Notes from the President: April 28, 2022

Dear Lumberjacks,

Today begins with big news from NAU, as we unveil our Access2Excellence initiative, which will make attending NAU for Arizonans from households with an annual income of $65,000 or less—approximately half of our state—tuition-free. This supports our university’s work to become a national leader in equitable postsecondary value and power access, attainment, social impact, and economic mobility in our state.

As we approach the end of the semester and my first academic year as NAU president, today’s announcement represents the culmination of much work converging, including our Strategic Roadmap, the new admissions pilot program, and expanded partnerships with support from the Arizona Board of Regents, the NAU Foundation, and many others in our state and beyond who have rallied behind the bold mission of the New NAU.

In addition to the significant work that has gone into making the A2E initiative a reality, the past week has been vibrant and filled with activities.

  • Last Thursday, I began by joining a meeting with a national program review team for our Native American Cancer Prevention program. The work of Jani Ingram and her team is impressive and represents the spirit of collaboration, engagement with community, and impact for students that characterizes NAU’s distinctive excellence. I was pleased to attend and share my strong support for this transformative program.
  • Later in the day, I joined our ROTC cadets and other campus partners for the opening of a new flight simulator laboratory on campus that provides essential training opportunities for our ROTC students.
  • Lunch was spent with our Public Health Advisory Committee and AY21-22 Steering Committee members enjoying a beautiful Flagstaff afternoon and thanking them for their invaluable input and advisement throughout NAU’s COVID-19 response in the last year.
  • In the evening, I joined two student-focused events. The High Pines Awards recognized student organizations for their work this year. Later I visited with Voces Unidos at IMQ to listen to our engaged students’ perspectives and consider how best to advance our work, particularly in the service of our diverse student populations and in reflection of our Hispanic Serving Institution designation. I am always thankful for the time I get to spend with our students to recognize their achievements, hear their perspectives and experiences, and collaborate and inform our work—because we are here, ultimately, to serve our students and empower their success.
  • I want to recognize that in the midst of all of the action and activity on campus, we acknowledge the damage caused by the Tunnel Fire in our community and stand with our partners in Coconino County and other agencies and individuals throughout our community. In these sobering times, I was pleased to be able to share some support for the efforts and call on the compassion and spirit of engagement from our Lumberjack community in helping support the response.
  • Friday was non-stop with events and meetings, beginning early with welcome remarks at CIE’s Interdisciplinary Global Programs’ Spring 2022 summit, where students from the eighth cohort of this impressive international program shared their experiences and celebrated their work studying abroad.
  • Then it was on to the Undergraduate Research Symposium. What an incredible event, and congratulations to all of our student presenters (and to their dedicated faculty mentors)! I wish I could have spent longer listening to our students give dynamic presentations of impactful research they have conducted over the past year, but the time I spent was memorable.
  • I then visited with the NAU Foundation Board, sharing updates on NAU’s action agenda, including news of A2E and other upcoming initiatives and engaging in the business of the board, whose work advances all aspects of our university through engagement and philanthropic support.
  • During the day, I shared a message with our NAU community as we celebrated Earth Day to recommit and refocus our institutional efforts in addressing climate change. The need is urgent, and I am proud of the work of our students, faculty, staff, and community in advocating for action. By declaring a climate emergency and setting a bold goal of carbon neutrality in our operations by 2030, we will have much work ahead of us. But it is crucial work and work that our university is prepared to undertake. I look forward to the path ahead and to excellent partnership and engagement in making this goal a reality.
  • We capped off a memorable year for NAU Athletics with the grand opening of the new, state-of-the-art Student Athlete High Performance Center on Friday afternoon, as we welcomed hundreds of supporters, members of the community and student-athletes to this world-class facility that will elevate the excellence of our athletic programs for years to come. Congratulations to VP for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Marlow and his team, and my thanks to all who helped make this facility a reality.
  • On Saturday, I spent time with the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences’ advisory board, sharing a universitywide perspective on our efforts and strategic directions. The work of our faculty and staff in CEIAS, supported by the advisement of the board, will be crucial in helping us advance our mission and meet the needs of the workforce of the future.
  • The NAU Alumni Association Board also met on Saturday, and I enjoyed visiting to share an update with them as well. Like the NAU Foundation Board, our Alumni leadership is crucial in building a strong network that supports our institution—locally, throughout the state and around the world.
  • Saturday evening I joined many in our community at the Literacy Center’s Mountain Spelling Bee. Congratulations to all of the spellers—including the winning team composed of NAU faculty!—and thanks to the many generous individuals in our community who contributed to support the great work of the Literacy Center.
  • Monday offered a chance to catch my breath from events and meet with internal and external partners, including discussions around our Native American-serving initiatives, partnerships in the health care field throughout the state, philanthropic opportunities to support the delivery of our mission, and review of our FY23 budget.
  • Tuesday, I met with potential supporters from a major national philanthropic organization to discuss how NAU’s social impact programs can garner additional support, and I look forward to advancing these high-impact efforts and investments that will contribute to our Strategic Roadmap.
  • On campus, I visited with Bruce Hungate and the impressive faculty, staff, and students at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss); their work is a pillar of our distinctive excellence, with environmentally-focused research that has broad impact regionally and globally.
  • The day concluded with my first hosting of the Professional Achievement Ceremony, recognizing NAU faculty and staff for promotion and tenure; teaching excellence; exceptional work in research, scholarship, and creative activity; service above and beyond in advancement of our university mission; and faculty who have earned emeritus status. Congratulations to the honorees, and thank you for all you do for NAU!
  • Yesterday, my team and I were hard at work putting the finishing touches on our release of the A2E initiative, and I’m thrilled to share that work today.

I’m looking forward to next week and the peak of our celebrations as a university community, beginning with a first convocation on Sunday and running through our commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday. I want to thank all of our faculty and staff who are volunteering and helping support this signature event. I am thrilled for our students and their many accomplishments. And I cannot wait to see the proud families and friends on campus next week who will join in celebrating our Lumberjack Alumni.

Best wishes for the final days of a memorable Spring 2022 semester!


José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications