Designing a Path: Alumni Connections

Theater alumna creates opportunities for alumni to share their passions at UA

Robin Tricoles, Chris Richards photo

Frankie Kolb ’99 does not shy away from a challenge. She has worked in a cancer clinic, built a Martian landscape, met with Middle Eastern dignitaries, managed a chaotic dean’s office, and mingled with a pool shark or two. 

Now, she’s taking on a whole new challenge: building a network of College of Science alumni engaged in advancing the University of Arizona through robust academic engagement, career development, philanthropy and diversity.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the light in people’s eyes when they get to build on their passion and help the University of Arizona grow,” Kolb says. “I like seeing people be part of something bigger, something that comes to life, and something that they may not have been able to do without connections.”

Kolb recently accepted a newly created position as manager of alumni relations for the College of Science. The position is part of the college’s partnership with the UA Alumni Association to build a campus-wide alumni engagement program.

In her previous role as senior program coordinator for Joaquin Ruiz, vice president of innovation and strategy and dean for the College of Science, Kolb says she learned about forging connections by watching Ruiz build relationships with people within the university and throughout the United States and Mexico.

“We’d get calls from people who had heard about Joaquin in the news and about what great things he’s done and wanting to be involved in something that he’s making happen,” Kolb says. 

That’s why she’s been talking with professionals in the Alumni Association and other colleges about how they engage their alumni. And she’s been meeting with the College of Science’s department heads to find out what they may need when it comes to alumni engagement. Kolb says they’ve already come up with some compelling ideas, like an alumni ambassador program that would connect incoming freshmen with alumni in their hometown.

Kolb also is looking to start an alumni mentoring program for UA seniors to get advice from UA alumni in various fields, better preparing students for life after graduation. 

“The Alumni Association will be working closely with Frankie to engage College of Science alumni from the time they graduate through their many phases of life,” says Melinda Burke, president of the UA Alumni Association. “We will partner to build alumni engagement and provide career resources, support student recruitment and provide alumni data analysis.”

For Kolb, a theater major, life after graduation began with a full-time position helping run a clinical trials office at the Arizona Cancer Center, where she realized she had a passion for office management. A few years later, she moved to the Phoenix Mars Mission, where she helped manage the Mission Operation Center. 

“I got to help put together a Martian landscape in the Drake building,” Kolb says. “It’s where they had the mockup of the lander. Anytime there was a problem with the lander, researchers could re-enact the problem with the instruments in the testbed. So, we created this

Martian landscape where we printed Martian images, and then we had a theater-design expert come in and help us with the ground. We used Martian-colored drop cloths and big foam rocks. That’s the kind of stuff I love doing.”

Kolb says she also loves to build and design things. “I’m very artsy. I recovered a door from Zachary’s Pizza. Zachary’s Pizza was a big part of UA for many years. So, I’ve been sanding that down. It’s on my back porch, but I keep wanting to figure out the best way to revive it. I’m going to put pictures in it, and maybe hang it on the wall or make a table out of it. I like reviving things that have some sort of a memory.”

Kolb also reveals that she has a penchant for pool. “I love to go to Vegas and play in tournaments,” she says. “I play on a team. It’s one of the few things that when I do it, I don’t think of anything else.”