Gov. Brewer appoints NAU student to Arizona Board of Regents

Jennifer Ginther

Northern Arizona University doctoral student Jennifer Ginther has been appointed to the Arizona Board of Regents, Gov. Jan Brewer announced last week.

Ginther is a second-year doctoral student in biology at NAU’s Flagstaff campus, where she also is a research specialist for the university’s Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics. She brings with her experience working in higher education, non-profit research institutes and the federal government.

“Ms. Ginther is an exceptionally qualified student who has shown through her many achievements and dedication to success that she will undoubtedly be an integral member of the Arizona Board of Regents,” Brewer said. “As a graduate student at Northern Arizona University who currently holds a 4.0 GPA, she has a keen understanding of the importance of academia and a skilled knowledge of the university system. I am very pleased and honored to appoint her to this esteemed position.”

Ginther has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, a master’s in medical biodefense from George Mason University and a graduate certificate in intelligence studies from Mercyhurst College. Her research at NAU focuses on the pathogenic evolution of Burkholderia pseudomallei, a soil-dwelling bacterium and the causative agent of melioidosis, a pulmonary or bloodstream infection and a major health concern in northern Australia and southeast Asia.

Prior to coming to NAU, Ginther served as a senior consultant for the firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where she provided support to the Department of Homeland Security. It was there that she captured the attention of Paul Keim, an NAU Regents’ Professor of biological sciences and Cowden Endowed Chair in microbiology. Keim said Ginther was “one of the shining stars” at the Department of Homeland Security, and he recruited her to NAU’s Ph.D. program where she has been a leader in advancing the scientific investigation into infectious diseases on a global scale.

“Ultimately, I expect Jenn to be involved in scientific policy and management for the federal government,” Keim said. “This interaction with ABOR will be beneficial to her and give her first-hand knowledge about the management of universities. But she will also bring a perspective to ABOR that is distinct of any they have seen before. She is not your average grad student.”

Other colleagues also have described Ginther as an outstanding student who will provide a critical link between the student community and the regents.

“As higher education is a continued concern for the state of Arizona, Jennifer will be an asset to the board by not only offering representation of the student community but also in strategic planning for the future of Arizona universities,” said David Engelthaler, director of TGen North, who has collaborated with Ginther on her melioidosis research.

NAU President John Haeger echoed those sentiments, adding that Ginther’s breadth of experience as both a student and researcher makes her a valuable advocate for higher education in Arizona. “Ms. Ginther understands the vital role that universities play in advancing discovery and innovation,” Haeger said. “She is certain to be an effective voice on behalf of college students at all levels throughout the state.”

Ginther said her priority as the new student regent is the 120,000 college students in the Arizona University System. She plans to spend the next year interacting closely with the students on all three campuses to learn more about their concerns and ideas about higher education in the state.

“This is a tremendous honor which comes with many responsibilities,” Ginther said.  “I want to ensure that the student voice is being heard during these important discussions and decision-making processes.”

Pending Senate confirmation, which is expected in the next few weeks, Ginther will take her seat on the Board of Regents as a nonvoting member for one year, replacing Ross Meyer from Arizona State University. Meyer moves to the voting position on the board by replacing the University of Arizona’s David Martinez, whose term expires this month. Ginther will be eligible to vote in 2011.