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Jensen retires from ASU after 27 years of leadership

April 17, 2013

Ray Jensen left Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., to become the new associate director of purchasing at Arizona State University on Dec. 2, 1985. He had no idea that ASU would become the place where he would travel to every weekday morning for the next 27 years.

The day-to-day routine that Jensen has embraced soon will change. However, change and progress has defined so much of his ASU career. Jensen is a certified purchasing manager and his areas of expertise include organizational modeling and development, strategic planning, staff development and the implementation of best practice solutions.

He applied his distinct skill set to his new ASU position and initially led about 90 employees. He also successfully administered departments that one may not associate with his expertise, such as the ASU Police Department, and Property Management, which now is known as Real Estate Development.

During Jensen’s ASU journey – a large part of his 35-year career thus far – he was recognized for many accomplishments from campus and industry associations. Never one for pomp and circumstance, he quietly but generously accepted numerous distinctions, including:

• two ASU President’s Awards for Innovation

• two Governor’s Recognition Awards

• Supervisor of the Year by the ASU Classified Staff Council

• the NAEP (National Association of Educational Procurement) Bert C. Ahrens Award, the highest form of recognition for extended service to the profession

Plaques that detail his professional accomplishments may adorn his office walls, but anyone who knows Jensen well knows that he attributes the bulk of his success to the people who work for him.

A place of yes

People’s ideas – no matter how far fetched or seemingly unobtainable – play an important role in Jensen’s approach to leadership. He welcomes all ideas from every corner of his professional purview. He wants everyone to feel as though that they contribute to the group’s overall success.

An idea proposed to Jensen by the Valley of the Sun School and Habilitation Center in 1993 led to a 10-year vocational training program with University Business Services (UBS) that helped people with physical and mental disabilities. At any given time over the next decade, two to six disabled individuals were working and training for six-month periods with a coach from the Valley of the Sun School in areas such as campus copy centers and materials handling facilities.

Those who finished their training at UBS facilities were placed in jobs with firms that supplied and supported ASU. Jensen recalled one trainee with a cognitive disability who eventually was recognized as an outstanding employee for a large copy firm and moved into his own apartment. Jensen said that the project was acknowledged by the governor’s office as the top program in Arizona; it also earned Purchasing and Business Services a President’s Award for Innovation.

The positive spirit stirred up by the UBS vocational training program translated into a late-1990s initiative designed to boost satisfaction and to establish a positive overall experience for both internal and external business services and purchasing customers. “Yes, we can do that. Working together we’ll find a way,” was the value statement that became the un-official departmental tagline. The attitude is still communicated during all UBS new employee orientation sessions, and the practice continues among all of Jensen’s departments.

Sun Card horizons

In the beginnings of the “Yes, we can do that,” era, Jensen pioneered efforts to create the Sun Card, an official ASU ID that was more than just a picture ID. From 1997-2012, students, faculty and staff could choose to open a “Sun Dollars” account funded by them that directly linked to their Sun Cards. The Sun Card’s declining-balance debit feature enabled Sun Dollars account holders to buy books and supplies on campus with their cards without incurring account maintenance fees.

Meal plan functionality was integrated into the Sun Card beginning in 1998. Sun Card holders with meal plans now had the ability to pay for meals at campus dining halls with a swipe of their Sun Cards at point-of-purchase terminals. The all-in-one card vision continued into the new millennium. In the fall of 2003, a 16-bit iCLASS® chip was embedded in the Sun Card that gave cardholders keyless access to campus facilities such as classrooms, residence halls and laboratories.

The Sun Card’s keyless features also are included in MidFirst Bank’s Pitchfork ID MasterCard® Check Card. Jensen led the university team that introduced ASU’s strategic banking partner to the campus communities in 2012. To meet their on- and off-campus needs, students who choose to open a checking account with MidFirst Bank receive a Pitchfork Card, an official ASU ID that includes basic Sun Card functionality.

Teach and service

During July 2001, Jensen continued his knack for executing systems that build synergy among students, faculty and staff by instituting the Graphic Information Teaching Facility at what was then ASU East. He and his team created a centralized printing facility where campus customers could fulfill their printing needs, while students could gain hands-on experience with print production services. The Graphic Information Teaching Facility still operates at the Polytechnic campus within the ASU College of Technology and Innovation and currently is known as the ASU Print & Imaging Lab.

Following the successful printing facility launch, Jensen led several enterprises as the years progressed. He streamlined internal operations as he enhanced the ways that the university conducts business with partners outside ASU. As he broadened his on- and off-campus business relations, he finessed his leadership skills along the way. Jensen served as the president of NAEP (National Association of Educational Procurement) as well as on the board of directors for both NAEP and the Educational & Institutional Cooperative Purchasing (E&I). He also volunteered his time as a faculty member for NAEP’s Leadership Academy, the National Association of College Auxiliary Services Management Institute and the EACUBO College Business Management Institute.

Following 16 years leading ASU purchasing, Jensen became the Associate Vice President (AVP) of University Business Services in 2002, a position he’s held for the past eleven years.

Leading green

Well established in his AVP role, ASU President Crow appointed Jensen the University Sustainability Operations Officer in 2009. His primary function in this position was to form the Sustainability Practices Network (SPN), which consists of eight, university-wide working groups. Each group is responsible for developing strategies and goals for a specific area of the overall university sustainability plan that helps move ASU toward its 2035 climate neutrality goal. The Carbon (Climate) Neutrality Action Plan and the Strategic Plan for Sustainability Practices and Operations are two of the major efforts that Jensen helped initiate in support of the university’s bold sustainability goals.

'Fork' marks

Beyond Jensen’s numerous “green” initiatives, since the late 1980s, Jensen has been a member of ASU’s Brand Council, which promotes maroon, gold and most recently, black. The group includes representatives from ASU Athletics, ASU Public Affairs, and Auxiliary Business Services. During 2011, Jensen and the trademark team helped launch the “Fear the Fork®” campaign. The group more recently instituted the design program with the Walt Disney Company that incorporates interns from the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

As Jensen’s ASU career draws to a close, nearly 250 staff across four ASU campuses work within nearly a dozen operational areas that he administers, including:

• Business Applications and Planning
• Digital Document Services
• Environmental Health and Safety
• Parking and Transit Services
• Purchasing & Business Services
• Risk & Emergency Management Services
• Sun Devil Campus Stores
• Sun Devil Card Services
• University Club
• University Sustainability Practices

Even with the sizeable number of people and departments to manage, Jensen has a knack for recognizing and nurturing leaders. Nearly all of his directors and managers have served as national leaders and board members within their respective professional organizations.

When Jensen locks his office door for the last time in a few days, he may carry a cardboard box full of plaques and fork-emblazoned coffee mugs that will serve as reminders of his ASU career. As he transitions to his post-ASU career for Enterprise Solutions, a non-profit consultancy group for higher education, he also carries with him all of the successes, experiences and insight that ASU has provided him for nearly three decades.

“Throughout Ray’s ASU tenure, his solid leadership skills, big-picture vision and sound advice are just a few of the gifts that he has graciously given to his colleagues and to the growth of the university as a whole,” said Morgan R. Olsen, ASU executive vice president, treasurer and CFO. “I am especially grateful for Ray’s dedication to service to the university for more than 27 years. He has become a trusted friend and wonderful colleague, and I wish him the greatest success with his future plans.”