Student Spreads Passion for Education in Phoenix: Allison Otu '19 MBA (Executive)

Nov. 16, 2018

Allison Otu

Allison Otu '19 MBA (Executive)

Allison Otu is hooked on higher education—and on getting other people excited about it. The award-winning marketing professional is on a mission to inform young people in the Phoenix community, where she lives and works, of the opportunities that can come with pursuing a college degree. She especially wants them to know about the University of Arizona’s increasing presence in the Valley.

“When you look at the state of education in Arizona, we all have to be invested in this effort—whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, or someone who works in higher education,” Otu says. “It’s at a very critical juncture that if we don’t invest in education for young people now, our whole economy is going to be affected.”

Otu is rallying behind the cause, and creating solutions, in her role as senior director of marketing and communications for the UA’s College of Medicine-Phoenix where she has worked since 2012. With community outreach as one of her main priorities, she developed Connect2STEM, an annual event for kids and young adults ages 3 to 23 years. It is designed to engage participants in more than 150 STEM-focused activities, from meeting UA medical students to testing out the da Vinci surgical robot used by surgeons nationwide.

“The goal,” she says, “is to get young people to learn all about science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. And it’s also a platform to tell the Phoenix community that we have a campus downtown. We want to make sure they know the UA is here and this is a school for them.”

The program has garnered more than 20,000 attendees since its inception in 2014—and Otu anticipates between 8,000 and 10,000 more at the next event on January 26, 2019. But this year, Otu’s approach to Connect2STEM and, in fact, to her full array of professional responsibilities is bolstered by her own trek back to the classroom. As a second-year student in the Executive MBA program, she is armed with new knowledge about how to make her work more productive and efficient.

“My whole brain has been opened up to the business world that I had not been poised to study or learn before,” says Otu, who holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Ball State University. “The professors and people we’ve been able to meet—experts from the Diamondbacks, Shamrock Farms, Freeport-McMoRan and Silicon Valley—have really helped to change my perspective of leadership. When you have that constant exposure to new ways of thinking it’s a big deal and so transformational—you’re that much more informed as a leader.”

Her enthusiasm for the program is evident. But it’s not been without its challenges. Prior to starting her MBA program, Otu says she hadn’t taken a math class in 15 years. She went in thinking she would be terrible at the subject, but Eller set her up for success with an initial refresher course and ample opportunities for one-on-one help with professors.

“My whole life I’ve told people I’m terrible at math, and I stopped saying that because I’m not,” she says. “That’s worth the MBA program right there to have that validation.”

As for her goals upon graduation in May 2019, Otu is focused on continuing to make a difference at the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix.

“I love being at the University of Arizona and sitting on the executive team of the medical school,” she says. “I feel like my knowledge is already being implemented at that level, and I’m contributing more than ever.”