Debbie Claggett graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology in 1997. She returned to her alma mater in August 2019, when she joined the College of Engineering as the new Engineering Interdisciplinary Capstone coordinator.
She’ll focus on organizing events, including Open House and Design Day, as well as guiding development of the Design Day app, assisting with sponsor relations and managing project submissions.
“When I saw the job posting, I felt like it was written for me,” Claggett said. “My passion is organizing events, and the added benefit of being a part of the university community again was icing on the cake.”
“Our program has grown rapidly over the past few years, so creating a role with a focus on event planning and sponsor relationship management became essential,” said program director Ara Arabyan.
“Debbie’s expertise will play a critical part in our mission to continue expanding the program and serving students, sponsors and the program team at the highest level of excellence.”
Event Planning, Endurance Racing and Everything in Between
Claggett brings diverse experience to this new position. She considered going to medical school after graduating from the UA, but she and her husband decided to start a business instead. TriSports.com, launched in 1999, became the largest triathlon-specific retailer in the world under their leadership.
A triathlete herself, Claggett has completed two Ironman races and a variety of endurance events, including the team bike relay 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and the 620-mile, San Francisco-to-San Diego Million Dollar Challenge.
But running a triathlon company taught her much more than endurance. She said the sheer variety of on-the-job training that comes with building a business from the ground up is invaluable.
“Running my own company definitely took away all feelings of entitlement,” she said. “You do whatever needs to happen to get the job done, whether that is packing boxes, sweeping, talking to customers, editing the website – even cleaning the toilets.”
Claggett also worked as the sports, recreation and aquatics operations director at the Tucson Jewish Community Center and as a sales manager for Jim Click Automotive, where she honed her customer service and sales skills.
“All that I learned – the customer service, sales, budgeting, community relations, event coordination, management, sponsorship and more – I can bring to the table in this position to help secure new sponsors, elevate communication efforts with existing sponsors to ensure satisfaction and continued support, and maintain the tradition of well-organized events,” she said.
Claggett’s first year on the team will be the program’s 18th year in existence, and she’s not the only new development. The college’s new dean, David W. Hahn, is focused on expanding experiential learning opportunities for students, such as those offered in the senior capstone course. More than a dozen new companies are sponsoring projects in the 2019-2020 academic year as well.