Jaime P. Gutierrez was named the interim vice president for external relations at the UA. He currently serves as associate vice president for community relations oversees neighborhood relations and outreach, local government relations, the UA Visitor Center, UA events and community partnerships. He also served as special assistant to the UA president and as an Arizona senator for 14 years.
Daily Wildcat: UA interim President Eugene Sander said that you have the ability to engage with the many stakeholders who care deeply about this institution. How do you plan to do that?
Gutierrez: We have numerous stakeholders not just in Tucson, but also all over the state, including elected officials. I am involved in a lot of groups out there. I have relationships with farmers, people in rural communities, both in small and large towns. The UA brand is something we need to expand. Our medical school campus in Phoenix is a gem that is a result of years and years of hard work. Our partnerships with the medical community there are expanding. A number of instances in our office have everyday impact and everyday connections with constituents.
How do you plan to utilize your previous experience as a former Arizona senator in your new position?
When I was in the Senate, I knew a lot of people in Phoenix and I continue those relationships with federal offices and agencies.
What do you plan to do differently, if anything, than former Vice President for External Relations Stephen MacCarthy?
It’s hard to say right now, he did an excellent and marvelous job. In the four and a half years he was here, the UA’s presence, not just in Arizona, but nationally and internationally increased dramatically. I plan to build on what Steve has done. I will listen to the folks that report to me on what they want to do differently. When there is a change, there is always an opportunity to come in with fresh eyes. I want to build in and on what Steve has done, while looking at situations with fresh eyes.
How do you plan to help build the UA’s image in the wake of budget cuts?
I think we will continue budget cuts and I don’t see any magic in another two to three years. I think we can build on what we have. There are tremendous budget pressures at this university, yet we have to continue to advance. The Phoenix Mars Lander was an extraordinary accomplishment for a university of our size. The BIO5 Institute is continuing its great scientific research in light of continuing budget pressures. The UA has a lot to be proud of. Even in rough and difficult economic times, our faculty and staff have managed to keep their eye on the prize. Our university has done extremely well with the pressures over the last few years. I wish I could say that the pressures will end, but they won’t. The sales tax from Proposition 100 will expire in a year and a half and our state will be faced with a billion dollar deficit again. We will have a significant presence downtown once we get the modern streetcar running and will have student and faculty programs operating out there. The UA Bio Park, which plans to meet the demanding needs of high technology companies, will continue expansion in spite of budget difficulties. I am optimistic about the future of this university. Our faculty and staff have continued to progress, and we have a great horizon before us.
What about Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Fred DuVal’s statement about a zero dollar tuition increase for the following academic year?
I talk to parents almost daily, and every public university is talking about a tuition squeeze. We need to make higher education affordable, and its affordability now is a debate with some folks. How do you increase financial aid and help lower and middle-income students? We need to be more aggressive and continue former UA President Shelton’s big initiatives.
How big of a role will you play in endowment and gift funding? Is increasing endowment and gift funding a strength you possess? Why or why not?
My role in this will be minimal. This office will help things like the UA Foundation, an organization seeking to advance the UA by building relationships, securing philanthropic support and stewarding assets, as well as help foster relationships with gift givers, not just here but across the country.
In general, how are you feeling about your new position?
I’m excited. Although it’s on an interim basis, there is a lot we can do. We can’t stop, it’s very competitive out there. We have a great message and we had some great accomplishments. This university needs to continue its number of initiatives in a forceful and strong way. From my perspective, there is no slowing down. We just can’t afford to.