President John Haeger addresses about 160 people in Ashurst Auditorium and a university-wide web audience during a "Conversation with the President" last week. Photo by Jerry Foreman.

President John Haeger addresses about 160 people in Ashurst Auditorium and a university-wide web audience during a “Conversation with the President” last week. Photo by Jerry Foreman.

Northern Arizona University is ready for imminent changes in the short term and some extensive alterations in the long term.

At the same time, expect the institution to maintain its long-standing mission of strong undergraduate education enhanced by research and graduate programs and statewide outreach.

“We will not be limiting ourselves solely to academic offerings,” President John Haeger said. “We will be increasing research and encouraging economic growth. I urge you to embrace the continual process of change.”

About 160 people in Ashurst Auditorium and a university-wide web audience received a whirlwind tour of today’s Northern Arizona University and NAU version 2017 during a “Conversation with the President” last week.

Haeger discussed the current status of reaccreditation, the Strategic Plan and early decisions regarding the FY08 budget, including classroom renovations, increasing salary adjustments for faculty promotions and raising graduate assistant scholarship/waivers to 50 percent.

He cautioned, however, that rapid changes in technology and education delivery may force universities to look how they spend funds on traditional classrooms.

Other forces pressuring universities include governmental bodies that scrutinize educational institutions but at the same time are cooperating with funding.

“It wasn’t ASU that built a campus in downtown Phoenix,” Haeger said. “It was the city of Phoenix that asked ASU to bring its intellectual ability downtown.”

Phoenix also came into play when Haeger laid out ambitious plans for expanding NAU’s role in serving Arizona’s health professions needs.

“In many ways, the health-care industry is driving the American economy,” Haeger said, adding that NAU will bring new health-related programs to the downtown Phoenix medical and academic complex and will expand programs in Flagstaff.

“This is part of the public agenda,” Haeger said. “It’s going to happen because it has to happen.”

The president added that because of the planned enrollment surge in health professions, the university will set aside funds to hire professors and increase sections for other courses the incoming students would need. “It’s a bit of a gamble, but we’re going to have to begin before the 21-day count,” Haeger said.

The president also presented his forecast for Northern Arizona University in the year 2017.

Haeger believes the university population will swell to 35,000—20,000 on the Flagstaff campus and 15,000 statewide.

He also predicts a multi-campus university, with different missions, curricular autonomy and separate faculty governance. The campuses most likely would be in Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott with a strengthened Yuma campus.

Ten years from now in Flagstaff, NAU will see a more focused, learning-centered university with growth in graduate programming, including doctorates, and research expenditures at the $85 million level.

“The future of higher education is about us being an enterprise institution, not limiting ourselves to being solely thinking of ourselves as offering educational programs,” Haeger said. “We have to expand the definition of what we do in the state of Arizona if we want the state of Arizona to invest in us.”