Many people have never known NAU without Christy Farley. The senior vice president of government affairs started her NAU career 20 years ago, and she’s been an advocate and administrator for the university, its program at the Phoenix Bioscience Core and more in that time. She’s retiring at the end of January and talked to The NAU Review about a childhood memory that has stuck with her for decades, what she’s proud of and what’s coming next for the lifelong Lumberjack.
What brought you to NAU?
I was raised in Flagstaff. Like most teenagers, I couldn’t wait to leave the small town for big adventures, and I went away for my first year of college. After changing my major and realizing that I preferred a people-focused environment with the ability to engage in the classroom, I transferred to NAU to be back in the Flagstaff community I love. NAU brought me many opportunities as a student.
In 2004, I was contacted by a friend and former colleague about an opening at NAU. I applied with a passion to give back to NAU and elevate their visibility to a broader community of people. The community of Flagstaff and NAU will always be part of who I am—a Lumberjack for life!
What does a day in the life of your job look like?
I have had the benefit of many positions at NAU, and starting with government affairs and then throughout my journey all of my days require flexibility to adapt to changing schedules and priorities. Most mornings I start early to get through emails as most of my day is spent out of the office with elected officials, government agencies, philanthropic partners and university colleagues to advance NAU’s external engagement.
What have you enjoyed most about your job?
I love the people I get to work with! The opportunity to advance policies and investments in support of students and positively impact communities across Arizona through the work of the collective NAU team is something I am proud of. The people at NAU are advancing so many exciting initiatives, and I love learning about them and helping tell our external partners about the work.
Tell me about a significant childhood memory and how it has impacted your life today.
Growing up in Flagstaff and attending the local school, we walked or rode our bikes to school most days. The first time I got to ride my bike to school I got all the way to the crosswalk at the school and decided I would turn around and ride back home. I don’t know why, but I learned a couple important lessons:
- My mom would always know what was going on before I even made it home! Someone from the school had called her to let her know that I had turned around, and she was outside waiting for me when I got home.
- Do the hard things the first time you have an opportunity as procrastination won’t make them go away! I rode my bike home, and my mom turned me right back around to go back to school.
- Family support is important! My mom walked with me back to school and gave me whatever confidence I needed to face the day. I am lucky to have had a supportive family growing up and to this day.
These lessons have followed me through my career and raising my own family as tackling challenges has led to success and support from family—those you were born with and those you make through friendships along the way—has made the challenges easier and success more rewarding. Oh, and…. moms know everything!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
The answer to this question depends on the point in my life that you asked me. I had lots of great role models growing up, and I spent a lot of time working with kids and families but I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher. So, I started out thinking I would go into social work, but then decided that I couldn’t separate myself from that work, so I switched to a pre-law track with the intent of going to law school. Once I started working in legislative affairs and policy, however, I found opportunities to work on issues that could positively impact children and families as well as communities and advanced my career.
What have you been most proud of recently?
Wow, that’s a big question! First and foremost, I am proud of my family and the amazing people my kids are. I have a lot of things that I am proud of professionally, but most recently at NAU, I am proud of the foundation I contributed to for strong healthcare education programs and the next phase of development NAU will take with the AZ Healthy Tomorrow initiative. Serving as the founding chief administrative officer for NAU’s programs at the Phoenix Bioscience Core (PBC) while coordinating with the Flagstaff campus leadership to plan and develop expanded programs as well as the mental health program expansion developed at NAU North Valley represents a significant multi-university partnership and serves both students and communities. Connecting people and resources has been my priority at NAU.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
My most favorite way to spend time off is at the beach! For a single day, however, you will find me outside, probably hiking, and then ending with cooking.
What’s next for you?
My immediate plans are to spend time with my family. I will do some special project and consulting work in the future as well as expand some of my volunteer work with nonprofit organizations.
Top photo: Farley at the celebration of NAU’s tenth year at PBC with NAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera and Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs. Not pictured: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
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