Forum hears good news, addresses misconceptions

President John Haeger kicked off a campus forum June 17 with some good news, then addressed misconceptions about NAU’s place in a proposal to redesign the state’s university system.

The recently signed state budget provides funding for salary increases, and the Arizona Board of Regents will vote on NAU’s plan to provide salary increases to staff, administrators and part-time faculty at its June 24 – 25 meeting. Haeger also told the 100 or so attendees that there is reason to be “cautiously optimistic” about fall enrollment.

Improvements in several facilities, including the communication and engineering buildings, the College of Business Administration, and the new Applied Research and Development Building are nearing completion or will break ground in the coming year. A north campus laboratory facility of 85,000 square feet also is planned. NAU’s plans also include building a new modern residential building near University and Knoles drives.

“The only bad news here is that the campus will be torn up,” Haeger said with a laugh.

Tier: it’s about mission, not quality
A key issue over the next year will be driving home the message that NAU’s mission is preserved in the proposed redesign of Arizona’s university system.

Haeger emphasized that the word “tier” has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with mission—yet many in the public, and even within NAU—are using the term to signify quality rather than mission.

He cited the Carnegie Foundation classification system. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center for teaching and learning. The Carnegie Foundation has developed a national standard of classifying universities, which is based on mission, not quality. NAU is one of 110 doctoral research-intensive institutions—colleges or universities that offer at least 10 doctoral degrees a year in three disciplines, or 20 doctorates.

Typical characteristics of doctoral-research intensive universities are:

  • usually strong economic force in their community
  • most students are residents of the state
  • usually do not participate in NCAA, division 1 football; athletics need to be subsidized
  • many are located in small communities
  • there is a balance of undergraduate education, graduate education and research

Haeger also pointed out that U.S. News and World Report uses the Carnegie classifications but presents the information in “tiers,” which misleads the public into thinking schools are ranked by quality.

A tri-university study group will work with ABOR to consider the proposal presented by ABOR president Chris Herstam to redesign the state’s university system. The group will also consider other proposals as part of the feasibility study. The study is expected to take six to seven months.

NAU’s representatives on the tri-university feasibility study group are Kathy Cruz-Uribe, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Pat Haeuser, director of Planning and Instutional Research; Fred Hurst, interim vice president for Distance Learning; and Nick Lund, executive director, NAU-Yuma.

Haeger has said that regional names for universities are outdated, based on a time when students were confined by geographic location. “Regionally designated names aren’t a problem in the Midwest,” he said, “but in Arizona people will lose sleep over it because they think ‘regional’ suggests lower quality.”

“The redesign is not a done deal,” the president responded to a question from the audience. “There is a real feasibility study.” Send your comments to the committee:

The president also assured the audience that the feasibility study group will be a source of information about the redesign proposal and that he will continue to host forums at which information will be shared. “I will go anywhere,” he said, “to any department, to any unit to talk about this more in depth.”

David Bousquet, vice president of Enrollment Management Services, stressed the importance of the faculty’s and staff’s role in representing NAU to the public. “We need to remember that our conversations have consequences,” he cautioned. “We are all ambassadors of the university.”

The president also has met with several off-campus constituents about the redesign of the university system, including the Institute for Native Americans Advisory Board and the Phoenix Urban League.