President’s Cabinet highlights: Oct. 25, 2018

President Rita Cheng welcomed everyone to the President’s Cabinet meeting on Thursday and invited all the cabinet members to participate in the Homecoming events taking place this weekend throughout campus.

Vice President for Finance, Institutional Planning and Analysis Bjorn Flugstad and Chief Human Resources Officer Josh Mackey updated the cabinet on the examination of NAU’s administrative service delivery design, which Huron Consulting Group has studied since June. Huron looked at data on three main areas of budget and finance, research and human resources. They interviewed more than 100 people and collected information from survey responses from more than 1,000 faculty and staff members. The purpose of this research is to gain a better understanding of NAU’s opportunities to improve the delivery of our services for both the individuals receiving services and those providing services, Flugstad said.

The consultants observed instances of inconsistent or duplicative processes and inconsistent application of policy, fragmented roles and decentralized work in those three main areas which could be improved through grouping positions performing similar functions. They also observed inconsistent application of job titles among departments and recommended reviewing the university’s job title and compensation policies. Flugstad said they would contract again with Huron to consider the best ways to adapt and apply those recommendations for NAU with project steering and advisory committees to be formed to further consider this information.

Mackey said the next major step after committees are formed is an activity assessment, which will inform an effort to accurately define and describe job roles across the university. The information collected during the activity assessment and job evaluation process will be used as part of a comprehensive classification and compensation project for non-faculty positions. The last comprehensive look at those roles was almost 30 years ago, so NAU is overdue for another one. Later this semester, almost all non-faculty employees will receive a job evaluation questionnaire, including significant support documentation, to ensure jobs are categorized correctly.

The entire process could take between six months and two years, Mackey said, and emphasized the purpose is to get job titles, responsibilities and compensation standardized throughout the university. Additionally, people’s individual job performances are not in question, just job duties and what type of structure is best to facilitate growth for the individual and the university.

Any changes made as a result of the findings will go through the Prosci change management process previously adopted by NAU.

In the cabinet report, Flugstad and Chief Institutional Data Officer Laura Jones mentioned two new major gifts to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Health and Human Services. Looking ahead to the spring semester, applicants, offers and acceptances are up among first-year students, transfers, graduate students and international transfer students, though acceptances are down among international freshmen and international grad students. NAU’s FY18-19 budget is balanced, despite lower than expected tuition revenue.

The cabinet also discussed ways to improve recruitment and retention, including more summer camps, reaching out to the adult population in Arizona to take advantage of online education, capitalizing on events like Math Day and Band Day to bring high school students to campus and emphasizing the opportunities at NAU to the 5.5 million tourists that come through Flagstaff every year.

“Retention’s going to be huge,” Cheng said. “We already have a lot of campus-wide efforts in play, and I want to thank everybody for the efforts they’re putting in.”

Vice President for Research David Schultz said there has been a slight drop in the number of proposals submitted from researchers, though some of that is expected: typically, when a researcher gets a grant, he or she submits fewer proposals in the following two years to allow time to focus on the research. NAU successfully obtains funding for approximately one in three proposals, which Schultz said is in line with the national average.

Dan Okoli, vice president for capital planning and campus operations, and Steve Vedral, interim associate vice president for facility services, discussed the capital projects happening on campus. The recital hall is nearing completion and should be open by the start of the spring semester, and phase 1 of the Science Annex, which includes renovations of the third and fourth floor, should be done by the fall 2019 semester. Phase 2, the renovation of the first and second floors, is planned to start next summer.

“It’s going to be one of the most innovative and beautiful spaces on campus when it’s done,” Vedral said.

Vedral said that other projects, including a multidisciplinary STEM building, the Native American Cultural Center addition, the addition of thermal ice storage to the fieldhouse to allow for an ice rink and a multi-building energy assessment are in various stages of planning, fundraising and seeking RFPs, he said. A new sign at the campus entrance on University Avenue is underway, and the facility services team is evaluating signage that is visible from the two freeways to help raise NAU’s profile.

Okoli said his team also is in the planning phase of redoing McConnell Drive to improve pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic near campus. This project, which will cost approximately $7 million, is a collaboration between NAU, NAIPTA, the Arizona Department of Transportation and the city of Flagstaff; it may include sidewalks, road realignment and a new bus stop. Okoli said it will make traveling less stressful and safer for all commuters.

The cabinet also discussed issues with current facilities. President Cheng reported that as a result of state budget cuts, NAU has a $132 million backlog in maintenance. The NAU facility services team is working its way through the highest priority items on that list, including the Science Annex. Unfortunately, there isn’t currently funding to fix all overdue maintenance.