Stronger Foundation

by Don Rodriguez

Once a solid foundation has been created, it’s the perfect time for growth. This rule of thumb is especially true for the Arizona Technology Council Foundation, which most notably has served as home base for the Arizona Science & Engineering Fair, the High School and Middle School Science Bowls, and the Arizona SciTech Festival.

The foundation has set into a motion a new era guided by new board members who bring a range of expertise to guide the organization with new objectives that they and new staff members will execute.

The first step was to name Jeremy Babendure as the foundation’s executive director. It’s a natural move as he has served in the same role since the incredibly successful Arizona SciTech was launched with its first festival in 2012. “Steve and I really thought it would make a lot more sense for me to have more leadership, considering a critical part of what is happening in the foundation is with SciTech anyway,” says Babendure, referring to Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council and the foundation.

Next came assembling a new board. “We really sought to bring in some new blood to the team, and a lot of them were SciTech-related sponsors or partners who have engaged for a while,” he says. “Steve and I both agreed that we really wanted to have a more proactive board and a larger board to be more helpful in terms of the growth.”

These new board members include:

Angie Harmon (social investments manager at Freeport-McMoRan), a long-time advisor to Arizona SciTech who adds a corporate rural perspective;

Ashley Kelly (supervisor of operations planning at Arizona Public Service), who came to the board from the Manifesto Project and will help engage with rural and remote communities;

Renée Levine (community affairs and education manager at Intel), who brings the larger corporate approach;

Scott Salkin (founder and CEO of Allbound), who offers his entrepreneurial approach;

Jeff Unruh (managing director of Alerion Capital Group and a director of the James A. Unruh Family Foundation), who carries a general philanthropy perspective and wants to grow engagement with the foundation; and

Robert Witwer (vice president, aerospace advanced technology at Honeywell, and chairman emeritus of the Arizona Technology Council board), who will be working to get more engagement from STEM professionals in the community.

Remaining on the board are:

David Alberty (corporate controller at AFS Technologies), who has served as board chairman and treasurer;

Quinn Williams (shareholder of Greenberg Traurig and director emeritus of the Arizona Technology Council board). who has served as board secretary; and

Susan Schultz (CEO of The Board Institute and president of SSA Executive Search International), who has served as a director.

All will be actively involved in guiding the organization through six strategic objectives with related key strategies for success. They are:

  • Arizona culture celebrates STEM in a positive light with strategy targeting Arizona SciTech Festival
  • Cultivate Arizona’s next generation of STEM leaders with strategy targeting Chief Science Officers (CSOs)
  • Support an Arizona STEM literate society with strategy targeting Arizona STEM School Community of Practice, an initiative empowering educators and other community leaders with multiple perspectives to learn from one another within a social structure based on their mutual learning goals.
  • Supply meets demand for STEM workforce needs with strategy targeting workforce partnerships with the Arizona Commerce Authority
  • Arizona is viewed as an international leader in science, technology and innovation with strategy targeting the Arizona Science Bowls
  • Increase access to STEM assets by Arizona’s diverse populations with strategy targeting Science for All, a partnership with Jobs for Arizona Graduates to reach the state’s most diverse and underrepresented populations.

Working behind the scenes to support execution is a “fairly large team,” Babendure says. They include:

Nagib Balfakih and Kaci Fankhauser, who are AmeriCorps VISTA Fellows focused on academic research and development.

Susan Farretta (director, education services, Arizona SciTech Festival), who helps direct the CSO program.

Sabrina Foy (accounting assistant), who provides finance and accounting support.

Kal Mannis (program director of the Rural Innovation and Activation Network grant from the National Science Foundation)

Dwarka Nath, an Intel Encore Career Fellow working on manuals and a database for the CSOs.

Marisa Ostos (assistant director, Arizona SciTech Festival)

Don Ruedy (SciTech southern Arizona liaison)

Veekas Shrivastava (director of business and community partnership), who focuses on the partnerships leading to more engagement with the CSOs.

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