Flinn-Brown Fellow Jane Strain

May 31, 2024

By Jessica Vaile

Fellows Spotlight

Jane Strain

(Sierra Vista, 2013)

Cochise Community College Governing Board Member

“The biggest impact of Flinn-Brown … for me is through the people. The fact that you can use that network to launch yourself into all sorts of other fields, like working with nonprofits, working with veterans, running for office, or being on any staff. I think it gives you that exposure, a lot of skills for all those things.” 

Strain is an Army veteran, retired educator, respected civic leader, and activist for a range of organizations. She experienced two pivotal moments in the American history: desegregation of public schools and integration of the U.S. military.

Strain was born and raised in Texas where she went to college and taught at an all-Black school where she witnessed desegregation. 

She left teaching to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and spent 21 years in the military — 17 in Germany. Eventually, WAC was integrated with the male units. 

After Germany, she and her two sons moved to Sierra Vista where Strain was stationed at Fort Huachuca. Retirement came shortly after. 

“My mother from Texas kept calling me, asking me when I was coming home. I said, ‘Mom, I have made Sierra Vista my home.’”

As a single parent, Strain was involved with organizations related to her children’s activities including the National Parent Teacher Association and Sierra Vista Soccer League. Through this community involvement, she was asked to serve on the Cochise Community College Governing Board. 

Strain started her college career at a community college, so, of course, she said yes.

“I just remembered those days and remembered how lost I was. I was a single working mom with these two little boys. And I knew someday if I didn’t kill them before they got to 18, there was always a possibility that they would need to go to Cochise College,” she said with a chuckle.

Strain is committed to serving her community and utilizes the Flinn-Brown Network to get even more involved.

“The difference Flinn-Brown really made for me is the network of the people. You know, there’s lots of people, so there’s always some level of conflict, but we get along and we learn from each other and call each other. It doesn’t work if you don’t take advantage of it,” she said.

“You’ve got to get to know people and you’ve got to reach out, treat them nicely. We all have wildly different things we’re doing, but it’s good to have this kind of statewide level of folks that are cognizant of civic engagement. I think it’s important.”

Strain’s involvement with several veteran organizations has convinced her that statewide education for those involved with nonprofit boards would benefit civic growth in Arizona. 

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the big boys with the Boys and Girls Clubs or a little tiny mom and pop that made a 501(c)(3) to rescue cats. They are passionate and dedicated volunteers, and they get no training,” Strain said.

 “Plus, you can think of that training as a launch pad into government or political work. You could get a lot of experience on how policy works at a nonprofit level and then run for office or get a job working with one of the big guys like Salvation Army, American Red Cross or nationwide veteran organizations.”

Strain is running for her fifth six-year term on the Cochise Community College governing board. Such long terms may sound overwhelming, but Strain sees the elevation of community colleges “from “redheaded stepchild” to a highly sought-after higher education option as its own reward.

“Being in the commencement ceremonies and handing that diploma to 500 students, that’s powerful. That’s worth all the meetings and fighting over property tax,” Strain said. 

“It gets in your blood, and it’s a commitment that you want to see through. And then you get to mentor and coach somebody to come behind you. You don’t just say, ‘Hasta la vista, baby,’ because there’s knowledge and insights that you should pass on.”

Strain has a rich history in her community and continues to blaze an honorable path with humility. She leads change and is grateful for the reach she found through the Flinn-Brown Fellowship.


Book Recommendation:

Each month, we feature suggestions from Fellows to create a virtual Network library about public-policy issues, the practice of leadership, professional development and other areas worth sharing. This month’s recommendation comes from the Honorable Jane Strain (Sierra Vista, 2013). 

What the Fact?
Finding the Truth in All the Noise
by Dr. Seema Yasmin

“What the Fact? Finding the Truth in All the Noise,” Seema Yasmin 

“It’s all about discernment. We have to be smarter now than ever, be intelligent enough to discern the truth from all the B.S. we’re fed. We’re given so much information, it’s important to know what is true and what is not.” 

View all Flinn-Brown Fellow profiles here.