February 2024 Network News

February 28, 2024

By Jessica Vaile

Thoughts from Dawn Wallace

Embracing the Professional Meet-Cute

In a recent Flinn-Brown virtual info session, I prompted a participant whom I knew professionally to initiate the Q&A portion. Her question surprised me—not because it was off-topic, but because it mirrored one I had been pondering for months.

Q: What do you like most about your job? 

When asked, “What do you like most about your job?” I found myself contemplating the power of self-reflection in our careers. Rather than suggesting doubts, such introspection has been a guiding light for me. Understanding what brings fulfillment allows me to focus my energy where it matters most, often leading to unexpected opportunities.

A: The amazing people I get to meet every day.

At Flinn, we embody the essence of a people-centric organization, where our days are dedicated to cultivating connections with a diverse array of individuals. Whether it is engaging with Fellows and my peers immersed in the realm of civic and democracy endeavors, collaborating with the pioneering scientists and researchers driving innovation in bioscience, nurturing the talents of our Scholars who embody the future, or championing the artistic endeavors of creators across our state, each interaction is a testament to our commitment to human potential and collective progress.

Reflecting on what truly brings me joy in my work, a recent Flinn Lunch and Learn provided a captivating encounter with Alex Laing, the executive director of Gateways Music Festival, and a seasoned principal clarinetist with the Phoenix Symphony for 22 years. Delving into the challenges confronting American orchestras regarding diversity, equity, relevance, and sustainability, Laing advocated for the “open kitchens” concept in artistic endeavors. He suggested that this approach, in contrast to pure objectivity, offers insights into the artist’s journey—their struggles, triumphs, and unique perspectives—thus nurturing empathy, understanding, and a deeper appreciation for artistry itself. Such thought-provoking dialogues are part and parcel of my everyday experiences. 

As I approach my fifth year leading civic leadership efforts at Flinn, I am reminded of the true essence of my work—the people. It is the vibrant connections with Flinn-Brown Fellows, scientists, scholars, and artists that invigorate each day. Your collective brilliance and camaraderie illuminate my professional journey, making it both meaningful and rewarding.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to each of you for this wonderful gift—the gift of meaningful connections and shared experiences. Together, we continue to shape the future with purpose and passion.

Calling All Tucson Fellows!

In partnership with the Arizona Chamber Foundation, the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership at the Flinn Foundation is proud to host the inaugural Arizona Civics Bee. The Arizona State Competition will take place on Friday, May 3 at the Flinn Foundation. This initiative underscores our commitment to fostering civic engagement and knowledge among youth in our Flinn Young Leaders programming. 

Four local business chambers will be conducting civics bee competitions, which will determine the three winners from each region who will advance to the state competition. The local contests are 90-minute, in-person events featuring two rounds of civics questions followed by a Q&A round with judges. Winners of the state competition will advance to the National Civics Bee to be held in fall 2024. 

The Tucson Metro Chamber will be hosting a local competition and has asked for volunteer assistance to help with event planning and logistics. They estimate that it will be about five hours per week, mostly remote, leading up to their event which will occur by mid-to-late April. 

If you have some time to help with this incredible opportunity for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to flex their civics knowledge, please contact Michael Guymon at mguymon@tucsonchamber.org.

AZ Town Hall for Flinn-Brown Fellows

On February 14, more than 35 Flinn-Brown Fellows from across the state attended an Arizona Town Hall convening at the Flinn Foundation to discuss topics impacting the state of our democracy and civic life in Arizona. Facilitated by Tara Jackson, president of Arizona Town Hall, Fellows discussed societal challenges in our political systems, civic structures, and democratic institutions. This was the first community program on the 2024 Arizona Town Hall topic: Civic Leadership and Democracy.

Read the summary report here

Special Invitation for Flinn-Brown Fellows

Please join us on Thursday, March 21 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. for “Democracy Dialogues: A Conversation with Richard Stengel” at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in downtown Phoenix. The Arizona Center for Civic Leadership at the Flinn Foundation is presenting this event, along with our partners, First Place AZ, Greater Phoenix Leadership, and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Stengel was the managing editor of TIME and the President/CEO of the National Constitution Center prior to serving in government. In the 1990s, he collaborated with Nelson Mandela on the South African’s bestselling autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.” 

RSVP here. In your RSVP, please mark that you are with the Flinn Foundation.

2024 Flinn-Brown Convention

We are excited to share that the 2024 Flinn-Brown Convention will be held on Friday, August 16 and planning has already started. 

We will announce the Phoenix venue shortly.

As has been the tradition since 2017, Flinn-Brown Fellows select the annual convention theme and build the day-long programming and networking opportunities. Thank you to Mignonne Hollis (Hereford, 2013) and Bill Regner (Clarkdale, 2019) for serving as co-chairs, along with Fellows Nicole Barraza (Tucson, 2020), Teresa Bravo(Tucson, 2023), Zach Brooks (Green Valley, 2017), Julie Euber(Tucson, 2022), Jesse Galvez (Gilbert, 2023), Charlinda Haudley(Tucson, 2022), Judy Lynn (Hereford, 2023), Representative Jennifer Pawlik (Chandler, 2018)Blake Sacha (Gilbert, 2017), Monica Timberlake (Quartzite, 2022), and Sarah Rose Webber(Phoenix, 2017) for volunteering to assist with the planning committee.

We have typically held the convention in November of each year; however, we received feedback from Fellows that November can be challenging for a host of issues, including elections, holidays, and for us logistically, the demand on hospitality in a high tourist season. By moving the Convention to August, we can address these issues and more formally induct our new 2024 Fellows into the Network right before they begin Academy.

Fellows Spotlight

David Garcia

(Phoenix, 2011)
Associate Professor
Arizona State University

“I’ve always felt like studying education policy involves getting engaged in that process. That’s what brought me to Flinn years and years ago, this idea that Flinn was not only a place that was working to have people get into politics, policy and political process, but to get them informed with a common base of knowledge and information. That’s something I believe in.”—David Garcia

David Garcia is an associate professor at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in the educational leadership and innovation sector. He also holds the position of director of the Arizona Education Policy Initiative at ASU. Prior to professorship, Garcia worked with the Arizona Department of Education and as a research analyst for ThinkAZ. He continues to utilize his expertise in research through writing and his teachings. 

Garcia believes that research stands for a greater good than it is often given credit for. In 2022, he published his book, “Teach Truth to Power; How to Engage in Education Policy,” which serves to better the public’s understanding on how to utilize research and academics to influence legislators’ decisions. It can be difficult for community members who care about education, but don’t have a background in it, to convey what’s truly important to them and why. 

“We are really trying to teach people how to present what they know, in a way that they can take action and influence, and maybe show legislators what’s important,” Garcia says. 

Garcia believes that studying education policy also involves being engaged in education policy. He says researchers write beautiful academic journals and include a snippet at the end that instructs policymakers to listen to what they have to say, but even if they listen, they may not know what to do with that information.

“At some point, I realized, if we’re going to impact policy, we need to go through politics,” he says. “So rather than sitting back and looking, pointing to somebody else to do that, in 2014, I ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

Garcia’s 2014 run was followed by another run in 2018, this one as the Democratic nominee in Arizona’s gubernatorial election. While Garcia was the runner-up in both elections, he gathered experiences that continue to help him in his current positions. He points out that academics often provide a “surplus
of information,” not by any ill intention, but because it is their nature. He learned that when it comes down to it, you have to find a personal point of interest before any methods can be presented. 

“You might be an expert on a topic, but it’s really hard to take that expertise and counter somebody’s personal experiences in the area,” Garcia said. “We can come back and say that all the research says X happens in the classroom, but if your only experience as a person, as a child, or a student in the classroom is opposite of that…you don’t really care.”

All of that being said, Garcia is a strong believer in academia and the power that research holds. He says while it may be important to tell legislators the real-world problem before anything else, you need data and proof to promptly follow. 

The Flinn-Brown Fellow loves his profession and enjoys the growth and excitement he gets to witness as an educator. “They’re creating themselves; they’re forming themselves, they’re ready to go do something, they’re excited about it,” he says. “And to be part of that over and over again, as an educator, it’s really rewarding. It’s fun.”

If you missed a Fellows Spotlight, you can view them on the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership website now.

Leadership Forward – A Better Arizona

Erin Carr-Jordan and Mignonne Hollis: Episode 5

Erin Carr-Jordan, Ph.D. (Gilbert, 2013) and Mignonne Hollis(Hereford, 2013), discuss the importance of reliable and affordable broadband in Arizona’s rural, tribal, and underserved communities in the fifth episode of Leadership Forward for a Better Arizona.
The Fellows shared specific examples of how broadband has positively impacted local businesses, education, and healthcare in Arizona communities along with the challenges and major barriers to equitable broadband access in rural and underserved areas of Arizona. The duo also discussed the state’s plan to invest $1 billion in Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding over the next few years.

You can listen on our YouTube channel, Apple Podcast, or any of the platforms below.

Next month, we will hear from Adam Goodman (Paradise Valley, 2023), president of Goodmans and chair of Greater Phoenix Leadership’s public policy committee, on his theory of “conscious capitalism,” the role of the business community in public policy, and why we should all care about comfortable furniture.

Fellows Meet Fellows

Fellows at Cochise County Forecast

The Cochise County Forecast 2024 from the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation brought Ben Blink (Phoenix, 2018), Mignonne Hollis (Hereford, 2013), Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson (Tucson, 2011), and Tony Boone (Sierra Vista, 2019) together.

Elaine Kellser and Zach Yentzer

Fellows even find each other in other states! Elaine Kessler (Gilbert, 2018) and Zach Yentzer (Tucson, 2020) connected at the Western Association of Chamber Executives in Orange County.

Fellows at Project CENTRL in Ajo

Flinn-Brown Fellows connected on a Project CENTRL field trip to Ajo. Edgar Soto (Tucson, 2022), Thea Wilshire (Globe, 2011), The Honorable Monica Timberlake (Quartzsite, 2022), Russell McCloud(Yuma, 2018), Paul Brierley (Phoenix, 2011), Darcy Mentone(Sonoita, 2022), and The Honorable Cecilia McCollough (Wellton, 2018).

Fellows join the in-person info session

Fellows turned up at the Maricopa in-person info session to sing the praises of the Flinn-Brown Network and encourage attendees to apply! Thank you Rebecca Perrera (Laveen, 2020), Gabriel Jaramillo(Phoenix, 2022), Lisa Urias (Phoenix, 2011), David Martinez III(Phoenix, 2011), Kim Hartmann (Scottsdale, 2015), Judge Alex Benezra (Phoenix, 2020), The Honorable Christine Thompson(Phoenix, 2017), The Honorable Julie Spilsbury (Mesa, 2023), Sophie Allen-Etchart (Phoenix, 2022), Tim Gomez (Phoenix, 2023), Kimulet Winzer (Phoenix, 2011), and Mayor Kevin Hartke (Chandler, 2014).

Fellows Dagger and Douthit

Flagstaff Flinn-Brown Fellows Mayor Becky Daggett (2014) and Sarah Douthit (2013) meet up at the Coconino Courthouse.

Fellows at Mesa State of the State

Mayor Mila Besich (Superior, 2019), Mayor Kevin Hartke (Chandler, 2014), and Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo (Mesa, 2014) gathered for the Mesa State of the State.

Fellows at Arizona Governor's office

Friday morning meetings for the Arizona Governor’s Office include three Fellows from the 2016 cohort: Kathryn Leonard (Phoenix, 2016), Sean Berens (Phoenix, 2016), and Billy Kovacs (Scottsdale, 2016).

Fellows at Verde Valley petition signing

Bill Regner (Clarkdale, 2018), Nikki Check (Jerome, 2012), and The Honorable Chip Davis (Clarkdale, 2012) meet at a petition signing event in Verde Valley.


Fellows in the wild

Our next virtual CivEx will be Wednesday, March 27 at 2:00 p.m.

The event will be led by 2014 Flinn-Brown Fellows Julie Katsel and Tamara Prime of Tucson. They willhost a panel discussion on Pima County’s Prosperity Initiative, an intergovernmental effort to develop wealthier communities across Pima County through policies that reduce generational poverty and improve opportunity. 

We will send an email next month with registration details for CivEx. 

If you have an idea for a CivEx webinar that you would like to host, or a topic you would like to learn more about, contact Dawn.

Fellows Field Trips

We are delighted to share that Flinn-Brown Fellow Sarah Rose Webber (Phoenix, 2017), deputy director at Arizona State Parks and Trails, has planned a Fellows Field Trip to Arizona’s newest state park! Please join Sarah and our Verde Valley Fellows, Tim and Ruth Ellen Elinski, Nikki Check, and Bill and Janet Regner, for a welcome breakfast at the park ranch house followed by a guided tour/river trail hike of the Rockin’ River Ranch in Camp Verde on Friday, May 10. Breakfast will be served at 9:30 a.m.


Fellows are encouraged to suggest or offer opportunities for Fellows to visit and learn more about what is happening in Greater Arizona. Please let Dawn know if you are interested in providing a field trip opportunity.

Fellows Lists

Each month we will feature a Fellows list for a specific employment sector, public policy area, affinity group, or region. This month we focus on Fellows in Central Arizona.  

Fellows Directory Updates

Help us keep our Fellows Directory accurate and updated!  We update our online directory monthly and print hard copies twice a year (October and May).  Please take a moment to complete this surveywith your current information. You can also upload a new headshot to this Google Drive folder.

Please contact Jennifer if you have problems accessing the survey or uploading a photo.

Fellows Book Recommendations

Each month, we feature suggestions from Fellows to create a virtual Network library about public-policy issues, the practice of leadership, professional development, and other areas worth sharing. This month’s recommendations come from Dave Engelthaler, Ph.D.  (Flagstaff, 2022) and Noah Mundt (Gilbert, 2023).

David Garcia
(Phoenix, 2011)
by Hernan Diaz

David is an avid reader. Every year for his birthday he compiles a collection of books from the recent award lists and reads his new stack for the rest of the year. After he’s done reading them all, he goes through and ranks them. So, a book recommendation from David Garcia is no joke. His current suggestion is Trust by Hernan Diaz.

“Out of the four I’ve read [this year] is a book called Trust, by the renowned Diaz. It’s a fantastic book about finance and about the acquisition of finance and gender roles.”

Fellows In The News

We are happy to promote your work through social media, so reach out if you would like us to recognize a professional accomplishment, event, or program with which you are involved.

We are happy to promote your work through social media, so reach out if you would like us to recognize a professional accomplishment, event, or program with which you are involved.

Trevor Abarzua (Hawaii, 2020) was interviewed in a podcast in his role as president and executive director of the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association about Hawaii’s present challenges and potential solutions for the issues impacting the state’s future trajectory.

Augustine Bartning (Phoenix, 2015) is now a broker for APB Valley Spaces.

Tony Boone (Sierra Vista, 2019) was interviewed for a Herald Review article about BlackStar Orbital’s potential move to Sierra Vista.

Nikki Check (Jerome, 2012) is a candidate for District 3, Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.

Mayor Becky Daggett (Flagstaff, 2014) joined Senator Mark Kelly for the first U.S. Senate Field Hearing Flagstaff has seen in 30 years to discuss flood control.

Reetika Dhawan, Ph.D. (Yuma, 2022) was awarded the Athena International Award.

Eric Fitzer (Tempe, 2013) is helping the city of Surprise begin to implement a project that will utilize 3D-printing technology as a new way to recycle.

Rep. Matt Gress (Phoenix, 2015) has introduced the Permanency Project to the Arizona Legislature, a program that helps reduce the number of children who age out of the foster care system.

Mary Hamway (Paradise Valley, 2012) is a candidate for Mayor of the Town of Paradise Valley.

Mignonne Hollis (Hereford, 2013) wrote an op-ed for the Herald Review on the Copper World project in Southern Arizona.

Gail Knight, Ph.D. (Phoenix, 2016) obtained her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Walden University in 2023. She was also appointed to the City of Phoenix Human Services Commission in January 2024.

Aaron Lieberman (Paradise Valley, 2017) joined KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap with former state legislator Regina Cobb to discuss Arizona’s U.S. Senate elections.

Adam Lopez Falk (Phoenix, 2022) is now a member of the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership Board of Directors.

Judy Lynn (Hereford, 2023) is now Operations Advisor in the Office of Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs.

Fletcher Montzingo (Phoenix, 2017) is now Senior Executive Consultant, Public Safety Personnel Retirement System.

Noah Mundt (Gilbert, 2023) is now a Senior Engineer in the Electric Vehicle group at Salt River Project (SRP) and candidate for Gilbert Town Council.

Marie Peoples, Ph.D. (Missouri, 2015) was appointed to serve on the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Nate Rhoton (Phoenix, 2015), CEO of one-n-ten, a nonprofit built to support LGBTQ youth, has announced that they have received a $1.9 million grant from the Arizona Department of Housing.

Aaron Rottenstein (Tucson, 2018) and his father, Myron Rottenstein, are UBS Institutional Consultants and their company, Rottenstein Wealth Management and Consulting, has been named to the Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Management Teams 2024 list.

Adelaida Severson (Gilbert, 2020) is now the program chair for the International Women’s Forum Arizona.

Hiral Tipirneni, M.D. (Glendale, 2022) is now Consultant, WH Community Health Commission.

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (Chandler, 2018) joined Sen. Priya Sundareshan on Arizona PBS at Arizona State University to discuss Democratic legislative updates.

Dana Kennedy (Phoenix, 2016), AARP of Arizona director, has been recognized by AZ Family as a “frontline fighter” in improving senior care in Arizona.

Brittney Kaufmann (Phoenix, 2014) wrote an op-ed for the Arizona Republic on the healthcare professional shortage Arizona is facing.

David Engelthaler, Ph.D. (Flagstaff, 2022) discussed TGen’s debunking of the myth that Valley fever shows up more often after a haboob or dust storm.

Board and Commission Openings

Serving on a board or commission is a great way to influence public policy on issues where you have expertise or a passion to serve. Arizona Together for Impact helps connect their nonprofit clients with potential board members, and hosts training and information sessions.

The Governor’s Office is seeking applications for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Applications are accepted through the standard application.

The Governor’s Office has over 200 boards and commissions. To apply for any vacancy, complete the application on the website. For a list of vacancies, please see here.

Maricopa County Travel Reduction Program Regional Task Forcehas vacancies in Districts 2, 3, 4, and 5. To apply complete the application for service. 

Coconino County Schools Superintendent has Governing Board vacancies in the Fredonia-Moccasin School District and the Maine Consolidated School District. Positions are open until filled. Applications are available here

Most Arizona counties and cities have boards and commissions with frequent vacancies. Check local websites for more opportunities. To share specific opportunities, contact Jennifer Papworth.

Career & Professional Opportunities

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seeking a Phoenix District Director provide planning and direction of EEOC activities including enforcement, outreach, and educational programs.

Desert Financial Credit Union is hiring a Corporate Social Responsibility Program Manager to execute social impact activities.

Arizona School for the Arts is searching for a new Executive Director to give direction and provide leadership toward achieving the school’s mission, vision, sustainability and strategic goals.

Citizen University is hiring an Accounting Manager who is passionate about effective and accurate administrative work and believes deeply in their mission of building a culture of powerful, responsible citizenship.

The Arizona Center for Economic Progress is looking for a strategic and visionary leader to serve as its next Executive Director.

The Nature Conservancy has positions open across Arizona, including Healthy Cities Program Director, and Stewardship Program Manager.

Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is hiring a Government Relations Project Manager to lead local, state, and federal intergovernmental relations efforts with MAG member agencies.

Greater Phoenix Leadership (GPL) is seeking a Social Impact and Racial Equity Advancement Project Director.

One Arizona is seeking an Executive Director to lead their coalition of non-partisan, nonprofits focused on civic engagement.

The Trust for Civic Life is a grantmaking collaborative currently accepting nominations through February 29 for their initial grant cycle focused on hubs in rural regions of the United States. Hubs are defined as anchor institutions, community foundations, nonprofit networks, or small businesses that serve as trusted intermediaries for building local civic programming and cultivating and distributing needed resources.

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office is now accepting applications for the “I Voted” Sticker Contest through March 15. There is a contest for youth and adults and the winner in each category will have their design featured on one of eight “I Voted” stickers used during the primary and general elections.

The Flinn Foundation is seeking its next Vice President, Communications. This important role leads our mighty communications team, which works with all of our philanthropic programs—in arts and culture, bioscience, civic leadership, and education. Application closes 2/29.

Events & Conferences

The University of Arizona Freedom Center is hosting a debate on Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) Now and in the Future on April 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Heard Museum. The debate features former White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Robert Gibbs as moderators with a distinguished panel of state and national experts. RSVP here.

Equity Health, in partnership with Healthy Moms, Strong Babies and March of Dimes, is holding a Healthy Mama Festival on March 9 at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Gymnasium. 

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is hosting a tutorial and panel discussion about what a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) can and should be on Tuesday, March 12 at The Studios @ Mesa City Center. This is an invitation-only event. To attend, please contact Flinn-Brown Fellow Terry Benelli at Tbenelli@lisc.org.

The Taliesin Business and Policy Forum is hosting a series of conversations on global topics with local implications that began in November with “No Magic Bullet: Understanding and Addressing the Housing Crisis.” Sessions will be held in March and April. See the brochure here.

Healthcare professionals, educators, leaders, and workforce development partners are invited to attend the Second Annual Arizona Healthcare Workforce Summit on April 4 & 5 at ASU SkySong in Scottsdale.

The city of Tempe and Arizona Heritage Center will host the 2024 Arizona Good Business Summit on April 16.

The Arizona Democracy Resilience Network, supported by The Carter Center, is launching a workshop series inviting faith, business and community leaders, county-level activities and local professionals —who hold differing political views—to get to know themselves and each other better with the intent of building a more cohesive community. Program begins in late March to early April. No costs involved. For more, email Don Henninger at don.henninger@cartercenter.org, co-lead of the ADRN.