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Office Doors: Tracy Bame
President of the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation and board chair of Expect More Arizona
Karen Werner | Editor
As a high school freshman, Tracy Bame never imagined that her English teacher, Mr. Victor, would set the tone for her professional career — including chairing the board of Expect More Arizona, an organization dedicated to finding and implementing long-term solutions to our state’s most pressing education issues.
“Mr. Victor was an incredible teacher that inspired my passion, not only to be a good writer,” Bame said. “It was about looking outside what you were learning in the classroom and really being a student of the world.”
As Bame continued on to college and into her professional career, she became aware that her path would call her to try to leave a mark on the world. For the past 23 years, she’s served as president of the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, building the company’s corporate social responsibility program and engaging with stakeholders about important issues.
“Certainly education is central among the things that we engage around,” Bame said. As a mother, Bame is aware that education opens up a world of opportunity, but that not all Arizona children are as fortunate to receive a high-quality education as her own. “I became really passionate about wanting to make sure that all children had access to a high-quality education and being part of work designed to raise the bar in the state,” she said.
After speaking with Paul Luna, president and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation and a founder of Expect More Arizona, Bame became motivated by the organization’s mission to bring diverse groups of people together to advocate for all children having a top-flight education. “I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically joined the board six years ago, and it’s my pleasure to serve now as the chairperson,” she said.
Founded in 2009 by a group of business and community leaders, Expect More Arizona is a public-private partnership that works to make Arizona’s education system the best it can be and create a shared voice to make education a top priority for our state.
Reflecting on her role with the organization, Bame sees it as her chance to help create an Arizona with opportunity for all students to grow and achieve, no matter where they come from. “Expect More works at building a statewide network that represents parents, teachers, concerned citizens and students. It’s kind of an umbrella organization that beats the drum for high-quality education,” she said. “There really isn’t anybody else who’s that collective voice for advocating for high-quality education or making sure that, for example, rural communities’ voices are represented, because they often get left out.”
Bame is particularly excited about two Expect More Arizona resources that she sees as key to improving education in our state. The first is the Arizona Education Progress Meter, which details eight key metrics that allow us to see how we’re making progress related to a number of education milestones. From pre-K enrollment to third grade reading scores to high school graduation rates, it offers specific goals that support a unified vision for education in Arizona.
“What’s really powerful about the achievement rate goal is that if the state achieves 60 percent of Arizonans who receive either a two- or four-year degree or a post-secondary certificate, we will add $3.5 billion to the Arizona economy,” Bame said. “So Expect More is really helping to focus people around the things that need to be done throughout the education continuum to reach that attainment goal.”
The second resource Bame is excited about is the Education Roadmap that Expect More launched in January. Presenting a long-term plan for education, the Roadmap articulates short-term investments with potential to move the needle for the education system and increase outcomes for students. “That was another statewide collaborative effort where they brought together over 200 partners in the education space from all across the state to outline the priorities that the education community has collectively agreed on — from increasing teacher salaries to improving early childhood education,” Bame said. “It’s a really powerful tool for moving the conversation forward.”
As board chair, Bame will be working toward organizational stability, raising the organization’s public profile, and building support for a collective vision for education among community leaders. “There’s definite progress being made,” she said. “The work that Expect More has done in raising the conversation across the state has directly resulted in Arizonans understanding and agreeing that education is a top priority.”
Bame hopes her board service to Expect More Arizona means that more children will have the kind of enriching, mind-expanding education experience that Mr. Victor provided for her back in ninth grade, both for their own sake and for Arizona’s. “I think a lot of people don’t realize how critical education is, not just for personal success, but for the economic health of our state. A high-quality, qualified workforce drives the creation of economic opportunity and business development and attraction, and a whole host of things that will allow our state to thrive and grow. It’s the single best way to ensure a vibrant, healthy Arizona.”
To learn more, go to expectmorearizona.org.