Eileen Klein, the new president of the Arizona Board of Regents, intends to help the state universities become forces for Arizona's overall improvement during her three-year term.

Klein was Gov. Jan Brewer's chief of staff prior to taking office at the Arizona Board of Regents on Feb. 4, but she was also chief operating officer at UnitedHealthcare's Arizona Physicians IPA before joining Brewer's staff.

She does not come from an education administration background, but Klein helped create and implement Brewer's educational reform policy during her time as chief of staff and is one of four public members on the Arizona State Board of Education.

Board of Regents Chairman Rick Myers said it is not unusual for someone in Klein's position to come out of a field other than education.

He said the Regents presidency is a good opportunity for someone with a strong understanding of issues facing Arizona because the board sees the state universities as a tool for economic improvement.

"Someone like Eileen, who has a primary background working in business and government, seemed like a really good combination," Myers said.

The regents president works with the three university presidents in the Executive Presidential Committee to ensure the board's policies are carried out.

The board adopted the Arizona Higher Education Enterprise Plan in 2010. It sets goals, including increasing the number of degrees and amount of research expenditures.

Klein said she is looking forward to continuing to improve Arizona's education system.

She said it was exciting to work with the Brewer administration on aligning state education goals from preschool to graduate school through the creation of Arizona Ready, which carries out Brewer's Arizona Education Reform Plan.

Klein said she was drawn to the presidency because the state universities are the last major area of Arizona education that still needs reform.

"It's very parallel to my experience in the corporate environment," Klein said.

She said she wants students to graduate from state universities with a degree as well as the necessary preparation to succeed in their careers.

The university presidents all said in email statements that Klein will be an asset.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart said she valued Klein's experience in the health care industry in addition to her work with education policy.

Klein spearheaded the realignment of UA Health Network's governance structure in 2011.

NAU President John Haeger said Klein's strong leadership skills would be important to the state university system.