President, Arizona State University

What are some issues that you think need more or better collaboration and how would you begin to address those?

I am a firm believer that we need to do a better job in working together to determine what kind of future we want to live in, and then working backwards to formulate the actions that will get us there. 

We have a tremendous opportunity with an emerging new economy to work together to transform Arizona as a place where discovery and development drive job growth and catalyze new industries and business development in a way that make this state a destination for investment in new technologies. This is a moment for us to work together in all parts of the state.

Tucson has developed a number of industry clusters that are gaining momentum in the region such as aerospace and defense, mining, biosciences and medicine, and various aspects of technology. Do you consider those to be areas that need continued focus and why?

Overall, we need to work collectively and focus strategically on attracting and supporting industry clusters that will strengthen our regional economy and maximize our resilience to economic downturns or unanticipated disruptions in the long-term. The transformation happening now in the new economy means the time is right to establish a long-term return on investment by doubling down on the areas where we already have momentum. 

Arizona’s traditional industries have served us well, but the pandemic highlighted their vulnerabilities. When we look at the rapidly increasing rate of knowledge creation and technological innovation happening around the world, there can be no doubt that high-tech fields are driving the future.

Are there industries that the region should be more aggressive in pursuing and how would those fit within the makeup of the Tucson business structure?

In addition to biosciences and personalized medicine, the industries of the new economy include advanced manufacturing/materials, artificial intelligence, automation/robotics, big data, cybersecurity, digital media, and virtual/augmented reality. We should be enhancing our understanding of the strategies and investments other regions have made and are making to position themselves for future economic stability and success, assess and mobilize our unique strengths and advance a forward-looking trajectory.

In what ways can you, as a member of the Sun Corridor Inc. Chairman’s Circle, contribute to continuing the momentum that has been generated in the region in recent years?

I am working with my team to continue the economic momentum of the Arizona Board of Regents’ New Economy Initiative, a plan to increase educational access and attainment for Arizona students, which will effectively prepare the skilled workforce of the future in key areas like manufacturing, engineering, healthcare, mining and aerospace.

At ASU, we are enrolling more low-income students through the Arizona Promise scholarship program, establishing new science and technology centers, and preparing record numbers of highly trained engineers. Combined with the separate, targeted efforts of our sister state institutions, we believe that higher education can act as a catalyst for building a stronger, more prosperous Arizona.

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