UA Institute Aspires to Keep Arizona's Talent at Home

The Institute for Career Readiness and Engagement was created to connect students with employers and engagement experiences while supporting the state's workforce needs.

By Amanda Ballard, University Relations - Communications | August 14, 2015


In any competition, a winning strategy is to have all of your best players in the game.

The same goes for Arizona's workforce.

In an attempt to ensure that the most talented college graduates stay in Arizona and are better prepared to meet employers' needs, the University of Arizona established its Institute for Career Readiness and Engagement. Created to connect students with experiences and employers, the institute launched last fall with a grant awarded by the governor's Office of Workforce Development and is a crucial component of the UA's 100% Engagement initiative.

"We really need a highly skilled workforce if we want to remain competitive globally," said Mary Murphy, the institute's director. "We can't just educate the same old way we have in the past because our information and knowledge is so vastly, swiftly moving forward."

With more than two decades of experience in education and workforce development, Murphy is a firsthand witness to the shifting needs of employers in the state. Before joining the UA, she coordinated workforce development and policy programs for former Arizona Govs. Fife Symington and Jan Brewer.

In her newest role, she works to expand the reach of the UA into Maricopa County by developing relationships and identifying new engagement opportunities for students.

"The institute exposes students to a variety of different career paths within our state in an effort to keep our talent in Arizona," Murphy said. "It's about finding opportunities to engage and transport their education to the working world. It's really, really valuable applied learning."

The UA's 100% Engagement initiative is an important component of the University's Never Settle strategic and academic business plan that promises all undergraduate students an opportunity to gain real-world, hands-on experience in their chosen field before they graduate. More information about the initiative is available through the Office of Student Engagement's website at

The Institute for Career Readiness and Engagement was created in 2014 to support this initiative. In addition to connecting students with internship and job opportunities, it also expands on the UA's early career coaching programs.

In a competitive job market, college students can use all the help they can get to secure a head start on their careers, Murphy said.

One of the ways the institute connects students with potential employers is through Industry Treks. During the first Industry Trek, held in January, students from Tucson took a shuttle to Phoenix to visit Vanguard, Go Daddy, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Quicken Loans, the Arizona Legislature and others.

Murphy said that these partners have been receptive to working with the institute.

"Everyone is really thrilled and on board and can't wait to participate," she said. "It's been very positive."

During the upcoming academic year, Murphy said the institute will expand its efforts to expose students to new opportunities for applying their classroom learning.

The institute has these treks scheduled for fall:

For more information about the upcoming Industry Treks, call UA Career Services at 520-621-2588 or visit