The year that will be: NAU’s inaugural University Convocation

President Curz Rivera stands on a stage in front of hundreds of people.

On Monday, hundreds of faculty and staff attended the inaugural University Convocation, both in-person and online, to hear from President José Luis Cruz Rivera about his vision for the coming academic year.

President Cruz Rivera talked about NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence and NAU’s bold vision for the future that seeks to meet Arizona’s attainment imperative by delivering access to an exceptional, accessible, high-quality postsecondary credentials that will drive economic mobility and social impact for generations of Arizonans to come.

“This is what I shared with my leadership team on my first day as president of NAU, and my advice was to seize today as if it was your first day, with the same awe, enthusiasm, humility, excitement and sense of possibility as you had your first day as a faculty, staff or student at NAU,” he said. “That’s going to be the same advice I give you next year because there’s no real time to be distracted from the hard, important work ahead.”

He also talked about his three overarching goals for the coming year, which are:

The New NAU System

University leaders have spent significant time this year mapping out what the New NAU system looks like. That system includes a physical presence statewide. Right now, NAU has 20 sites throughout the state in addition to the Flagstaff campus. Most of those are partnerships with community colleges; NAU-Yuma is a branch campus, and the Phoenix Bioscience Core is a collaborative space focused on health education.

This is a strong foundation, President Cruz Rivera said—but he has a vision of something bigger and bolder.

“As we look at the needs of the state, we really have to look at that footprint,” he said. “Are we in the right places? Do we have the right programs at those places? Would it make more sense to build a new campus?”

NAU’s goal in this reach is not simply to provide the needed educational programs in an area, although it certainly is that. It also will be to provide students with a full collegiate experience that will not just prepare them for a career but also to be full and productive members of the global society.

Differentiating NAU Online

NAU was one of the early innovators in this area; the need for such innovation continues as the online education space has filled with universities and programs worldwide. NAU’s task will be determining how to optimize online offerings to differentiate NAU in this global marketplace.

That’s bigger than traditional online programs, although NAU must continue to expand access in those areas. Cruz Rivera talked about recent partnerships with corporations, such as Dignity Health Global Education asking for a health care-centric MBA program. In 2021, NAU delivered. More corporations are asking for partnerships like this with NAU, which also helps to diversity the university’s revenue stream.

Developing a strategic enrollment management plan

NAU’s impact reaches far beyond Flagstaff, and Cruz Rivera emphasized the importance of scaling our impact throughout the state and better leveraging statewide sites.

“We also realized that there’s a huge need across the state of Arizona to provide a physical presence and quality programs for people there to be able to get the credentials they need to contribute to and benefit from the state’s booming economy,” he said. “What does our enrollment management plan look like—where do we grow? How do we grow?”

Watch the entire convocation online.

NAU Communications