ASU President's Club helping to define future of Arizona


The Arizona We Want bolsters state 'do tank' focus on education

“Support from the President’s Club plays a vital, even unique, role in preparing Arizona for a better future.”
Lattie Coor, founder, chairman, CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona

“President’s Club investments leverage great, big ideas and help make them reality.”
Sybil Francis, executive director, Center for the Future of Arizona

According to a Gallup Arizona poll and 2012 Arizona Civic Health Index, Arizonans want better educational opportunities in their communities. The state’s citizens want graduating high school students to be prepared to succeed in college and in their careers. They want academic instruction to be competitive with the rest of the world. And Arizonans believe education is essential to civic health and job growth.

The Arizona State University President’s Club is helping to address these concerns, providing financial muscle to pave the way for major improvements in Arizona education. The philanthropic organization, a community engagement program of the ASU Foundation for A New American University, is advancing education through its support of The Arizona We Want, an initiative of the Center for the Future of Arizona.

“The recent Arizona We Want 2.0 report has sent a very clear message that this state’s citizens support a fresh, bold statement of who we are and how we respond to the road ahead,” says Lattie Coor, founder of the Center for the Future of Arizona and its chairman and CEO. “Education is the key driver of Arizona’s economy. We have high educational aspirations, yet low investment and performance.

“Without the kind of innovation investment provided by the ASU President’s Club, the 2.0 report would simply not exist,” adds Coor, who preceded current ASU President Michael M. Crow as the university’s 15th chief executive from 1990-2002. “Our ability to involve citizens throughout Arizona in the implementation of this report is a direct result of President’s Club support.”

The Arizona We Want was created by the Center for the Future of Arizona in 2009 as a major initiative to implement the citizens’ agenda based on the findings of the center’s Gallup Arizona poll. The resulting 2.0 report provides a clear and compelling picture of what citizens think about life in Arizona communities and what they seek for the future.

“President Crow has consistently used funds from the President’s Club to initiate and/or advance programs of value to the university and to society,” says Coor, who also holds the Ernest W. McFarland Arizona Heritage Chair in Leadership and Public Policy in the ASU School of Public Affairs. “He views our center as a critical element in addressing selected key opportunities to strengthen Arizona’s future, collaborating with various programs within the university as, together, we address those opportunities.”

Based on three years of data included in the 2012 Arizona Civic Health Index, education is essential to civic health and job growth. Major improvement in Arizona education is on the horizon with the full implementation of the Common Core Standards, along with more rigorous assessments by 2014-15. The 2.0 report calls for adequate funding for these steps, as well as a substantial increase in the number of Arizonans receiving college degrees and certificate-based job training over the next 10 years. The report sets forth a number of actionable items for strengthening the state’s education, increasing job creation and enabling Arizona to recruit and retain talented young people.

President’s Club support is being provided to facilitate the implementation of the 2.0 report.

“The support provided by the ASU President’s Club is helping define the agenda for the future of Arizona and catalyze citizen and leader action around that agenda,” says Sybil Francis, executive director of the Center for the Future of Arizona and director for strategic advancement at ASU. “The Arizona We Want is a significant opportunity provided by President’s Club funds to lead a state conversation and action around a citizen-generated agenda.”

President’s Club funding has an even greater impact on the center, which Coor refers to as a “do tank” combining cutting-edge, practical research with partnerships and initiatives designed to improve the quality of life for Arizonans. Francis, who is engaged in all aspects of the center’s agenda, from conceptualization through implementation, and oversees the center's research projects and public policy initiatives, notes that while President’s Club funding is specifically targeted to The Arizona We Want, the group’s support enables other center alignments and working relationships with ASU and many of its colleges and schools to blossom, including its Move On When Ready initiative, which she leads. The program enables high schools to reward academic achievement by allowing students to graduate after two years. According to the center, nearly two dozen district, charter and private schools participated in the program in 2012, joining a dozen who entered the year before.

“The center’s work contributes to the pipeline of students better prepared for success in post-secondary education, including the university level,” says Francis, who partnered with Coor to found the center in 2002. “The center is working with the two ASU charter schools – ASU preparatory academies in downtown Phoenix and on ASU’s Polytechnic campus in the East Valley – the Herberger Young Scholars Academy for gifted students on the West campus, and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to advance an innovative and college-ready agenda and teachers prepared to teach at that level.”

In short, President’s Club support is making an impact, directly and indirectly.

“Partnering with ASU and in particular with the President’s Club is vital to our center,” says Francis. “One of the critical roles played by the President’s Club and its members is seed-funding and catalyzing big, important ideas and initiatives. The President’s Club has played this role for the center, most notably through The Arizona We Want Initiative.”

Steve Des Georges,
Senior Director | Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University