Choosing to Stay in Tucson After Graduating from UA

University of Arizona graduates talk about how their decision to study and work in Tucson has shaped their careers

| By Amanda Oien

Tucson’s green saguaros and silver barked mesquites aren’t the only colors that feel like “home” to a Tucsonan. Evident from the highest tip of Tumamoc Hill, or the rocks of Windy Point—it’s clear the heart of Tucson is brick. Not just any brick, but University of Arizona brick. The city may have grown, but that brick-clad campus has remained its crown jewel since 1885.

Given the countless distractions in Tucson—like its enticing climate,  heavenly Mexican food, miles of stunning hiking and biking trails and an insanely diverse foodie, art and culture scene—it’s surprising to most newcomers just how obsessed Tucsonans are with their Arizona Wildcats. While Tucson may be a midsize city, it has the heartbeat of a college town.

The University of Arizona gifts people who call the Old Pueblo home with a sense of community and hometown pride. If you’ve ever gone out to breakfast on a Friday morning during football season, or shopping on a game night during basketball season you know what I’m talking about. Dress codes and work uniforms are ditched for spirited UA shirts and jerseys. You can feel the collective pride in Tucson, you can see it everywhere.

Some UA graduates might leave the Sonoran desert to call a new place home, taking with them fond memories and nostalgic longings. But others fall in love with this inspirational place and proudly take up the name Tucsonan.

Madden Media, a national destination marketing agency, also calls Tucson home. Located in Downtown Tucson in the historic flat-iron MacArthur building, over 40 ‘Maddenites’ are UA graduates. Over the years, more than a hundred UA Wildcats have worked at Madden Media, including its founders, Kevin and Jill Madden.

Julie Sipe

Campaign Manager
Hometown: San Diego, California
Major: Marketing and Sports Management

Julie knew she wanted to branch out and go away for college. With an exceptional business program, she chose UA.
“I loved the feel of the campus the second I stepped out onto The Mall, I just had that feeling. Tucson is a big city in some ways, but it has that small-town college feel. All of the jobs I’ve had post-college have been from being able to connect with so many people at UA’s Eller College of Management. The network of people I met there has really impacted my career path.”

Katie Bailey

Marketing Development Strategist
Hometown: Flagstaff, Arizona
Major: Business Administration and Marketing

“UA evened the playing field so you understand the language, concepts and theories and how to apply them in a job or whatever specific career path you choose. The UA takes you beyond that high school understanding of basic mathematics and accounting to understanding what a sample size is. It just helps you have that business language.”

Max Houtkooper

Digital Marketing Strategist
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Major: Sociology

“UA was everything. Forever and always. I live and die for UA basketball. I still have my National Championship t-shirt from ‘97. I really hadn’t looked to go anywhere else. UA was always my top pick. I really like working with groups of people and understanding those dynamics and when digital marketing presented itself, I thought, ‘I could fit into this role.’ I like watching how groups of people interact on sites and how they interact with ads.”

Neil Bernardo

Creative Strategist
Hometown: San Jose, California
Major: Visual Communications

Neil wasn’t your average student. He took a year off and began his studies at Pima Community College before transferring to UA.

“Being in an educational environment made me a lot more conscious of graphic design, more than it just being a job. You learn a lot more theory. It made you feel apart of art society.”    

Kristen Brockel

Creative Specialist
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Major: Photography

For a while, Kristen thought she would graduate from UA and move to find a job and begin her career. But like many others, she fell under Tucson’s spell and made the decision to stay.  “Being at UA and having such a great time in Tucson made me want to stay here. Just being able to work in town and having had all the opportunities I did at UA, shaped my career today.”