President’s Cabinet highlights: Nov. 28, 2018

Nov. 28, 2018

On Wednesday, this month’s cabinet meeting took place.

President Rita Cheng started the meeting by thanking everyone for attending. She then extended an invite to cabinet members to attend her distinguished speaker series Thursday night, featuring Polly Sumner, an NAU alumna and chief adoption officer for Salesforce.

The President congratulated associate vice president for global initiatives, Daniel Palm, on the recent birth of his son and will keep him from traveling with her to Hermosillo, Mexico later this week to join Governor Ducey for the Arizona – Mexico Commission annual meeting. She will be presenting at the meeting on Innovative education and workforce Development.

“This is a great way to showcase our continued partnership with Sonora and Mexico in general,” Cheng said. “By giving our students the opportunity to attend school in Mexico, we are providing them the chance to study abroad without having to go far to get an international experience.”

The president turned the floor over to Joanne Keene, executive vice president and chief of staff, to address upcoming office holiday coverage. With the exception of the president’s designated holiday on Dec. 24, and official NAU holidays Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, the university will be open, Keene said. She reminded cabinet members to make sure that they have adequate office and telephone coverage for campus operations throughout the week.

“Oftentimes, during breaks are when students and parents have a chance to sit down and look at previously dismissed issues—whether it be billing concerns, class registration, etc.,” Cheng said. “We need to make sure these issues are being addressed, and we are here to respond to our students’ concerns.”

President’s Cabinet Report

Laura Jones, chief institutional data officer, presented charts and graphs that represent a variety of data, including sponsored projects, student numbers, the budget report and degree trends.

She pointed out that undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded are up in almost all areas of study. The most significant increases in degrees awarded were undergraduate STEM degrees from Flagstaff, graduate health degrees from the Phoenix Biomedical Campus and undergraduate health professions and graduate education degrees earned online.

Jones also noted that according to Arizona Board of Regents metrics, NAU’s 2018 target was 3,751 degrees. In actuality, 3,836 degrees were awarded, surpassing the established goal. In 2025, NAU’s target set by ABOR will increase to 4,500.

David Schultz, vice president of research, also took this opportunity to mention NAU’s research ranking. Last year, NAU was No. 213 on the National Science Foundation’s list of research universities throughout the world. Increased efforts, the hiring of strategic individuals and the universities support of research were reflected in the most recent world ranking of No. 201.

“It is because of everyone’s hard work and effort that we are able to continue climbing in this ranking, and continue working toward our goal of being in the top 200 research universities in the world,” Cheng said, noting NAU is ranked in the top 100 research universities without a medical school.

Dan Okoli, vice president for capital planning and campus operations, and Steve Vedral, interim associate vice president for facility services, then informed the cabinet on the status of major campus projects.

Work on a Strategic Space Utilization Plan is expected to begin in January which will be the first phase of the pending Campus Master Planning effort.

An announcement is expected soon on the Interim Manager for the Office of Sustainability. The cabinet was assured that NAU remains committed to sustainability and that during this time of transition and opportunity, there a number of people in the capital planning office that are helping with the workload.

The Recital Hall is nearing completion, Vedral said, and will be finished by the end of December. He encouraged cabinet members to purchase tickets for any of the many shows coming up in the new year to get a chance to experience the new hall.

In addition to renovations being underway in the Science Annex, a request for proposal will be out next week on the new Student Athlete High Performance Center—a proposed 77,000-square-foot building that will include a public welcome area, competition and practice gym, sports medicine facilities and nutrition station.

A detailed list of current and upcoming projects can be found online.

The last half-hour of the cabinet meeting was reserved for a presentation from the Educational Advisory Board (EAB) team, a best practices firm that works with more than 1,300 schools of higher education.

“As part of our membership with EAB, they conduct a number of research projects for NAU,” explained Jane Kuhn, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “Most recently, they looked at enrollment trends for the decade ahead and what that means for the state of Arizona.”

Presenters from the company’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., showed the cabinet members how different factors will play a part in NAU’s future enrollment. Charts and graphs showed population trends; student migration patterns; higher education ecosystems; elite, national and regional college-going trends; college attendance rates; and state funding comparisons.

“NAU rates fairly high when it comes to students graduating in four years, placing above Universtiy of Nevada-Reno, Grand Canyon University and San Diego State University,” the EAB presenter said. “But retention rates need work.”

Kuhn assured the cabinet she and her team are working hard to address this issue, noting that winter enrollment is up, and fall 2019 is looking good.