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New regent Rick Myers focused on public service

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New regent Rick Myers focused on public service

Newly appointed member of the Arizona Board of Regents Rick Myers has become a well-known leader through his management skills and international business expertise.

But it's his work as an engineer and problem-solver that pushes him to take on things bigger than himself – like public education in Arizona.

Myers was appointed in January to an eight-year term on the board, which oversees the state's public university system. He's taking the lessons he learned in his career at IBM and applying them to public service.

"If you're not accessible or have an intellectual curiosity and not trying to understand what's going on, how you do you have a context to make decisions?" he said.

After graduating from The University of Alabama, Myers was hired by IBM where he quickly went from product development and testing to general manager of the Tucson IBM facility. He's now chief operating officer of the Critical Path Institute, which works with scientists, government agencies, industry representatives and academics to help develop pharmaceuticals and get them to the people who need them.

"I have a successful career and I'd like to help do what I can to help make this state more competitive, and this state a better place for all of us," he said. "I really want to give back. I really enjoy reaching out and getting involved in projects where I feel that my background, my leadership experience, the things that I've done can bring a context, bring a frame of reference -- that I can add value in helping them move the ball forward."

Myers is a longtime public education advocate and, in his newest role, is also a student of sorts.

"As a new regent I'm still learning the complexity of challenges and opportunities that the university system is faced with," he said. "My goal is to help the (university) presidents manage through the current challenges."

The regents set tuition for all three Arizona public universities and must deal with massive budget cuts to higher education that have affected students, faculty and the institutions as a whole.

According to the Arizona Board of Regents, 10 years ago the tuition for resident undergraduates was $2,344 and has more than tripled to $8,237 per academic year.

The University of Arizona has also come up with the Transformation Plan, which has included the closure or merging of 42 academic programs, according to the UA news service.

Myers has a history of getting involved with community issues. He has volunteered as co-chair of the citizens committee for the Regional Transportation Authority, is a board member of the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona and has served on a volunteer committee that oversaw the Tucson Unified School District's budget.

While Myers is now on the Board of Regents, he remains focused on younger students, too. He draws the connection between all levels of education.

"We need to graduate qualified teachers from our universities and we need to incent them to stay in teaching," Myers said. "We need to evaluate our students against national and international measurements that truly show the quality of their learning."

Myers said he wants to make sure that Arizona provides the best opportunities in education for students. "Choice, quality, availability and net expense are all important elements in establishing this value," he said.

In October 2002 he began teaching part-time a graduate-level management of technology course at the University of Arizona, a job he is still passionate about.

"I think when you build people and reach out and mentor people and help teams be successful there's a joy in that and a personal satisfaction that you've helped other people to be better, and that together you've generated success," he said.

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