Notes from the President: Aug. 31, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

Happy first week of classes! It’s been an incredible start to the new academic year, filled with energy at every NAU location throughout Arizona. Welcome to our new students—and welcome back to our returning students! I know you will accomplish much and look forward to supporting you every step of the way. No matter where you come from or what you are studying, NAU is here to help you succeed and power your future!

Below are my full notes:

  • The week of August 21 began with our University Convocation, an opportunity to bring together all of our faculty and staff to reflect on the year that was—and its many, many accomplishments!—and look ahead to the year that will be. As I shared in my address, this year is dedicated to academic momentum—doing our part at every level to ensure students retain, persist, and graduate, reaping the full benefits from their college experience at NAU. To give structure to this priority, I shared an organizing challenge to our university community that we work toward increasing the number of students earning at least 30 credits per year by at least 10 percentage points over the next three years—contributing to the academic momentum of the students we serve. I look forward to sharing more about academic momentum and the structured work we will pursue to realize it over the course of the fall. In addition, I hope that across units and departments this conversation will be taken up—in conversations, staff meetings, and the like—so that we all are working together to keep students centered in our decision-making and deliver on our vision for excellence.
  • Tuesday, I hosted our exceptional cohort of new faculty for a reception to welcome them to NAU. After a busy day of orientation for them, I was glad to spend time together and get to meet and learn more about this incredible group of teacher-scholars who have committed themselves to NAU. I encourage you to review the Office of the Provost’s portfolio of new faculty and join me in welcoming these exceptional individuals to our university and broader community.
  • I also spent time throughout the day meeting with several members of my team on topics that included our state budget priorities, K-12 initiatives on the horizon, upcoming goals, and more.
  • Wednesday, as the trickle of students moving in began to increase, NAU hosted community college presidents from across the state for a convening of the Arizona Community College Coordinating Council (AC4). As valued partners in the Arizona Attainment Alliance (A++) and instrumental statewide leaders in promoting and strengthening a robust postsecondary attainment ecosystem, I was pleased to spend time with these colleagues and discuss our shared priorities. I look forward to the next phase of A++ work alongside our partner community colleges that will do much to increase pathways to attainment and drive prosperity in every corner of Arizona through our collective impact.
  • Thursday morning, I was in the car early for a drive to Phoenix and a meeting of the Arizona Board of Regents. On the agenda was a special board meeting, including discussion of ABOR’s state budget request, as well as an annual review, where we discussed NAU’s accomplishments last year and set ambitious and mission-aligned goals for 2023-24. Wrapping up the long day, I had a smooth drive back to Flagstaff to prepare for the events and activities of the weekend.
  • As the workweek came to a close, student move-in went into full-swing. I enjoyed walking about campus meeting new students and their families, chatting with student and professional staff helping facilitate move-in, and was inspired by the energy and potential of so many entrusting their educational futures to NAU.
  • I also met with Rep. Eli Crane, who was visiting campus for a tour hosted by our Ecological Restoration Institute (ERI) to show key developments in wildfire and land management strategies being pursued by experts at NAU for the benefit of people and the environment in the American southwest. My thanks to Congressman Crane for his interest in this important work.
  • Over the weekend, I biked to campus for the annual NAU “letters” event. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but let’s just say that the majestic beauty of Flagstaff was on full display and provided the best backdrop one could ask for in highlighting our record setting class of Lumberjacks!
  • As this week got underway, I shared with our university community the highlights of our new class of students, many of whose future is being powered by Access2Excellence and who represent the most diverse, most Arizonan, and most accomplished class in our 124-year history.
  • In addition, Monday I hosted alongside members of the President’s Cabinet our newest Student Regent from Arizona State University, David Zaragoza, to overview the distinctive work pursued by NAU. I also joined community partners for a regional economic development update and joined the first full Faculty Senate meeting of the fall, where I spoke more about academic momentum, our plans for the search for Executive Vice President and University Provost that will formally kickoff soon—stay tuned for an announcement—and other presidential priorities for the year ahead.
  • On Tuesday, I focused attention on several smaller meetings, with NAU colleagues, CCC President Heiser, and partners in the national higher education network.
  • Wednesday marked one of my favorite events of the year—the President’s Welcome Back Jacks BBQ on the central quad. Thousands of students came to enjoy lunch and the beautiful weather between classes, and I saw many familiar faces of faculty and staff who were excited for the potential of the new year. Thanks to our Campus Dining and University Events teams for a great event.
  • After many sliders served and selfies taken, I transited to several Zoom and phone interviews with media interested in learning more about the highlights of our new class for the remainder of the afternoon.

In closing, I’ll share an exciting announcement that is yet another marker of our exceptional work in driving access, attainment, and excellence—in Arizona and at a national scale. This morning, NAU announced a one-of-a-kind partnership with College Track (CT), a comprehensive college access and success nonprofit dedicated to educational equity that makes a 10-year commitment to its scholars, beginning in high school and lasting through the launch of their careers. With the NAU-CT partnership, we will launch in summer 2024 two transformative programs.

First, the establishment of Semester Zero, an immersive, college preparatory summer experience on NAU’s Flagstaff Mountain Campus for rising juniors from each of College Track’s 12 centers nationwide. In total, more than 500 CT scholars will come to NAU in Summer 2024 for the inaugural Semester Zero, where they will live on campus to preview college life, engage in rich learning experiences, connect with peers from across the country, and solidify their college-going aspirations—all in one of the most beautiful college towns in the nation. Second, NAU and CT are launching a cohort program at NAU’s Honors College next fall, where CT scholars who attend NAU will have tailored support throughout their postsecondary journey that will propel them to academic and life success.

This partnership is the result of the exceptional leadership of our team here at NAU, as well as our rising national profile as a leader in delivering equitable postsecondary value and fueling students’ economic and social mobility. Already, Academic Year 2023-24 is set to be one for the record books, and I look forward to the road ahead and to your support and partnership in achieving our goals!


José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications