President Cheng welcomed everyone to the first President’s Cabinet meeting of the new academic year and introduced new members to the cabinet.
Laura Jones, chief institutional data officer, and Bjorn Flugstad, vice president for finance, institutional planning and analysis, reviewed the President’s Cabinet Report. Jones reviewed the development data and highlighted that there have been five major gifts this fiscal year, with the College of Health and Human Sciences, the new College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences, the College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences and the W. A. Franke College of Business receiving gifts.
NAU has submitted about $90 million in proposals for funding last fiscal, with more than $60 million of that being research proposals, with the rest being public service, academic support, scholarship, operations, student services, instruction and institutional support.
Jones also reported that enrollment numbers for the Flagstaff campus are up slightly and international graduate student enrollment is up significantly this academic year. With Monday being the 21st day of classes, Jones’ office determined enrollment numbers (based on all enrolled students, which is a different calculation than that reported to the Arizona Board of Regents), showing 23,140 students in Flagstaff and a total enrollment of 31,073, including Yuma, statewide campuses and online education.
Graduate student enrollment increased by 4 percent, and international students increased by 4.7 percent—a significant accomplishment given that nationwide, the number of student visas has decreased significantly. Cheng credited that increase with hard work from the Center for International Enrollment, led by associate vice president Daniel Palm, as well as faculty and administrators in recruiting students and developing programs and curricula that attract international students.
Flugstad provided a report on last year’s financial results and noted that while the overall budget was holding steady, NAU brought in fewer dollars from tuition and fees than planned. Other sources of increased revenue, including grants and sponsored projects, and auxiliary revenue as well as strategic decreases in operating costs, helped to keep the budget even. As personnel is the biggest expense, with salaries and benefits costing more than $1 million a day, open positions were carefully reviewed before hiring authorizations.
The cabinet also discussed lower retention and six-year graduation rates. Associate vice president for student affairs Erin Grisham discussed ways the university is helping to combat the decrease in retention rates for freshmen. Strategies include strengthening academic and social engagement by reaching out to underprepared, first-year or at-risk students to help increase their first-year academic performance; using technology, including the NAU Go app, Civitas and Salesforce to engage with students; increase use of resources like tutoring and advising through an online appointment calendar; and electronically reminding students about paying their bills, going to advising appointments and enrolling in the next semester. They also are focusing on the affordability gap for students.
Interim Provost Brian Levin-Stankevich added that they are looking at “DFW” courses—classes, often prerequisites or other gateway courses, that have high rates of students getting Ds or Fs or withdrawing, these course results, stops them from advancing, despite the investment of time and money (as well as costing money and wasting student credit hours). Failing a course also increases the likelihood of a student dropping out. Laurie Dickson, vice provost for teaching, learning design and assessment, is coordinating that effort with Student Affairs and faculty members.
Vice President for Information Technology Services Steve Burrell said, after doing a survey of students about what changes they would like to see, the ITS department is working on increasing the speed and availability of Wi-Fi and cell phone coverage on campus. Two-thirds of classrooms statewide have upgraded technology, and he anticipates by next summer all of NAU’s classrooms will be upgraded to the same standards. He’s also working with community partners to increase Wi-Fi availability and affordability in the region, which will benefit other local organizations, businesses and the surrounding Native American tribes. He shared the example of a school district in Phoenix is paying 78 cents per megabyte of Internet access, while the same amount costs $25 here.
Christy Farley, vice president for external affairs and partnerships, provided a brief overview of the Arizona Board of Regents meeting at NAU next week. ABOR’s public meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the High Country Conference Center with a welcome from President Cheng. Friday morning will start with a breakfast with the Faculty Senate, which is done at each university, followed by another public session where President Cheng will present NAU’s Annual Operational and Financial Review to the board.
Vice President for Capital Planning and Campus Operations Dan Okoli closed the cabinet meeting with a brief update of major capital projects, including the recital hall, which is scheduled to open in the spring, and the ongoing Science Annex 3rd/4th floor renovations, with a completion date in May.