The phrase “may you live in interesting times” is purportedly an ancient Chinese curse, but some researchers now say it may be more modern, of Western origin and can even be considered a blessing.
Certainly, the 2008-09 academic year could be called interesting times at Northern Arizona University. Yet the year, overall, was marked with successes, despite the seemingly never-ending budget struggle.
I am not going to downplay the sacrifices made by each and every member of our staff, faculty and administration. We were forced to lay off more than 50 individuals—the most difficult decision any administrator can make. Yet by facing tough decisions, Northern Arizona University has maintained its momentum and will continue to maintain that momentum into the next academic year.
This weekend we will graduate the largest group of students in our history. Nearly 3,000 students will be entering into an uncertain job market but with the best preparation any university graduate can have. Many of our graduates, in fact, are finding jobs in their fields and have taken the first step toward successful careers.
On campus, we are celebrating other successes. The Athletics Department recently received reaccreditation from the NCAA. The National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education is making favorable recommendations about our institution and will issue its final accreditation announcement in October.
A year that saw more than $21 million cut from our budget—not counting the $9 million-plus made before FY09—tested the spirit of the Northern Arizona University family. Yet we reached record enrollment. Kiplinger’sagain named Northern Arizona University a “Best Value,” the engineering program was again named as among the country’s best by U.S. News and World Report, and two munificent employees stepped up with a generous gift, making possible the new 20-inch Barry L. Lutz Telescope for Education and Training.
Aspen Crossing and the new dining expansion are in full swing, and with careful use of budgets, we are prepared to move forward with important SPEED-funded construction projects. Improvements to the north campus infrastructure, which include upgrades to the boiler plant and electrical service to many of the buildings on the north end of campus, already have begun. The renovation of the Liberal Arts building will resume in June. Work on the North Union also is scheduled for June, and the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management renovation will begin in August. The Skydome upgrades will be done in phases beginning this summer and lasting through fall 2010.
The first phase of a student-funded south campus project is nearing completion. Lighted, artificial turf fields near the School of Forestry building will open in June, in time for summer conferences and activities.
We still are awaiting word on how federal stimulus dollars will affect the university. The Arizona Board of Regents recently approved our request for a tuition surcharge for new and continuing students, except those in the Pledge guaranteed tuition program.
These upcoming revenue enhancements will help mitigate any further budget reductions. Fiscal year 2010 may not be as difficult as some had anticipated.
We will be continuing both long- and short-term strategic planning throughout the summer. With input from faculty, the administration is continuing its budget planning that will keep Northern Arizona University on the same track—picking up speed and heading in the right direction.
Lastly, let me say thank you to everyone for all your efforts this past year to support our students and the university.
John D. Haeger