TEMPE -- Eileen Klein, the new president of the Arizona Board of Regents, intends to help the state universities become forces for Arizona's overall improvement during her three-year term.
Klein was Gov. Jan Brewer's chief of staff prior to taking office at ABOR on Feb. 4, but she was also chief operating officer at UnitedHealthcare's Arizona Physicians IPA before joining Brewer's staff.
She does not come from an education administration background like her predecessor, Tom Anderes, but Klein helped create and implement the Brewer administration's educational reform policy during her time as chief of staff and is one of four public members on the Arizona State Board of Education.
ABOR Chairman Rick Myers said it is not necessarily unusual for someone in Klein's position to come out of a field other than education administration, because every state is different when it comes to their higher education governing boards.
Myers said the Board wanted to find an Arizona leader for its next president, adding that finding a former education administrator would likely have required another national search, like the Board had to do to find Anderes.
He said the ABOR presidency is a good opportunity for someone with a strong understanding of issues facing Arizona because the Board sees the state universities as a tool for economic improvement.
"Someone like Eileen, who has a primary background working in business and government, seemed like a really good combination," Myers said.
The ABOR president works with the three university presidents in the Executive Presidential Committee to ensure the Board's policies are carried out.
Myers emphasized the necessity of good leadership, rather than specific employment backgrounds, to achieve the goals of the Board's Enterprise Plan.
ABOR adopted the Arizona Higher Education Enterprise Plan in 2010. It sets goals, including increasing the number of degrees and amount of research expenditures, to realign state university operations, which should increase educational attainment in Arizona by 2020.
Myers said he is confident in the abilities of Klein and the three university presidents to achieve these goals.
"We look at these four people, and we think, 'Wow, that's the team that can pull it off,'" he said.
Klein said she is looking forward to continuing to improve Arizona's education system.
She said it was exciting to work with the Brewer administration on aligning state education goals from preschool to graduate school through the creation of Arizona Ready, which carries out Brewer's Arizona Education Reform Plan.
Klein said she was drawn to the ABOR presidency because the state universities are the last major area of Arizona education that still needs reform.
She said her background in business and policy will be useful as the Board follows the Enterprise Plan.
"It's very parallel to my experience in the corporate environment," Klein said.
Klein said she would like the Board to be involved at the "macro level" as the universities put the plan in place, and she wants to help establish the university presidents as thought leaders who can help improve statewide problems.
She said she wants students to graduate from state universities with a degree as well as the necessary preparation to succeed in their careers.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to take the Enterprise Plan and really turn it into a strategic opportunity for our universities," Klein said.
The university presidents all said in email statements that Klein will be an asset as the universities work to improve the state through increased higher education.
ASU President Michael Crow said Klein will be helpful as the presidents create new areas for economic growth.
"Eileen will add tremendous skill to the team in developing new investment models with the state," Crow said. "I have worked with her for years and find her to be one of the most talented policy designers I have worked with."
UA President Ann Weaver Hart said she valued Klein's experience in the health care industry in addition to her work with education policy.
Klein spearheaded the realignment of UA Health Network's governance structure in 2011.
NAU President John Haeger said Klein's strong leadership skills would be important to the state university system.
"Her experience working in the governor's office as well as her knowledge of the issues facing Arizona make her the right choice to be a key part of the Arizona university enterprise," Haeger said.