Cabinet Highlights: June 7, 2011

NAU successfully staged a series of high-quality commencement ceremonies this May despite the J. Walkup Skydome being unavailable, reported Debra Larson, associate vice provost for Academic Affairs. She shared a report on the lessons learned that could be used to improve upon future Skydome ceremonies and other practices. She proposed further discussion on such topics as ceremony length, consideration of maintaining a graduate student-only ceremony versus ceremony groupings based upon college, and opportunities for streamlining the graduate application process. She also credited the commencement team and many volunteers who were crucial to ensuring the smooth delivery of each event.

The Arizona Department of Administration recently announced changes to its Fleet Safety Rules, and the resulting statewide policy change will impact all NAU faculty, staff and students who drive any university-owned motorized vehicles or who drive their own personal or rented vehicles for university business and are reimbursed. Robert Chavez, director of Operations at NAU, explained that as of Nov. 1, the new Authorized Driver Policy will require all employees who drive on university business to have passed an online defensive driving course and submit their driver’s license for periodic review. Inside NAU will have more details next week.

Michelle Miller, chair of Psychology and director of the NAU Course Redesign Team, and Blase Scarnati, director of the First Year Seminar and Global Learning, presented an overview of the First Year Learning Initiative, a new effort targeting select courses that have a high proportion of first-year students. The initiative focuses on transforming these “gateway” courses to help students succeed in the first year of college and beyond. Participating instructors will work to refine these courses for increased rigor and increased support for struggling students. About 20-28 courses are slated to participate this fall.

Also beginning this fall, NAU will implement a $30-per-semester transportation fee to students who do not purchase parking permits to help fund campus shuttle service and other Parking Services initiatives. More than 9,000 people each day ride campus shuttles, costing the university $1.4 million per year to operate. Funding cuts that have placed pressure on many departments to trim their budgets are at odds with a service that is in such high demand, and the department sought ways to maintain its offerings while meeting budget requirements and minimizing the impact on students. The new transportation fee is expected to generate half of the annual cost to operate the shuttles while parking fees will continue to make up the remaining costs.

In light of the state cutting $60 million of NAU’s operating budget since 2009, the university is being forced to look at ways to increase revenues for all types of university operations. As a result, prices for ticketed events on campus—such as athletic events and cultural performances—are likely to see a modest increase. Over the next few months, administrators will study the university’s ticket policies in terms of students, faculty, staff and the public, and changes will be communicated once the new prices have been determined.

Laura Jones, a director in Planning and Institutional Research, presented the President’s Cabinet Report with a statistical breakdown of advancement data, grants and contracts and student data. As part of the report, senior budget analyst Sadie Hutchison presented an overview of select financial indicators of NAU Athletics. Read the complete report here.