NAU Executive Vice President MJ McMahon has been tapped to undertake three special assignments for President John Haeger this fall, helping to address key issues that will propel the university forward.

“These projects are significant and important to Northern Arizona University’s future, and it’s time we devote one person to pursuing them,” Haeger said. “MJ’s leadership and vision make her ideal for seeing them through.”

McMahon will focus her full-time efforts on these assignments beginning in September and return to her regular position in December. She will prepare reports to present to the president in the spring.

McMahon’s first task is related to the university’s branch campus in Yuma, where new guidelines set forth by the university’s accrediting agency for establishing branch campuses could help pave the way for an accredited regional university there.

“This is the next logical step for our Yuma campus,” she said. “NAU can fulfill a tremendous need for a regional university in southwestern Arizona, and I will be looking at how we can begin taking steps in that direction.”

McMahon also is charged with identifying and visiting “best practice” institutions on curricular reform to gain a sense of their processes, procedures and outcomes.

“The university has to increase its retention and graduation rates, and we are searching for the best ideas to bring back to campus,” McMahon said, adding that she will be looking at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and schools in the Illinois system that have done a fair amount of curricular reform and that may be able to provide some models for NAU to consider adopting.

Lastly, McMahon will be working toward creating a faculty and staff leadership program that will help the university develop its own future institutional administrators.

“The more our employees understand NAU’s big picture and how the university operates as a whole, the better equipped they will be to participate on different levels and advance their careers here,” she said.

She will travel to institutions with successful faculty and staff leadership programs to learn more about how their programs are facilitated, with an eye toward rolling out a pilot program at NAU as early as next fall.

David Camacho, special assistant to the president, Pat Haeuser, vice president for Planning, Budget and Institutional Effectiveness, and Karen Appleby, special assistant to the president and provost, will conduct McMahon’s work on campus during her temporary absence.