By Laura Huenneke, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

New students at our June orientations, staff and faculty enjoying the relative tranquility of summer on campus, football fans from Phoenix escaping the heat to watch Cardinals training camp—all agree, our Flagstaff campus is a beautiful place.

Some national dialogue on the growing use of technology in education would lead one to believe society may be moving away from face-to-face instruction and physical campuses. But what does that mean for us when “to provide an outstanding residential education” is one of the linchpins of our institutional mission? Will students keep coming to Flagstaff and paying the difference for a campus experience?

The challenge, of course, is to focus ever more deliberately on the asset our campus represents and to communicate—to prospective students and their families, and to the state and others who support us—the value contributed by the campus to the education and student experience. I’ve been seeing more public discussion of exactly this point, for example two recent posts from the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Over the nine years I’ve been at NAU, the campus environment has improved dramatically—buildings, grounds, signage. There are still some aged and inadequate structures, but overall maintenance has improved, and there are fantastic new buildings and public spaces. There’s more attention, too, to helping people move around and actually enjoy the campus. This summer has seen the completion of more classroom and learning space upgrades, too.

So we’ve improved, but are we still missing some opportunities? How might the university community maximize the tremendous advantage we have in this beautiful campus and its spectacular setting?