Northern Arizona University’s regional campus, NAU-Yavapai, celebrates a proud milestone this May: its first graduating class.

The 14 members of the Class of 2013 will don caps and gowns to mark the special occasion with a hometown ceremony May 31 at the Wyndham Garden Inn in Prescott Valley.

The seniors received their diplomas during the Extended Campuses spring commencement ceremony in Flagstaff.

Since opening its doors in the fall of 2010, NAU-Yavapai’s innovative programming and community feel has attracted a diverse group of students looking for quality education at an affordable cost.

The campus’ year-round calendar and structured degree plan allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in three years, saving more than $20,000 in tuition compared to other four-year degree programs in the state. Students have a choice of four degrees: Entrepreneurship, Service Industry Management, Community Development and Sustainability and Applied Human Behavior.

Alexander Maynard, who received his B.A. in Entrepreneurship, praised the school’s innovative approach to learning, particularly the hybrid-learning format that pairs online activities with face-to-face classroom instruction.

“With advances in technology, hybrid learning is an interactive method that fits a variety of individual needs and makes use of valuable time and resources,” Maynard said. “It was especially helpful in allowing me to effectively manage my school and work schedules.”

While NAU-Yavapai’s affordability was a big draw for the 25-year-old, who graduated without any student debt, its sense of community is what resonates most for the budding entrepreneur.

“My experience here has been life-changing. My introduction to members of the community has led to mentorship, scholarship and internship opportunities. Without these relationships and their investment in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Susan Johnstad, assistant vice president and campus executive officer for NAU-Yavapai, echoed Maynard’s sentiments, noting the strong collaboration between professors, staff and students.

“Everyone played a part in pioneering this educational model,” said Johnstad. “Our graduates will go forth with the problem solving, communications, project management and other critical workplace skills needed to succeed and make a difference in the region and beyond.”

Maynard, who recently completed a legislative internship with Andy Tobin, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, is excited to utilize the skills aquired at NAU-Yavapai. He hopes to launch a venture that will address community needs and improve the quality of life for residents in the Prescott region.

As for the Yavapai campus, he sees a bright future ahead with a bustling campus filled with Arizona’s brightest. “This is a place where students can discuss ideas, achieve their goals and above all else, grow as individuals. Everyone is invested in each other as we grow, as the campus grows.”