Sunday, September 09, 2007

UA President Dr. Robert Shelton

Tucson, Arizona. The AZ Daily Star features an article today with University of Arizona President Robert Shelton. Before I get started, the reader should know the interview and the material behind the article all took place before the tragic murder of Mia Henderson.

I like the article, where Dr. Shelton most accurately distinguishes between the missions of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. As he correctly states, they play different games in different leagues. Still, the notion that ASU does not grab some Tucsonan high school graduates (good ones) with lucrative financial aid packages, well . .

The reader can read the article. I want to call attention to one subject addressed, economic development. Shelton states:

Last May I bet I had no fewer than 20 students — and/or their parents — who were graduating, coming to me and saying, "I'm so sorry I'm leaving Tucson." They either grew up here or had a great four or five or six years here but are leaving because there are no jobs in this community for them.

Shelton’s brilliant remark hits the nail on the head. An excellent article, it touches but does not penetrate the local lack of employment opportunity for the well educated and the lack of educational opportunity for the fully employed. The classes are scheduled when? We park where?

Understand why I’m hot?

Those already graduated, already working, already busy with jobs and kids and lives and cars and houses, STILL REQUIRE TRAINING!

Tucson has/had a place perfectly designed to meet this need. Roach slit its throat.

I consider it a tragic error to think that universities are responsible for the development of the already employed workforce, i.e. training those already working full time. It makes no sense and is horribly inefficient.

The context of the undergraduate as well as the graduate educational experience is preparation for employment, and different organizational structures are better suited for the real time, surge demand, customized training environments that serve those already possessing full time jobs.

This population is more concerned with skills than grades, more concerned with time than credit, and they need to get back to work as soon as possible. Communities are creating organizations to fill this need, and Tucson did in the year 2000.

It is possible that the UA Continuing Education Department can provide some assistance and the Eller Business School may offer fast track training for upwardly mobile executive wannabees, but the heavy lifting of the skills of the local workforce cannot be performed by either the University of Arizona or Pima Community College. It just can’t.

Dr. Shelton gets this. He is doing his job. Suzanne Lawder, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Tucson, operating at the opposite end of the spectrum, gets it. Judy Clinco of Direct Caregivers gets it. Education and training has become a lifelong necessity. I could write a book on the subject.

Our economic development chief, making $150K+ a year, wants more gay sculptors and rock bands in town. Apparently we’re going to build a hotel and a stadium downtown. Why stay at the Westin La Paloma, the El Conquistador, or Ventana Canyon, when you can stay in downtown Tucson?

Those high paying companies will just flock to Tucson, pockets bulging. Sure, no one in town can fill their positions, but look at that sculpture, and there’s a great concert tonight at the stadium. I’m sure those $5995 sculptures and $95 concert tickets will sell like hot cakes with so many Tucsonans making such extraordinary wages at call centers.


Anonymous Scarlett Letter said...

I just hope Robert Shelton doesn't get sucked into the TREO vortex. He has such potential as a leader. But I'm sure he has been advised who calls the shots around this little town.

9/09/2007 8:40 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Don't just say you "could wwrite a book on the subject" ... write the damn book. Seriously.

9/10/2007 7:19 AM  
Blogger DRP said...

Shelton has been sucked in to the TREO world, lead willingly to it by Likins, Trasoff and others.

Part of the reason there are not enough good jobs in Tucson is he cut many good jobs at UA this year.

9/10/2007 7:43 AM  
Blogger Framer said...


I would argue, that to some extent, the university can be a determent to solid job growth in Tucson. You referred to it in Something Else, if indirectly.

There is not any decision regarding money or funding for any project in Tucson in which the University is not involved. Look at Rio Nuevo. How much of that pie is the University going to subsume and what are they going to do with it? What could your former employ do with a portion of the money wanted for their "museum." Hell, what could they do with Bob Stoops' salary?

By and large, universities are made up of the "cloth" you speak about. This can be good for education, but it often has its downside in the private sector.

Phoenix seems to have a much healthier relationship between their University and their workforce. You know, of course, why I think that is.

9/10/2007 9:26 AM  
Blogger Art Jacobson said...

I’ve always been puzzled by the sorry-I-have-to-leave lament. How is our situation any different from that in Madison, Charlottesville, Ann Arbor, Williamsburg or Evanston? Each of these towns is home to a major educational institution, nearly all the graduates of which recognize that they will have to move to find employment in a chosen profession.

This is not to say that we can abandon employment development here in Tucson, but it is to say that chasing a high-paying professional job for each graduate of the University is chasing a will-o-the-wisp.

9/10/2007 10:13 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...


Sounds sentiments, of course, but we are talking about gross numbers, and it is not black and white.

A distinction from the literature is useful:

Cosmopolitan - Nationally connected, nationally focused, nationally funded, highly mobile and not locally loyal.

Local - Locally connected, locally funded, locally loyal and wants to stay in town.

It is not one or the other, but a mixture. Prestigious privates are more cosmo. Community colleges are local. Public flagships are a mixture that must manage both.

You correctly note that chasing every graduate is absurd. However, the economic development people and politicians see tax dollars pouring into the university and expect payback in a variety of ways. One of those is an educated workforce.

States invest billions in higher education, and they want graduates to stay in the state. I can't speak to Maricopa, but the Tucson community WOEFULLY squanders an extraordinary asset.

Framer is correct that the university must speak to community development and play a role, and I won't argue with Daniel except to state that I imagine Shelton will play nice and get along with everyone for a period of time as he gathers information and formulates his own assessments.

Our economic development picture is not to be blamed on the university.

Graduates leave for good jobs because they aren't here.

Not to worry, Roach has it handled. As soon as those gay bohemians flock downtown to stay in the hotel and go to rock concerts in the new stadium, we'll all be making six figure salaries.

I've gone cosmo. When I graduate, odds exceed 0.9 that I'm gone.

9/10/2007 1:43 PM  

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