because of my job here as special advisor to public outreach, it’s important for me to have that view so that I can do the best work possible for the university,” Gaxiola said. “The more that I am able to be aware, informed, and educated on these issues, the more effective I’ll be at my job.“

Twenty-three other selected applicants will be joining Francis-Begay and Gaxiola in Phoeniz at 12-day long seminars spread over a three-month period. However, the seminars are just a starting point. The purpose of the academy is to build a strong statewide network of these selected members and providing them with a support system that will benefit everyone in the long term.

“I think it says a lot about the University of Arizona that they are supporting and encouraging Karen Francis-Begay and I to go to this academy,” Gaxiola said. “It shows the leadership of the university and their commitment to the really important issues of the state.”

– Follow Micah Montiel @MicahMontiel

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