Notes from the President: Aug. 16, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

The new academic year is nearly upon us! Next Monday, our work will get underway officially, as faculty return and new and returning students move into residence halls across our Flagstaff campus. To commemorate the occasion, I will address our NAU community on Monday morning at our annual University Convocation. I hope you will join me then as we celebrate the accomplishments registered last year and look ahead to the priorities and potential of the year ahead as we elevate our work and serve our students.

Since my last update in July, the weeks have been filled with reflection, planning, meetings, and events in preparation for this moment, and I eagerly look forward to the start of AY23-24.

Below are my notes from the past few weeks:

  • On July 13 and 14, I traveled to Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) Board of Directors. This convening brought together many peers and partners from across the country to think about how we can collaborate in different states and contexts to advance attainment and deliver value through our work as institutions of higher education. It was also a bittersweet moment as Mildred Garcia concluded her term as president of AASCU and prepared for her next step as chancellor of the California State University system. A friend and mentor for many years, I am thankful for her leadership at AASCU and look forward to the contributions she will make in California.
  • Back in Flagstaff over the weekend, I enjoyed an incredible performance by R. Carlos Nakai as part of the Kitt School of Music’s Horizons Summer Concert Series. The tremendous artistry on display enriches our Flagstaff community and demonstrates the year-round vibrancy that NAU brings to our local community.
  • The rest of the week included meetings with partners in Flagstaff, including CCC and ECONA, conversations about strategic priorities with our Regents, and a visit to our Student Ambassador team training, where our dedicated Lumberjack students are using their voices and experiences to authentically highlight all the potential that exists at our university for prospective students and their families.
  • Heading into the weekend, our NAU Foundation and Alumni Association boards convened in Flagstaff for summer retreats. I was glad to have the opportunity to visit both groups and share more about the strategic context in which we operate and how, through their advocacy and partnership, we can continue to elevate the work of our institution. With another record fundraising year in the books for 2022-23, I am confident that our Foundation and Alumni Boards will help us continue our momentum to take NAU to the next level and am so appreciative of their leadership in advancing the fortunes of NAU.
  • The week of July 24 was highlighted by a convening of our partners from the Arizona Attainment Alliance (A++) here in Flagstaff. The group convened to discuss how their excellent work in planning and ideation can now turn toward broad implementation. We celebrated key initiatives, like the Universal Admissions program and the Arizona College Excellence initiative—completed in less than a year of working with A++ partners—and identified priorities and implementation strategies to dramatically boost attainment and prosperity in every corner of our state. I’m deeply appreciative of the engagement and partnership of our state’s community colleges and the Arizona Commerce Authority to rally around this noble and essential shared goal, and I look forward to the excellent work that will follow as we look ahead to the Alliance’s second year.
  • The following week, I dedicated several days to my service on the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI). The committee evaluated the request for reauthorization of several institutional and professional accreditation agencies.
  • As August got fully underway, I have turned attention to our core goals for the year ahead. The President’s Cabinet convened for a retreat to grapple with our long-term priorities, as well as the near-term and ever-present imperatives to evolve and elevate our work to broaden access, improve student success, recruit and retain talented faculty and staff, and strengthen our institutional financial position. Much of these discussions will be reflected in the priorities outlined during University Convocation and fleshed out over the course of the fall semester.
  • I also met with Flagstaff Mayor Becky Daggett, visited with our strategic planning team on institutional dashboards that can sharpen our focus and inform strategies to support student success, joined colleagues from Greater Phoenix Leadership to discuss postsecondary value and Latino attainment in the Valley and beyond—and how the private sector can partner with and amplify our efforts as a public university—and more.
  • I also was privileged to speak on behalf of partner colleges to the incoming cohort of scholars to the Dream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMers. NAU joined as a new partner college this academic year, and with support from TheDream.US—and the voter-backed passage of Prop 308—we are committed to supporting these talented students in meeting their aspirations and completing their college degrees. To the more than 1,000 scholars from across the country, the message I shared was clear: you belong here, and TheDream.US and the more than 70 partner colleges across the country where you are attending are 100 percent committed to your success.

Reenergized following our final True Blue Summer Friday of 2023, I am ready for the work ahead. I’m excited to welcome all of our students, new and returning, during Welcome Week, and I’ll see you on Monday, Jacks, as we get what will surely be another academic year for the record books under way!

In partnership,

José Luis Cruz Rivera


NAU Communications