President’s Cabinet notes: April 3, 2019

April 5, 2019

President Rita Cheng welcomed university leaders and guests to the cabinet meeting Wednesday before jumping into the agenda, which included presentations about several initiatives NAU is undertaking to achieve the university’s goals and strategic plan.

Vice President of Capital Planning and Campus Operations Dan Okoli introduced Matthew Muchna, the new manager of the Office of Sustainability, and project manager Andrew Iacona, highlighting that NAU has shifted from a university with some sustainability programs to a leader that has made sustainability one of the guideposts in resource allocation and decision-making.

“Essentially what we want to do is to leverage all of the resources and use sustainability as the lens for the decisions that we’re making,” Okoli said.

Muchna shared the results of a survey ASNAU sent out last year, in which 89 percent of respondents said they want NAU to be a leader in sustainability—a goal shared by administrators, faculty, staff and the community. However, he has found that many people at NAU aren’t aware of what his office does to promote sustainability on a systemic level. He hopes to change that. Their priorities, he said, are student success, engagement and stewardship, with the goal to find efficiencies in operations to lessen the costly consumption of energy at NAU.

His office has a number of programs for students, faculty and staff, including the Environmental Caucus, Conservation Programs and Green Fund. They hold monthly networking meetings; sponsor the Green Jacks, an environmental student club; teach students how to be more environmentally aware through the Sustainable Ambassadors program; and enlist faculty and staff to be Energy Mentors and earn Green Office Certifications for their departments. The Green Fund, which is funded by student green fees, pays for larger-scale, student-initiated programs, such as the solar panels atop the San Francisco Parking Garage.

He and his team are collaborating with the sustainability office at the City of Flagstaff as well; he said the university’s focus on conserving resources is indicative of the good relationship with the community.

“NAU is ranked in the top 100 schools in the nation for sustainability, and we’re gold rated in many areas,” he said. “I believe we have the opportunity to be in the top 10. We want to be the premier environmental school in Arizona, and we believe we have the culture to do that.”

Stephanie Smith, director of alumni engagement, and Margot Saltonstall, associate vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, discussed the findings from a Gallup survey conducted in 2018. Almost 10,000 alumni responded to the survey, Smith said, giving NAU a trove of data highlighting ways in which the university has supported and sustained excellence as well as opportunities to improve. The results showcased hard work, dedication and a longstanding tradition of academic excellence and student support in all areas of campus.

Saltonstall said the data confirmed much of what was already known, but it provides administrators and decision-makers with additional tools as they consider what programs and processes are working and should be enhanced and where the university can make changes to better serve students, alumni and the community.

“It also gives us a really robust set of data to engage in conversations that we’ve been having based on anecdotes,” she said. “It moves the conversations about student experience forward and gives us ways to balance projects.”

The data will be used and shared in Pine Magazine and with campus visitors, such as during freshman orientation, in the Career Center, in discussions about the strategic plan and in the university’s overall marketing strategy. Saltonstall also is putting together a dashboard to house all the data and methodology; it will be broken down by colleges so each individual college can use relevant data in their own conversations, decision-making and marketing plans.

From here, Smith said, they will identify key selling points and opportunities to grow and figure out the best ways to move forward.

Chief audit executive Mark Ruppert updated the cabinet on the enterprise risk assessment his department is conducting, which will help the university identify, mitigate and prepare for possible future challenges. They have interviewed high-level administrators and are moving to the cabinet members to help identify challenges and opportunities and build out the risk process, which will help administrators make more informed decisions. Already, he has worked with Okoli and Chief Information Officer Steve Burrell on issues related to campus safety and cybersecurity.

Chief institutional data officer Laura Jones discussed the fall 2019 application numbers: enrollment of new transfers and new graduate students are up, while first-year enrolled freshmen dipped 1 percent, though offers and acceptances have increased from last year. International enrollment is down across the board, which Daniel Palm, associate vice president for international education, said was more a factor of timing; students have accepted their offers but not yet enrolled, so those numbers should increase significantly in the near future. He highlighted Vietnam—a year ago three students had applied to NAU, this year he’s gotten 48 applications—and China, with which NAU has a number of dual-degree programs and partnerships. A large percentage of those students accept their offers but have not been admitted yet, he said.

Jones also noted that NAU’s new and continuing awards at this point in the fiscal year are about even with year-to-date numbers in FY 2018, though the proportions have shifted; about $3 million more has come in for research, while awards in the public service and “other” categories (academic or institutional support, scholarship, instruction, operations and student services) are down slightly.

The cabinet also looked at the faculty and staff ratios per 100 students. NAU’s instructional staffing is 4.35 per 100 students, which puts the university in the middle of peer institutions. There are 7.53 non-instructional staff for every 100 students, which is below peer institutions and the other universities in Arizona. Jane Kuhn, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, noted that NAU employs fewer people than other institutions because of partnerships with Sodexo, American Campus Communities and Follett to run Dining Services, a number of residence halls and the bookstore.

“There’s a lot of variation in there,” she said.

Bjorn Flugstad, vice president of finance, institutional planning and analysis laid out the budget report, highlighting that 18 percent of NAU’s revenue that comes from state appropriations; a decade ago that percentage was more than 40 percent. The state appropriation of $112 million can be further segmented into components including base and one-time appropriation and appropriations dedicated to capital investments. About 60 percent of the university’s expenditures are related to people through wages and benefit expenses, with the next largest component—about 22 percent—being operations. He encouraged department heads to continue to evaluate discretionary items in their operations budget.

“If you have discretion, really think through if this is a needed expenditure, or if it’s a needed expenditure this year,” he said. “Continue to review and pay particular attention to operating expenses.”

Interim associate vice president Steve Vedral updated the cabinet on capital projects and planning:

  • 3rd and 4th floors of Science Annex: Renovations are mostly complete, with furniture going in on April 15. People will not be moved in until the fall semester so some final work can be completed.
  • STEM Building: In the process of selecting a design professional
  • Athletic facility: Programming and design work
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