Humans of NAU: Ali Applin

Ali Applin on a zipline with blue sky and forests in the background

Ali Applin is new to NAU, but Flagstaff has been her family’s home for more than a decade. The new director of community engagement has stayed busy in her first couple of months at NAU, but every day is a little different, which keeps things fun. Learn more about her bucket list, what a day in the life of her job is like, what she really wanted to be when she grew up—and how she’s still keeping that childhood dream alive. 

The Applin family of a son and daughter, mother and father standing in the treesWhat brought you to NAU?  

My husband’s job. We were living in Maui, where he was working as the chief ranger at Haleakala. He had previously been in the FBI before moving to the Park Service. He missed the action of the bureau, reapplied and then was assigned to the Flagstaff office.

Applin in front of a castle in Germany
Applin in Germany. Top photo: ziplining in Maui.

How long have you been in Flagstaff?  

This year will be 13 years with a year off living in Germany.  

What does a day in the life of the director of community relations look like?  

It varies wildly, which is why I love this job! I might be meeting with NAU staff or faculty to find out what they are working on and how it impacts our community, or I might be meeting with a new startup in town who is looking for NAU students to intern or hire. I also might be meeting with our elected officials or our neighbors on issues that affect us all such as transportation and parking. I could be meeting with the various nonprofits in town discussing how NAU is currently supporting them by providing volunteers or telling them about the various clubs on campus that might be a good volunteer fit. I love that Community Engagement is part of the NAU strategic plan and our office looks forward to recapturing that close association NAU had with the community when I first moved to Flagstaff in 2010.  

What is your favorite thing about Flagstaff?  

How easy it is to get into the forest and into solitude. I also love the people. I have a wonderful group of girlfriends who I have known since my son was 3 years old. We have supported each other through all of our collective ups and downs, and I am so grateful for them.

Ali Applin in front of trees and mossy plants

Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today.  

When I lived in Virginia as a kid, every Sunday my dad would take me, my brother and any neighbor kids that wanted to come along for hikes in the Blue Ridge mountains. We’d pack a lunch and be gone all day. It’s why I love hiking to this day. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?  

A “jive dancer!” I had just seen the movie Grease and thought the dance scenes (particularly “Born to Hand Jive”) were amazing! My friends and I throw dance parties all the time, so I do feel like I am keeping the dream alive!  

What have you been most proud of recently?  

That my firstborn is out of college and living successfully on her own in Minneapolis and that my second-born is a senior in high school living his best life. I’m hoping he will finish strong!  

What is your favorite way to spend a day off?  

Having a dance party with my friends or getting into the woods with my dog. I also love to catch up on my reading. I have stacks of TBR (to-be-read) books all around the house and enjoy making my way through them.

What are three things on your bucket list?  

Travel, travel and travel! I grew up moving around (Virginia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina and England). Once I was married, we moved to Oahu, northern California, southern California, Montana, Maui, Flagstaff, Germany and then back to Flagstaff. I’ve lived in Flagstaff longer than any other place, but I STILL have the travel bug. Travel changes and challenges me and provides so much inspiration. I can’t imagine my life without it!

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