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Engineering student Katelyn Rees poses for a photo in front of a brick building.

Senior Becomes a Voting Member of Arizona Board of Regents

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Senior Becomes a Voting Member of Arizona Board of Regents

Nov. 7, 2023
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Vowing to help ensure that the basic needs of all students are met, mechanical engineering major Katelyn Rees begins the last year of her student regent appointment.

It is like “drinking from a firehose.”

That’s what one former student regent told Katelyn Rees when she was appointed to the Arizona Board of Regents a year ago.

“That was a very apt description,” said the senior double majoring in mechanical engineering and computer science.

Rees has spent much of the last year devouring details about the three ABOR-governed public universities: the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University. ABOR steers policy on student and academic affairs, student tuition, fees and financial aid; capital development and human resources; strategic plans and legal affairs, and public outreach.

The board has 12 members, including ex officio the governor and superintendent of public instruction as well as two governor-appointed students, who serve overlapping two-year terms and are granted voting rights for the second year. Otherwise, regents serving eight-year terms are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Understanding how just one university operates is enough to make a person’s head spin. Rees learned about three, all while transitioning to her senior year.

“Katelyn is the epitome of student leadership and an inspiration for women in STEM, not to mention a brilliant engineer to be. The profession, the state, the university and the college are very fortunate to have her, and I'm really proud of her service to ABOR on behalf of her fellow students,” said David W. Hahn, Craig M. Berge Dean of the College of Engineering.

Boosting the Health Care Workforce

A state university plan for major growth and investment in Arizona health care, AZ Healthy Tomorrow, has been one of the most exciting initiatives for Rees.

“The board recognized a commitment to building the health care workforce was needed to support the growth of Arizona,” Rees said.

Nearly 3 million Arizonans have limited access to primary care, according to a board analysis, and one in three hospitals in the state face a significant staffing shortage. Thus, over the next decade, it is critical to prepare thousands of nurses, physicians, and behavioral health workers to fill the gaps.

The University of Arizona has committed to doubling medical school graduates, and ASU and NAU pledged to launch medical schools.

Ensuring Student Housing and Food Security

Now Rees is turning her attention to giving back to the student population.

“I plan to continue the work of my predecessors and advocate for initiatives related to addressing student food and housing insecurity,” she said.

Chair Elect Regent Cecilia Mata said Rees’ insight is incredibly helpful as the board makes decisions about student welfare.

“I have been impressed with her ability to make complex subjects and issues understandable,” Mata said. “This is important as she relays board information to her fellow students.”

Looking Toward an Exciting Career

Like those before her, Rees, along with her fellow student regent, will plan the annual Student Leadership Summit – expected to be in November – for student governments from the three universities.

Explaining that mentors have made a tremendous difference in her life and undergraduate journey, Rees is looking forward to working with Student Regent David Zaragoza, who is studying electrical engineering at Arizona State University and was appointed by Gov. Katie Hobbs in May 2023.

“I have learned more than I ever could have imagined, and I hope to put this knowledge to good use and help make an impact in our universities, their communities and the state of Arizona at large,” she said.

Rees will start the next chapter of her life after graduation with a position as technology consultant, hopefully working on robotics, at Accenture, a global technology and consulting company, in its San Francisco location.