Lattie F. Coor, Ph.D.

Lattie F. Coor, Ph.D.

Chairman and CEO

Lattie F. Coor is President-Emeritus, Professor and Ernest W. McFarland Chair in Leadership and Public Policy in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University, and is Founding Chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona which was established in 2002.

For the previous 26 years, Lattie Coor served as a University President. He was President of Arizona State University from 1990 to 2002, and President of the University of Vermont from 1976 to 1989.

Earlier in his career, Coor served as an assistant to the Governor of Michigan and held faculty appointments in Political Science at Washington University. His administrative responsibilities there included those of Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, Director of International Studies, and University Vice Chancellor.

He has held positions with a variety of higher education associations, board and commissions, having served as a founding member and Chairman of Division I of the NCAA President’s Commission. He held the position of Chairman of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges in 1992-93, and served on the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education from 1990 to 1993 and again from 1999 to 2002. He also served on the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land Grant Universities from 1996 to 2002. He served as a Trustee of the American College of Greece, Athens, from 1988 to 1998, and served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Deer Creek Foundation, St Louis, from 1983 to 2008. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Conference on Citizenship. He has honorary degrees from Marlboro College, American College of Greece, the University of Vermont and Northern Arizona University.

In Arizona, Lattie Coor serves on the Board of Directors of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona, and has served on the Board of Directors of Bank One Arizona, Samaritan Health Services, Greater Phoenix Economic Council, and is a member of the Greater Phoenix Leadership Council having served as a member since 1990 and on that Board from 2004 to 2012. He was a member of the Arizona State Board of Education from 1995 to 1999. He served as Chairman of the Education Section of the Valley of the Sun United Way Campaign from 1990 to 1993, and of the Public Sector of the United Way Campaign from 1999 to 2002. In 2013/2014, he served as Vice Chairman of the Maricopa Integrated Health System Bond Advisory Committee.

Lattie Coor received the Anti-Defamation League’s Jerry J. Wisotsky Torch of Liberty Award in 1994, the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Individual Award from the Greater Phoenix Urban League in 2000, The American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award in 2000, The American Jewish Committee Institute of Human Relations Award in 2001, the Center City Starr award from Phoenix Community Alliance in 2001, The Valley Interfaith Movement Golden Rule Award in 2010, the KJZZ Community Champion Award in 2013 and The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legacy Award in 2013. He was named Valley Leadership’s Man of the Year in 2006. Lattie and his wife Elva received the ASU MLK Jr. Community Servant Leadership Award in 2017.

An Arizona native, Coor was born in Phoenix and graduated with high honors from Northern Arizona University in 1958. He pursued graduate studies in Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, earning a master’s degree in 1960 and a Ph.D. in 1964.

 

Sybil Francis, Ph.D.

Sybil Francis, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Sybil Francis is helping to define and shape Arizona’s future through an action-oriented agenda focused on issues of critical importance to the state. She was part of the founding team of CFA, serves as the Executive Director and is engaged in all aspects of the center’s work. Bringing innovative solutions to Arizona’s education landscape is Francis’ special focus within the center’s agenda.

Prior to moving to Arizona in 2002 Francis’ public policy work focused on advancing the national science and technology enterprise. She is a public policy architect committed to advancing innovative solutions to societal imperatives. Francis began her career working in the U.S. House of Representatives and later served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She was part of the leadership team of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a small private college in New York.

Francis earned her B.A. in Chemistry at Oberlin College and her Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is deeply embedded in the ASU community, working side-by-side with her husband, ASU President Michael Crow, to forge connections between ASU and the community.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

Arizona is the face of the future and it’s exciting to be part of an organization that is part of moving Arizona forward and advancing innovative solutions to the challenges we face.

Why do you love Arizona?

I really love to be able to go on beautiful hikes within minutes of where I live. I also love that Arizona is still open to new ideas and embodies the spirit of the west. If you have a good idea here and are willing to work hard to help advance it you can get it done.

 

Ellen R. Babby, Ph.D.

Ellen R. Babby, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

Ellen Babby is a consultant with more than 30 years of experience in executive management in the non-profit arena with a focus on higher education. Her particular areas of expertise are in strategic planning, corporate and foundation relations, advancement, and organizational development. Babby moved to Phoenix in 2012 after serving for several years as Vice President, Advancement & Strategic Alliances, at the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining ACE in May 1999, she served as senior director of Planning and Development at NAFSA: Association of International Educators and as Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at the National Foreign Language Center at The Johns Hopkins University. From 1982 to 1991, Babby served as the first Executive Director of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States, an organization that promotes the study of Canada at colleges and universities in the United States. She built this start-up and led it for 10 years.

In addition to serving as a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Future of Arizona, Babby also serves as a Senior Fellow at the American Council on Education in Washington, DC.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I have a longstanding commitment to providing a quality education to all students and ensuring broader access to and success in postsecondary education, which is a core focus of CFA and The Arizona We Want.

Why do you love Arizona?

As a relative newcomer to Arizona, I have become very engaged in my community and have developed a true appreciation for all that Arizona has to offer.

 

Aaron Ball

Aaron Ball, Ed.D.

Director, College and Career Pathways

Aaron Ball started his career as an Agriscience High School Teacher.  After five years of teaching he moved to school administration and spent two years as a high school assistant principal and two years as an elementary principal.  Prior to coming to CFA Ball was Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer for nearly seven years with the Pima County Joint Technical Education District.  In that role, he worked to build partnerships with business, K-12, postsecondary institutions and community based organizations.

Ball holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and a Master’s degree in Agriculture Education, both from the University of Arizona. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I want to see all young people have the opportunity to pursue a career they are passionate about and will lead to financial stability.  I am excited that the work we are doing will help provide a better way of life for all young people throughout the state by better aligning initiatives and resources.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

I am third generation native Arizonan.  My immediate and extended family is all in the state and is a significant part of my life.

Why do you love Arizona?

It is a great place to experience the outdoors!

 

Pat Beaty

Pat Beaty

Senior Fellow

Pat Beaty is a strategic planning and marketing consultant with more than 40 years experience working with three public university systems and a broad array of non-profit and business organizations. She has consulted with CFA since 2006, where she serves as study director.

Formerly, Beaty was vice chancellor of strategic planning at Colorado State University, where she helped lead the effort to align university research, annual budgeting and fundraising into a cohesive planning effort. Beaty also served as the founding vice president of strategic planning and marketing for the ASU Foundation, following 11 years as a senior consultant supporting campaign planning and marketing for the $560 million ASU Campaign for Leadership. During her foundation tenure, she supported the ASUF Board through two strategic planning efforts in 2000 and 2003 in addition to other university-wide and college-level initiatives.

 

Katia A. Brown, MBA

Katia A. Brown, MBA

Development Manager

Katia A. Brown joined Center for the Future of Arizona in May 2017 as the Development Manager. Katia is responsible for the internal processes and procedures for CFA’s development efforts. She is also responsible for the grants and donor database management systems. Prior to her role at CFA, Katia has served the Arizona community within the nonprofit sector for the last 16 years. She has held positions such as Director of Development for New Pathways for Youth and Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, and Chief Development Officer for Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS). Katia has experience with developing fundraising policies and procedures, grants and database management, training in the culture of philanthropy and other related activities.

Katia has a master’s degree in business from Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Georgia. Holding strong to her passion for community, she is an active board member for the Arizona Justice Project and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Phoenix Metropolitan Chapter.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

My entire professional career in Arizona has been dedicated to a variety of community issues and causes. Working for CFA allows me to combine many of the issues I care about most in a more strategic approach to impacting the state of Arizona. I am honored to be a part of the CFA staff whose professionalism and passion speak to the level of change that has taken and will continue to take place for the betterment of our Arizona citizens.

What do enjoy in your personal time?

I enjoy spending quality time with my son and family. I also consider myself a local “foodie” and enjoy exploring the new local food fare Arizona has to offer. When I am not with family, you will find me at live cultural events (concerts and musicals) and cheering on the Georgia Bulldawgs during college football season.

Why do you love Arizona?

Arizona has been very good to me and my family. I have enjoyed seeing the growth of people, culture and diversity over the last 15 years. Although I am not an Arizona native, Arizona continues to evolve into a place I can proudly say is home.

 

Amanda Burke, Ed.D.

Amanda Burke, Ed.D.

Senior Director, Education and Workforce

Amanda Burke joined Center for the Future of Arizona in 2009 and is the Senior Director for Education. She is responsible for the leadership and management of CFA's education portfolio, which focuses on innovation and systemic change that will close student achievement gaps, increase educational attainment and prepare a highly-skilled workforce.

Previously, Burke was Director of Education Innovation and Policy with the Arizona State University Office of University Initiatives in the Office of the President. Since 2004, Burke has been involved in the conceptualization and start-up of a number of education innovation initiatives including the nationally recognized ASU and Teach For America partnership and the ASU Preparatory Academies, which are ASU-affiliated preK-12 charter schools. She began her career in education through Teach for America as a high school English teacher in Watts, Los Angeles. Burke holds degrees from University of Texas at Austin and Arizona State University.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I am deeply commited to creating an education system that delivers on the promise of excellence for every child. This requires thought and it requires action-- which is precisely what we do at CFA as a "do-tank."

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

When not playing hide-and-seek with my young son, I enjoy running (with the exception of in the summer...), catching up with friends, listening to music and exploring new places. I hope to add hiking to that list soon-- the trails are calling my name!

Why do you love Arizona?

I love the sense of possibility that exists in Arizona. My husband and I moved to Arizona from Texas 11 years ago to pursue graduate work, and stayed because of the feeling we could play a part in shaping our community and state. The incredible landscape must be mentioned as well.

 

Jared Byrne

Jared Byrne

Program Assistant Intern, Retail Sector Initiative

Jared Byrne joined the Center for the Future of Arizona in May 2017 as a Master’s Intern, and Graduate Assistant, with the RetailWorks Sector Initiative; where he is responsible for supporting this new initiative around improving and empowering the careers of front-line workers, in retail and adjacent sectors, within the greater Phoenix area.

Concurrently Jared is a full-time MBA student at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, focusing on Marketing & Entrepreneurship.

Prior to joining the CFA he worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) in Calgary, Canada. In this role Jared helped to promote commerce, partnerships, & development through bilateral relationships while empowering businesses to grow sustainably.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I am focused on Designing Positive Change through Relationships, Experiences, and Interactions. The Center for the Future of Arizona was a perfect match because it affords me the opportunity to work with passionate, engaging people and industries towards driving positive change in the lives of Arizona’s citizens.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

My family has only been in America for 1 year, so we continue to enjoy traveling and experiencing the region. Also, we enjoy telling the world about it all on our Where the Wild Things Roam Facebook and YouTube Channels.

Why do you love Arizona?

The people and the experiences.

The People: Everywhere we’ve gone there has been innovative, creative and friendly individuals who are a pleasure to be around. Since coming to Arizona I’ve loved every opportunity to meet seemingly ordinary individuals and groups, who turn out to be amazing people.

The Experiences: As a family, we have tried to participate in everything we can, from the natural beauty of the state to watch as many professional Arizona sports teams as possible. And we’ve enjoyed every experience thus far.

 

Evelyn Casuga

Evelyn Casuga

Consultant

Evelyn is a consultant with over 30 years experience in economic and community development, leadership, and civic engagement.

After 25 years, Evelyn retired in December 2014 as General Manager of Community Affairs at APS, the largest and longest serving investor-owned utility covering 11 of 15 counties in Arizona. Her area encompassed community relations, corporate contributions and volunteer programs, economic development, and strategic partnerships. She served in numerous leadership positions during her tenure at the company.

Previous to APS, her roles included nearly 10 years in municipal government serving as City Manager of Eloy and Town Manager of Marana; and Manager of Community/Client Development for the Western Gateway Team, an Arizona regional economic development group, serving five West Valley communities.

Evelyn is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) and serves on several statewide and regional non-profit boards. She has been recognized for her efforts in community service and economic development. Evelyn received her Masters of City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley and her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

Community development and civic engagement have been at the core of my professional career in private, public and non-profit sectors. The efforts at CFA and The Arizona We Want as well as working with local communities throughout Arizona continue to inspire me.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

Reading, traveling, exploring Arizona, and spending quality time with family and friends keep life in perspective.

Why do you love Arizona?

Arizona continues to be a place of wide-open spaces and opportunity. I have learned the joys and challenges of working throughout the State for over 30 years. This privilege has given me a profound appreciation for Arizona’s diversity in geography, peoples, cultures and can-do mind-set.

 

Orlando Cazarez

Orlando Cazarez

Project Manager, Retail Sector Initiative

Orlando Cazarez a native of Sinaloa, Mexico has lived in Arizona since 1998. Orlando is a graduate of ASU WP Carey School of Business with a degree in Computer Information Systems. The past 16+ years of professional experience include roles as IBM's Arizona state & local government client representative, territory sales/trainer at First American Title and more recently held the position of Sr. Director of Business Development at the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Orlando has recently served as a volunteer instructor and mentor for the Young Entrepreneur Academy at Phoenix Community College; he is appointed to Congressman Ruben Gallego’s AZ District 7 as his Federal Political Coordinator on real estate policy. Orlando proudly served in the ARMY National Guard’s 159th Finance Detachment, and is also a graduate of the Hispanic Leadership Institute.

Orlando, his wife Irma and their 3 children, Ethan, Aden (the soccer players) & Eliza (the Girl Scout Daisy) live in the South Mountain community of Laveen. They enjoy family outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, camping, and trips to the beach.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

It's a very encouraging and hopeful feeling coming to a place like CFA after spending the majority of my career in the corporate world. CFA is actively impacting the way processes and practices happen and continues to produce results in our state. As a father and a civically engaged member of my community, it matters more and more each day that organizations like CFA exists and advance in their efforts to identify and bring solutions to our education system and our economy. I’m passionate about being a part of a work in progress that can be replicated in other parts of our globe to improve lives and strengthen communities.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

Traveling is essential to my joy in life, I live by the mantra of taking the long way there and a different route back. The more people, cultures and foods I come across the more fulfilled I feel. Seeing my children grow and creating memories with them is a blessing in itself.

Why do you love Arizona?

I've lived in Arizona the majority of my life and it has been a great state to experience nature and cross cultures while learning and building long lasting relationships.

 

Elva Coor

Elva Coor

Founder and Chair, SpeakOut AZ

Elva Coor is a 5th generation Arizonan. Her experience includes more than 15 years in government and political activities at the local, state and national level. Elva worked in the U.S. Senate, served as precinct committee person and chaired political campaigns. She went on to found and run a business for 20 years, and support other women by starting an Arizona chapter of the National Association of Business Women. Elva served on boards including the Arizona Historical Society, Arizona Women's Education and Employment, Inc. and Charter 100 AZ.

Upon her marriage to Lattie Coor, she initiated various programs at ASU, including the President's Community Enrichment Programs, for the purpose of bringing the community and university together, and an organization to increase the graduation rate of African American students. She also served on the Phoenix Charter Government Committee.

Elva led the effort to save Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's home from demolition-- a project that led to founding the O'Connor House, focused on getting civics education back into our schools and increasing civic participation throughout Arizona. That work was the inception of SpeakOut AZ, now an action initiative of The Arizona We Want.

While running a business with paid staff was deeply satisfying, the most rewarding of all was recruiting and working with thousands of volunteers to make things happen-- in politics, with nonprofits and ASU.

 

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

CFA provides an opportunity to bring together what I have learned. The political arena made it clear we must have a well-informed and engaged electorate if our state is to thrive. Founding and managing a business taught me about hiring the right people and putting them in the right positions, then maximizing their talents and teamwork. It also taught me the challenges of those who do not have some kind of training or education beyond high school. My volunteer work at ASU led to my understanding the critical nature of a child's early brain development and how it relates to his or her future. The work at O'Connor House proved you can do most anything with talented, passionate volunteers.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

Hiking, skiing, horseback riding, cycling, reading, entertaining, family and just being with my husband are my favorite activities.

Why do you love Arizona?

I love its beauty, diversity and potential.

 

Nicole Haas

Nicole Haas

Executive Assistant, Education and Workforce

Nicole Haas supports Dr. Amanda Burke, Senior Director of Education and Workforce, as well as all Education and Workforce programs.

Nicole joined CFA in 2017 bringing 15 years of experience as a communications and administrative professional in academic, governmental, and nonprofit organizations. She has worked for organizations that create lasting impact in the communities they serve including Arizona State University, Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Phoenix Public Library, the Heard Museum, Central Arizona Project, and now, Center for the Future of Arizona.

Previously, as communications program manager for Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Nicole developed outreach strategies to engage legislators, community leaders, and citizens in critical policy issues. She helped organized policy talks with civic leaders like The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor and coordinated the inaugural State of Our State policy conference. Later at ASU Obesity Solutions, Nicole coordinated FitPHX Energy Zones, an after-school fitness and nutrition program for middle school youth. This program, which trains undergraduates as the next generation of professionals while providing mentors for youth, received the 2016 ASU President’s Metal for Social Embeddedness.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I am passionate about creating vibrant, healthy communities and improving the quality of life for all Arizonans. As a member of CFA’s education and workforce team, I work on initiatives that create a better future for Arizona. This opportunity makes me excited to come to work every day.

Why do you love Arizona?

Arizona is a gem for its natural desert beauty and cultural diversity. I love both living in central Phoenix’s urban core and traveling and exploring the state with my husband and two sons.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

I teach yoga at Desert Song Healing Arts and am an active member of the Valley of the Sun YMCA. I enjoy reading, hiking, cooking, and playing with my young sons.

 

Nora Hannah

Nora Hannah

Consultant

Nora Hannah is a business executive, community volunteer, and nonprofit strategist, with a passion for citizen engagement. Most recently she served as Chief Executive Officer of Experience Matters, a groundbreaking initiative to engage the time, talent and experience of adults age 50+ to help meet the growing needs in the public and nonprofit sectors. Focusing specifically on the one million-plus Baby Boomers in Maricopa County, Arizona, Experience Matters strives to prepare the civic and social profit sectors in the creation of paid and unpaid opportunities for these experienced workers. Its purpose is to develop and organize the marketplace that connects adults age 50+ to social purpose opportunities.

Nora also serves as CEO of Landiscor, a national real estate information company she has co-owned and operated since 1997. Prior to Landiscor, she was the General Manager for the Forest Highlands project in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Nora has been active in the Phoenix community for over twenty five years serving as chairman of the YWCA, Valley Leadership and the Children’s Action Alliance. She is also the recipient of the 1999 Chamber of Commerce Athena Award and one of the 2015 Outstanding Women in Business from the Phoenix Business Journal. Having lived in Phoenix since she was two, Nora has a strong commitment to the quality of life in our community.

She received her BS in accounting from Loyola Marymount University and her MBA at Arizona State University. She lives in Phoenix with her husband and, with three children launching as adults, is enjoying her life as an empty-nester.

 

Kristi J. Kappes

Kristi J. Kappes, M.Ed.

Director, Fiscal and Business Operations

Kristi Kappes is responsible for financial, HR and office operations for the organization. Kristi joined CFA in 2016 from the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she spent five years as program manager of Cronkite Global and the Hubert H. Humphrey Program. In that role she was responsible for executing the day-to-day operations of the Cronkite Global offices including hosting international journalists, developing grant proposals, and coordinating all aspects of the Humphrey Fellowship Program—an initiative of the U.S. State Department. Kristi joined the Cronkite Global team after serving as program manager for the Cronkite School’s $7.5 million Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative, a program in which top journalism students from across the country produce investigative, multimedia projects in partnership with The Washington Post, NBC News and other major national news organizations. She previously worked at ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, where she was a senior accountant handling grants and budgets, and at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, where she was named Support Staffer of the Year. Before moving into higher education, Kristi was project manager with the Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation near Omaha, Nebraska. She holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. She received her bachelor’s degree in management from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I’m passionate about making a difference in the world, and it’s an honor to be part of CFA and to be contributing to the mission to grow a stronger state of Arizona. I’m amazed at all the work that CFA is doing in our local communities—in education, in civic engagement and in workforce development. I’m happy to support the continued and growing efforts of our organization.

Why do you love Arizona?

I love Arizona because of its diversity—diversity of people, of places and perspectives. And, I love sunshine! 

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

I especially enjoy spending time with friends and family—going to baseball games, trying new restaurants, and exploring the vibrant downtown Phoenix area. I also love to travel and seek out new places both near and far—each year I like to have a travel theme to help me be intentional about traveling—one year the theme was Arizona, another year it was beaches, and one year it was major league baseball stadiums (I’m working on visiting all of the MLB stadiums). There’s no place like home, but through travel the world becomes my classroom with all sorts of new things to see, explore and experience.

 

Holly Kurtz

Holly Kurtz

Director, Retail Sector Initiative

Holly Kurtz joined the Center for the Future of Arizona in October 2016 and is the Director of the Retail Career Pathways Sector Initiative. She is responsible for leading this new initiative which focuses on accelerating career advancement and mobility for front-line retail workers in the retail and adjacent sectors in the greater Phoenix area.

Previously, Kurtz was the Vice-President of Talent Management at PetSmart, a pet specialty retailer headquartered in Phoenix, AZ. Kurtz joined PetSmart in 2008 and was accountable for talent acquisition, talent management, internal communications, learning & development, leadership development and organizational development. Prior to PetSmart, Kurtz was with Wells Fargo & Company for 28 years in various Corporate HR and business-line HR leadership roles.

Holly attended the University of Minnesota and majored in Technical Communications.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

While I’ve spent my entire career in the private sector as a Human Resources professional, I’ve always had a passion for helping prepare the workforce for the future through partnerships with educational institutions. I was the Chair of the Board for a non-profit organization in Minnesota that supported workforce preparation programs for students in inner-city High Schools through partnerships with local Fortune 500 companies. Working at CFA brings my passion for workforce development, experience in Human Resources and the retail sector together to contribute to the overall mission of CFA.

Why do you love Arizona?

Since moving to Arizona from Minnesota over a decade ago, I love that there’s no snow to shovel. I love the beautiful Sonoran landscape, incredible sunsets, and being surrounded by so many different mountain ranges.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling, reading, hiking and playing golf.

 

Robert Luster

Robert Luster

Director, Information Technology

Robert Luster oversees the Center's technical projects and directs the delivery of networks and development.

Prior to joining CFA, he worked as Manager of Electronic Communications at Arizona State University Foundation. Robert has consulted extensively on enterprise application projects with Fortune 500 companies and served as a part-time Freelance Web Developer where he built custom websites for small local businesses to help them establish an online presence.

He worked as an Application Developer for Electronic Arts in the video game industry for several years before moving to Arizona in 2002.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I love working with people who are passionate about improving the lives of Arizona citizens. I'm fortunate to work on projects that have an impact on our State and communities.

Why do you love Arizona?

I'm always amazed of the diverse wildlife that exists in the desert and the beautiful landscape that is so unique to Arizona.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids on family activities. I'm also a bassist and member of the Chandler Symphony Orchestra.

 

Megan McWenie

Megan McWenie

Manager, Education Innovation and Student Success

Megan McWenie joined the Center for the Future of Arizona in 2012. She has committed her career to improving educational outcomes for all students, with a focus on the areas of adolescent literacy, teacher development and coaching, and school leadership. McWenie began her career as a high school reading intervention teacher and Teach for America corps member in Las Vegas, Nevada. She returned to her home state of Arizona to join the Phoenix Union High School District, where she worked as a teacher, instructional coach, and Cambridge Coordinator. She also supported the development of new teachers as a staff member of Teach for America’s Summer Institute.

McWenie currently serves on the Governing Board of SySTEM Phoenix, a Grade 6-12 STEM-focused charter school designed prepare students to excel in STEM fields in college and affect innovative change in the world.

McWenie is a graduate of the University of Arizona, with a BA in English and History.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

As a former classroom teacher and instructional coach, it is inspiring to work for an organization committed to leading the systemic change that is necessary to secure the education we need to improve the lives of every Arizonan.

What do enjoy in your personal time?

I am a fourth generation-Arizonan who loves exploring and learning more about our state. I am also a third-generation University of Arizona wildcat, and the first song I learned to sing as a toddler was Bear Down.

Why do you love Arizona?

I have deep roots in this state—I am energized by the rapid change our state has been undergone in the thirty years since my birth here. I also believe we have a great deal of untapped potential in terms of our capacity to build an Arizona where every person receives an excellent education, experiences economic prosperity, and contributes to their community.

 

Madison Neanover

Madison Neanover

Civic Engagement Assistant

Madison Neanover joined the Center for the Future of Arizona in August 2017 as a Civic Engagement Assistant under The Arizona We Want Initiative. She supports the participatory budgeting program within Phoenix Union High School District where students are afforded the decision-making power over a portion of the district budget. Madison has worked in a volunteer capacity during Phoenix Union’s pilot year, when they became the first organization to implement participatory budgeting at a district level.

Madison is also a senior Public Service and Public Policy student within Arizona State University’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Her area of study focuses on sustainability policy and creative city development.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

CFA envisions a better future for all Arizonans – a mission that perfectly aligns with my area of study. I strive to create more resilient and thriving communities through my work by placing resident values and needs at the center. CFA has shown a long-standing commitment to the residents of Arizona through their efforts to advance the state’s education, economy, civic engagement, and development.

What do enjoy in your personal time?

I enjoy spending time with my two young children, Ryker and Rowan, and my partner, Max. We are self-identified foodies and love exploring the booming restaurant scene here in Phoenix. We are also fortunate to have our immediate family very close and enjoy spending weekends with our children’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Why do you love Arizona?

I am a native Phoenician and my family has lived in Arizona for six generations. Arizona is my first love and I will always be enamored by its ever-evolving landscape and culture. Phoenix is a big city full of endless opportunities with a small town vibe. I love the people here, who are so diverse and compose a unique and welcoming community.

 

Larry E. Penley, Ph.D.

Larry E. Penley, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

Larry Penley heads his own consulting firm, Penley Consulting, LLC, which specializes in developing leaders of senior executives and in developing the potential of colleges and universities.  He writes a weekly blog, Penley on Education and Energy.  The blog focuses on America’s competitiveness in these two critical industries.   He was President of Colorado State University, Chancellor of the CSU System, President of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business.  He is Professor Emeritus of Management at Arizona State University, and he is Senior Fellow at Center for the Future of Arizona.  Penley and his wife, Yolanda Sanchez Penley, Ph.D., are both career educators.  They moved to Arizona 30 years ago, and they reside in Phoenix.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

The Center fills a critical need with its statewide, Arizona perspective, its focus on our future quality of life and its commitment to take action on behalf of Arizona’s citizens and the future that they envision.

Arizona’s economic prosperity and quality of life depend upon supportive State policies, including a commitment to K-12 education that delivers on work and college readiness and excellent college education that prepares Arizonans for a globally competitive workforce and educated citizenry.

Why do you love Arizona?

Arizona possesses serene beauty in its deserts, drama in its mountain peaks and valleys, and an embracing tolerance of the diverse cultures, beliefs and backgrounds of its citizens.  Arizona is the West.

 

Lin Phillips

Lin Phillips

Executive Assistant

Lin Phillips is executive assistant to Lattie Coor, as Chairman and CEO for the Center and as President Emeritus of Arizona State University. She has been with CFA since its inception in 2002, and since 1983 she has continuously served in administrative support positions in the Office of the President at ASU. Phillips earned her AA degree from Mesa Community College in 1974 and was a medical assistant prior to coming to ASU.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

Working at CFA has made me aware of the issues that we must address as a community. I am inspired every day to have an opportunity to work alongside dedicated and caring people who are really making a positive difference in Arizona.

Why do you love Arizona?

I came to Arizona as a child in the 1950’s and have lived here since. Although I am now old enough to make my own choice, I see Arizona as my home for life.  I embrace all of it, the positives and the negatives, because it gives us all a context in which to create our own vision for the future. I believe that Arizona is a place of possibilities.  Being outdoors and exploring the varied landscapes of the state is an ongoing passion

 

Kristi Tate

Kristi Tate

Senior Advisor, Civic & Community Engagement Initiatives

Kristi Tate has served in leadership roles spanning organizations focused on education, service, and civic engagement. Most recently, Kristi served with the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), a congressionally chartered organization dedicated to strengthening civic life in America. Her focus at NCoC was on developing and leading partnerships for the Civic Health Index, which creates reports and initiatives designed to strengthen civic life in communities across the country. Before joining NCoC, she served at Georgetown University’s Center for Social Justice as Director of the DC Schools Project. She has also directed programs for HandsOn Greater Phoenix and the Boys and Girls Club of Boston Charlestown Clubhouse. She has a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree from Georgetown University, with a focus on social and public policy.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

I am passionate about the role that service and civic engagement can play in transforming individuals' lives and solving public problems. I'm excited about CFA's approach to ensure all Arizonans have a voice and role in shaping our communities.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

I love spending time with my family, and exploring new parts of Phoenix, Arizona, and the country through travel and camping.

Why do you love Arizona?

We've recently moved to Arizona from the East Coast, and I love the weather, connection to the outdoors, landscapes, and access to explore the West.

 

Joseph B. Valdez, MGM

Joseph B. Valdez, MGM

Director, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Joseph Valdez leads integrated marketing communications strategy and program implementation for CFA.

His background is in marketing communications and public relations with more than 15 years of industry experience that includes 12 years of agency-based brand consulting work developing communications strategies and implementing public relations programs to drive business results for clients. His key strengths are in marketing strategy, strategic planning, project management, media relations, internal/external communications, content development, social channel management and brand communications.

Prior to joining CFA, Valdez was Director of Communications and Community Affairs for the Arizona Commerce Authority, the state’s leading economic development organization. In his consulting work, he served as Chief Strategist for 3M’s Andean Region subsidiary based in Lima, Peru, to develop its e-commerce business strategy throughout a five-country regional territory. Additionally, he worked as a Communications Specialist for Abbott Laboratories, a Chicago-based global healthcare company, to implement process improvements and strategic sourcing programs for Abbott’s branding agency partners in the company’s $20MM branding, creative and digital category.

Valdez earned a Master of Global Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in corporate communications and public affairs from Southern Methodist University and an associate’s degree in advertising from Northwood University, Texas.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

CFA is in the business of leading systematic change. It's exciting to be part of an organization that is doing work to serve the long-term needs of all Arizonans.

Why do you love Arizona?

Arizona has been good to me. Our communities are wonderful places filled with talented people who have much to contribute. The state has changed and grown tremendously and I am ever-optimistic about the transformative years ahead.

 

Michelle Villegas-Gold

Michelle Villegas-Gold

Research Assistant

Michelle Villegas-Gold has been the Center-wide Research Assistant at the Center for the Future of Arizona since 2015. Michelle is currently working towards obtaining her Ph.D. in Global Health with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. In addition to her work at ASU, Michelle is also Adjunct Faculty with the Counseling Departmentat at Phoenix College, where she teaches College Success Strategies and Career Explorations among other courses. Prior to entering the Ph.D. program at ASU, Michelle obtained master’s degrees in both counseling and public health (with an emphasis in global health and leadership) from Arizona State University (2009) and New York University (2014).

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

The work CFA does to increase equitable access to education (including postsecondary degree attainment) is something I am deeply passionate about, particularly considering that education is the single greatest predictor of health, social mobility, and economic prosperity.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

I like to spend my free time hanging out with my family and friends, reading, doing yoga, and watching Law and Order.

Why do you love Arizona?

As someone who was born and raised in Tucson, and is an alumni of both UofA and ASU, I have always loved Arizona. I developed a new found appreciation for the desert, however, after living New York City for two years. During this time I found myself longing for Arizona's wide-open spaces, wildlife (aside from rats and squirrels that is), the smell of the desert when it rains, and most importantly, really good Mexican food.

 

Lexi Vollmer Rivera

Lexi Vollmer Rivera

Research Assistant

Lexi Vollmer Rivera is currently working towards a doctoral degree in Spanish Linguistics with an emphasis in Second Language Acquisition and a graduate certificate in Computer Assisted Language Learning. The motivation of her work lies in connecting critical research in various social and learning contexts to social justice and civic issues by means of community engagement.

Although for the last two years she taught undergraduate Spanish courses as a Teaching Assistant at ASU, she has recently transitioned to a Graduate Research Assistant role at the Center for the Future of Arizona.

Why does working at CFA support what you are passionate about professionally?

Coming from a background in Spanish linguistics, I am passionate about using my research skills and knowledge of language based discrimination to work directly with members of the community in order to create a space in which we can advocate for change together. CFA is an amazing place to begin this work as it is a forward thinking organization that puts the needs of the community at the center of every decision.

What do you enjoy in your personal time?

Traveling the world and making meaningful relationships while doing so has always been one of my greatest passions. I also love to dance (salsa, merengue, and bachata!), read, and watch way too many telenovelas.

Why do you love Arizona?

Coming from the snowy plains of Fargo, North Dakota I never seem required to profoundly justify my love for Arizona. Aside from the warm(er) winters, I enjoy living in a state that is home to people and lands that are rich in diversity. Oh... and you can't beat the taquerias in Phoenix.


Center for the Future of Arizona
541 East Van Buren, B-5
Phoenix, Arizona 85004-2211
Phone: 602-496-1360
Contact • Map • Parking