The Power of a Poster
PROVO, Utah – Jul 30, 2020 – As a student in his final year of the BYU Marriott School of Business School of Accountancy's MAcc program, John Arnold frequently passed by a poster in the Tanner Building advertising the MPA program. Although he enjoyed accounting, he wasn’t sure it was the right fit for him, and the idea of a career in public administration was intriguing. One day Arnold made a decision that forever altered his career path: he entered the MPA program office on the seventh-floor and inquired about earning an MPA degree.
After graduating with a MAcc in 1996 and then an MPA in 1997, he began his journey in public administration. Now the executive director of the Arizona Board of Regents, Arnold uses the skills and strategies he learned in the MPA program to facilitate change in Arizona’s higher education system.
Although Arnold enjoyed the accounting program, after completing a tax internship with Ernst & Young, he realized that he needed to change career paths. “I liked accounting, don’t get me wrong,” he says. “I did a tax internship and enjoyed aspects of it but realized that, in the long term, it wasn’t for me.” Looking back, he is grateful he made the change. “I’m glad that I have my MPA, because I have loved my career in government,” he says.
One of Arnold’s favorite aspects of working in public administration is the opportunity to work with a variety of people. “I love the people and being involved with the Board of Regents. We have eight regents who are appointed by the governor,” he explains. “I’m usually on the phone with one or more regents every day, and they are some of the most brilliant, accomplished people on the planet. We all genuinely believe in what we do: striving to change higher education.”
Indeed, the goal Arnold is most passionate about is increasing the percentage of Arizona residents who receive a four-year degree. “Arizona trails national averages quite significantly in higher education attainment,” he says. “Nationally, somewhere around 31 to 32 percent of Americans end up with a four-year degree; in Arizona, it’s around 17 to 18 percent. So we’re almost half of the national average in terms of four-year degree attainment, particularly in some of our at-risk populations.”
In recognition of his dedicated efforts to combat this issue, Arnold received the Arizona Capitol Times 2019 Leader of the Year in Education award, which celebrates “men, women, and organizations that have contributed greatly to Arizona’s growth.”
Arnold appreciates that others recognize the importance of his work for higher education attainment. “In the last few years, I’ve tried to focus on this clear problem that we’ve identified in our state, and now we’re trying to build these coalitions and pathways to address it. I’m pleased to see that other people see it as an important issue.”
Arnold thanks BYU Marriott for preparing him for success in his career. “My education in the BYU Marriott MPA program gave me a systematic way of thinking and problem solving. No matter what issues came in front of me, I had the toolset to approach and attack those issues,” he says. “I also learned to process complicated data and communicate that data in terms that people can understand. In my career, that has been a critical component of what I do.”
Outside of work, Arnold enjoys hiking and spending time with his wife, Marla, and their five children. He also serves in several community organizations, including Greater Phoenix Leadership, Southern Arizona Leadership Council, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert