NAU’s donors are increasing access to higher education, one gift at a time

Despite a pandemic-stricken year, donors and alumni gave generously to the Northern Arizona University Foundation, propelling NAU to a new level of academic excellence and innovative research.  

Donors invested in more than 20 new scholarships last year which when added to existing scholarships, yielded more than $3.5 million distributed via more than 2,200 scholarships to a diverse group of motivated and hard-working students during the current academic year.  

The impact of scholarships on student success is multifaceted. While state funding for higher education dwindles and many families struggle to pay their bills, scholarships create access and opportunity for students while reducing reliance on multiple jobs or the burden of student loan debt.  

“Supporting students through scholarships opens paths to our shared future with hope and promise,” NAU’s President, José Luis Cruz Rivera shared. “Scholarships remove barriers for our students and provide equitable postsecondary value to the students and the communities they represent.” 

“When donors make a gift to the NAU Foundation, they are not just giving someone an opportunity to pursue a degree. They are opening doors to a new and improved life. They are equipping students with tools to break the cycle of generational poverty and shape our shared future,” said Michael Bassoff, CEO of the NAU Foundation. “So many talented people put their academic pursuits on the back burner simply because they cannot afford to go to school. Donors create life-changing experiences and lifelong impact.” 

NAU’s students are as unique as the scholarships they received. Their diverse backgrounds, talents and reasons to pursue a college degree demonstrate that financial assistance goes beyond one demographic.  

“NAU scholarships are not limited to the Flagstaff area. With more than 20 statewide campuses and a variety of online degree programs, many scholars work full-time and reside in different parts of the state, such as Yuma or Kingman” Bassoff said. “Thanks to donor generosity, NAU students are shaping the future for a brighter tomorrow across Arizona and beyond.” 

Bradley Johnson ’21
BS Elementary Education 

Mojave campus student Bradley Johnson graduated last spring with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Johnson is one of several beneficiaries of the Franke Scholars in Education, which aims to assist first-generation students while they do their student teaching, which is essentially a full-time job. 

“It is difficult to juggle the many responsibilities I have,” Johnson said. “As a father and husband, my No. 1 commitment is to support my family. Without this scholarship, I don’t know if I would have been able to dedicate my time to student teaching and finish my last semester strong.” 

Katherine Jackson ’22
Ph.D. Clinical Psychology 

Single mother, Army veteran and first-generation student Katherine Jackson hopes to eventually open a private practice that will focus on neuropsychology testing, therapy and education.  A fascination with the brain and how it operates and a desire to advance her childhood community are the main forces behind her scholarly quest. “Many times, people of color are pushed through the school system, not knowing that they have delays or a diagnosis that could get them extra services like physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and special classes,” Jackson said.  

Her dream to help stop toxic generational cycles and lift her community has now become a concrete plan thanks to the help of donors. As a recipient of multiple scholarships, Jackson can continue her studies while she works and cares for her two children. “The doctoral program can become pricey when it comes to books and necessary programs. Sometimes for just one semester the books can total a couple thousand dollars,” she said. “I use the Martha Portree Commission on the Status of Women Scholarship and the Snider Family Scholarship for books and also to help with tuition so that I can work less and focus on school and spending more time with my family.” 

George Testo ’23
Biomedical Science 

Undergraduate researcher and biomedical science major, George Testo ’23 was drawn to NAU because of his passion for translational research.  

In early 2020, the budding researcher began training under the supervision of Emily Cope and peers at the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute. As an undergraduate research assistant, Testo is actively engaged in the field of microbiome research, where he is learning about modern and intuitive lab techniques. 

“My research focuses on genetic material to study bacteria and give better health diagnostics and medical care to those who need it,” the Tucson native said.  

After attending NAU, he is aiming for a Ph.D. in immunology. “I am planning on using my future research as a backbone for my potential search for answers that could lead to new and improved scientific breakthroughs in both microbiology and immunology,” he said. 

Your gift, whether big or small, can make a lifelong difference in a student’s lifeRead more stories about the impact of scholarships and other donor investments by visiting the NAU Foundation website.

NAU Communications