SOS21 banner background image


Sparked by Disruption: The Role of Public Policy in Sustaining Pandemic-Era Innovations

State of Our State 2021 Virtual Convening

Monday, November 15, 2021
8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Massive disruption necessitates massive adaptation. We all experienced this first-hand when the pandemic hit. When institutions and governmental entities adapt, it often requires policy change.

Morrison Institute's 2021 State of Our State is a discussion of significant innovations that COVID-19 sparked in Arizona. Learn about instances where public policy proved sufficiently flexible to accommodate innovation and where policy change will be required to sustain adaptations worth keeping around.

Watch the Event Recording

State of Our State 2021 was recorded on Nov. 15, 2021, at Video West Studios in Phoenix.


Exploring how industries and institutions are innovating through a challenging time.


Morrison Institute for Public Policy Advisory Board Chair Mary Upchurch gets State of Our State 2021 underway.

President's Insights

ASU President Michael Crow offers his insights on innovations sparked by disruptions to the status quo.

Director's Remarks

Morrison Institute for Public Policy Director Andrea Whitsett unveils new research on housing insecurity, generously funded by the Arizona Community Foundation — Andrea Whitsett's Presentation Slides


Three Arizona leaders share how the pandemic prompted them to change their thinking and innovate in big ways.

Panel Discussion

Grady Gammage Jr. moderates a discussion among Arizona leaders and explores how each of their sectors innovated to thrive.

Honoring the 2021 Distinguished Fellows

Morrison Institute Co-founder Richard Morrison honors the 2021 Distinguished Fellows.

  • Cynthia Zwick, executive director, Wildfire
  • Jonathan Koppell, president, Montclair State University

Closing Remarks

ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions Interim DeanCynthia Lietz reflects on the insights and innovations discussed.


Leaders from the education, government, nonprofit, health and business sectors.

Michael Crow

Michael Crow, president, ASU

Michael M. Crow became the sixteenth president of Arizona State University in July 2002. He is an educator, knowledge enterprise architect, science and technology policy scholar and higher education leader. He spearheaded ASU’s rapid and groundbreaking transformative evolution into one of the world’s best public metropolitan research universities.

Maria Fuentes

Maria Cristina Fuentes, director, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family

Maria Cristina Fuentes was appointed as director of the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family by Gov. Doug Ducey in November 2017. Previously, she served in the administration of President George W. Bush in the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Justice. After her time in the Bush administration, she worked at Casey Family Programs.

Grady Gammage Jr.

Grady Gammage Jr., founding member, Gammage & Burnham

Grady Gammage Jr. is a founding member of Gammage & Burnham, an author, a real estate developer and a former elected official. He is a senior fellow at ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute, where he focuses on urban growth and development, quality of life and local economic issues. He is also an instructor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and at the W.P. Carey School of Business.

Robbie Koerperich

Robbie Koerperich, superintendent, Holbrook Unified School District

Robbie Koerperich has been an educator for 25 years. He has served as an elementary teacher, principal at Indian Wells Elementary in the Holbrook School District, and is currently superintendent of Holbrook USD #3. He has been president of the Arizona Impact Aid Association since 2014 and also serves on the Education Certification Advisory Board.

Jonathan Koppell

Jonathan Koppell, president, Montclair State University

2021 Distinguished Fellow

Jonathan G.S. Koppell became president of Montclair State University in August 2021. He is recognized globally as a scholar of policy, organization and management, and a visionary leader emphasizing public service and solutions. Before Montclair State, Koppell served as dean of Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions — leading the nation’s largest comprehensive public affairs college — and vice provost for public service and social impact.

Gwendena Lee-Gatewood

Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, chairwoman, White Mountain Apache Tribe

Gwendena Lee-Gatewood is the first woman to be elected as chairperson of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. She is of the Nilchi’enti’n Clan and born for the Tse’kine Clan. She was given her Indian name, Short Gun Woman, by Bruce Starlight, the Tsuut’ina Language Commissioner for the Tsuut’ina Nation of Canada. She has three kids, loves serving her people, and is chairperson of Arizona Indian Gaming Association. She is also president of the Apache Alliance, board president of Theodore Roosevelt School, a member of the Native American Advisory Council to the president of Northern Arizona University, and a member of the National Institutes of Health Tribal Advisory Committee.

Cynthia Lietz

Cynthia Lietz, interim dean, ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Cynthia Lietz is interim dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and president’s professor in the School of Social Work. She has served in a variety of roles, including associate dean and vice dean, leading faculty, staff, students and community members who are committed to working together to address challenges facing our society.

Richard Morrison

Richard Morrison, co-founder, ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy

Richard Morrison co-founded Morrison Institute for Public Policy in 1982 through a grant from his parents, Marvin and June Morrison. The Gilbert-based family saw the state’s growing need for objective research on public policy issues. He was an attorney with Salmon, Lewis & Weldon, PLC in Phoenix and has served on the boards of the National Advisory Council on Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Maricopa County Pollution Control Corporation and the American Agricultural Law Association.

Robin Reed

Robin Reed, president and CEO, Black Chamber of Arizona

Robin is the co-founder and principal of EmFluent, an executive performance consulting company that focuses on leadership strategy, talent optimization and sales arbitrage. Robin is also president and CEO of the Black Chamber of Arizona. Robin has spoken nationally and internationally on business development, strategy execution, talent optimization, sales arbitrage and mergers and acquisition.

Carolyn Stewart

Carolyn Stewart, superintendent, Bullhead City School District

A native of rural Iowa, Carolyn Wellborn Stewart taught high school English and took post-graduate courses at the University of Bridgeport, the University of Denver, and Western Illinois University before completing post-graduate degrees at the University of Iowa. She began her secondary school administrative experience in the Kayenta Unified School District in 1983. Moving to Bullhead City in 1989, she was principal at two elementary schools and a junior high school until retiring in 2015. Teaching education classes for Mohave Community College and Northern Arizona University along the way paid forward her passion for education. Ongoing commitment to the students of the community led to her return to the district as superintendent in July 2019. Carolyn also serves on the boards of directors for Mohave Mental Health, Inc., and Arizona Lions Camp Tatiyee. 

Samuel Thumma

Samuel Thumma, judge, Arizona Court of Appeals

Samuel Thumma served as a Superior Court judge from 2007-2012 before being appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, where he has served as the chief judge. He chairs the American Bar Association’s Judicial Division Appellate Judges Conference, and the Arizona Commission on Access to Justice. He is a Uniform Law Commissioner, and an advisor to the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law (Third) of Torts: Remedies. He was named 2021 Judge of the Year by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Mary Upchurch

Mary Pahissa Upchurch, senior partner, Gray Associates, Inc.

Mary Pahissa Upchurch is a senior partner with Gray Associates, Inc., a business consulting firm. She is chair of Morrison Institute’s advisory board. Mary has over 25 years of management experience with AT&T, most recently as a vice president. She is a member of the board of directors of Fresh Start Women’s Foundation and served as its board chair.  She is a past member of Greater Phoenix Leadership, serving as co-chair of its P-20 Education Committee.

Michael White

Michael White, chief clinical officer, Valleywise Health

Michael White, MD, joined Valleywise Health as chief clinical officer in August 2019. Prior to joining Valleywise Health, he served as chief academic officer at CHI Health, a non-profit, faith-based health system in Omaha, Nebraska. He continues to serve as the associate dean for technology and informatics at the Creighton University School of Medicine.

Andrea Whitsett

Andrea Whitsett, director, ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy

Andrea Whitsett is the director of Morrison Institute for Public Policy, an applied research institute at Arizona State University. Previously, Whitsett held a variety of positions within the institute, including associate director, senior research analyst, and special projects manager. She is vice chair of the Arizona Foundation for Women and co-chairs its Research and Policy Committee. In 2019, Whitsett was named a “40 Under 40” honoree by the Phoenix Business Journal.

Cynthia Zwick

Cynthia Zwick, executive director, Wildfire

2021 Distinguished Fellow

Cynthia Zwick has served as executive director of Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona since September 2003. A non-profit organization, Wildfire works to educate the community about issues related to poverty, injustice and oppression; improve public policy; and ensure low-income families have access to the tools needed to become financially stable and thrive.


With much appreciation to our 2021 State of Our State Virtual Convening partners.

Arizona Community Foundation
Arizona Republic
Chicanos por la Causa