Education Alumna of the Year: Colleen Niccum

Oct. 28, 2014

Leading up to the UA's 100th Homecoming, we are highlighting UA alumni who are being honored by their colleges with alumni of the year awards.

Educational excellence has always been a priority for Colleen Niccum, the College of Education Alumna of the Year. After all, she trekked across the country from Minnesota to the UA because of its journalism program.

That journey set a course for her life — and ultimately her impact on the community she came to call her own.

Mentored by UA faculty members such as Phil Mangelsdorf and Edie Auslander, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, Niccum earned her master's degree from the College of Education in 1984. A UA bulletin-board posting led Niccum to Raytheon Corp.

In 2008, Raytheon tapped Niccum to head its community and government relations efforts. This led to a partnership with College of Education Dean Ronald Marx. Together, they launched Teachers in Industry, an innovative relationship between the UA and businesses centered on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. By placing graduate-level teachers in local STEM-related businesses for three summers, the program has become one of the most successful STEM teacher-retention programs in the nation.

At the same time, Niccum also helped launch the nonprofit Tucson Values Teachers, created to recruit, retain and reward K-12 teachers. As the founding chair of the board of directors, she has used her business expertise to create and sustain innovation in education.

Niccum also shares her expertise on the College of Education's advisory board, the state's Arizona Ready Education Council and the board of Expect More Arizona. Currently she is vice president of education policy for the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

"My UA experience definitely set me on the path for success, and I have been an avid Wildcats fan ever since," Niccum said. Her son is a UA College of Engineering student, and soon her daughter will join the UA family.

Other UA alumni being honored are: