Mike Proctor, VP for Global Initiatives, Retiring After 23 Years at UA

Mike Proctor, VP for Global Initiatives, Retiring After 23 Years at UA

By University Communications
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Mike Proctor
Mike Proctor
Mike Proctor and his wife, Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose.
Mike Proctor and his wife, Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose.
Mike and Rocky in front of the Great Wall of China.
Mike and Rocky in front of the Great Wall of China.

After a 23-year career that included leadership roles across the University, many of them as a de facto international ambassador who created and cultivated ties with alumni and collaborators around the world, Vice President for Global Initiatives Mike Proctor is retiring.

Proctor began his career with the University of Arizona in 1993, when he became a university attorney. He later served as the UA's assistant vice president for corporate relations and as associate dean for external affairs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. From 2008 to 2013, he served as dean of the Outreach College, coordinating the UA's distance education and branch campus programs. He balanced that position with his oversight of the Office of Global Initiatives after he was appointed vice president in 2009.

A common current underlying his work at the UA was advancing the University through collaborations statewide and around the world. During his time leading global initiatives, Proctor enhanced the UA's global footprint by leveraging substantive relationships and focusing on educational empowerment.

"There are two things that jump at you when you interact with Mike Proctor: his deep passion for the University of Arizona and his strategic mind," said Paulo Goes, dean of the Eller College of Management. "These two attributes combine in a unique way that makes it so much fun to work with him. He has made substantial contributions that led us to think differently about how to expand the reach of the University way beyond its traditional boundaries, from the immediate communities of Southern Arizona to online to global. And yet everything fits together to advance the mission of a land-grant institution."

Proctor's allegiance to the UA is rooted in his family's history. Born into a family that traced its connections to Southern Arizona and northern Mexico over generations, Proctor was the son of a UA alumnus; his father, George, graduated from the UA in 1948. Proctor followed in his father's footsteps, receiving a bachelor's degree in renewable natural resources from the UA in 1983 and a law degree five years later. During his undergrad years, Proctor served as student body president.

When Proctor took on oversight of the Office of Global Initiatives, his objective was to advance the UA's reputation as one of the world's great universities. That work included a focus on more effectively communicating the UA's international role to the public and consolidating support services for the range of global affairs at the University. 

Under his leadership, the number of incoming international faculty and scholars rose from fewer than 800 in 2010 to more than 1,500 today, an increase that was accompanied by growth in the number and breadth of study abroad and student exchange opportunities available to UA students.

The number of international students grew from 2,585 in 2010 to approximately 4,000 today. The office also focused on developing key strategic institutional and geographic strategies. These efforts have led to a greater global reach for the University across the world and far more engaged international researchers at the UA. 

Proctor was instrumental in establishing a UA-based presence for the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Latin America's most influential university. The center, known as UNAM-Tucson, builds on a longstanding partnership between the two institutions and promotes academic relationships and research opportunities between the U.S. and Mexico.

He helped create the Red de Extensión e Innovación Nacional Universitaria – known as Project REINU – in partnership with Mexico's Department of Agriculture. The initiative helped Mexico begin to develop a national university-based organization of scientists and educators, supporting youth-based development and regional innovation programs.

"I admired and keep admiring his passion for international education and his support of the idea of building bridges of collaboration, understanding and tolerance between people and countries," said Francisco Marmolejo, higher education coordinator at the World Bank. He met Proctor about 15 years ago when Proctor was at CALS and Marmolejo was executive director of the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration. "Mike is a true border citizen. I remember very well how proud he is of his family roots in Mexico and also the fact that he is a very proud Arizonan."

Proctor's work reached far beyond Latin America, extending to the Persian Gulf region, China and Africa. In all of these areas of the world, he focused on building consortium and foundational relationships between multiple entities and agencies.

"Part of the idea is to move beyond the limitations of traditional bilateral institutional relationships, and position the UA as a key part of the other country's educational system, as part of the family – there for the long haul with multiple levels of engagement," Proctor said.

Proctor's deep affinity for the Southwest and Latin America led him and his wife, Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose, retired UA deputy athletics director, to establish the George Redondo Proctor Family Endowed Scholarship, a fund for students from Southern Arizona and New Mexico, as well as Latin America, who are interested in natural resources issues.

Proctor, whose last day in office is Friday, plans to devote time and energy to growing the endowment and helping to establish educational opportunities for others committed to empowering change.

"My family – on the side of my grandmother, Inez Redondo – has been blessed to live in this region for seven generations," Proctor said. "The border, for us, was always a gathering place, not a divide."

An avid outdoor enthusiast, Proctor also plans to trade in reports and long plane trips for more time outside.

"Mike is known for his deep, deep passion for all things UA and for his similarly deep passion for Southern Arizona, the border, and the world beyond," said Provost Andrew Comrie. "That spirit has infused everything he has done in leading the Office of Global Initiatives and throughout his travels across the globe on behalf of the UA. I have no doubt that it will continue post-retirement too."

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