What a first semester! I write today to share my final set of notes for the fall.
- Last Thursday, I joined our veteran students for their convocation, recognizing all of our students who have served and sacrificed so much—and who have chosen NAU to help them on the next step of their journeys. My congratulations to these students, and my thanks to our wonderful and dedicated team in the Veterans Success Center.
- I also joined our graduating students at the Lumberjacks of Inclusion Convocation. As a warm-up for commencement, this was an incredible event that highlights the diversity of our students’ backgrounds and experiences—all of which contribute to the vitality of our community and our continued success. I am so proud of all of our students!
- Friday was truly remarkable. Commencement is a realization of all that our students are capable of and the fulfillment of their dreams, and it is a poignant reminder of why we do what we do as educators—and we are all educators—at NAU. Some of the highlights from my first NAU Commencement include:
- Spending time with our faculty before both ceremonies to chat and thank them for all they have done in helping our students reach this moment.
- Seeing so many proud parents and friends in person celebrating the success of their students.
- Sharing the stage with our provost, deans, regents, alumni leaders and representatives of the Graduate Student Government, ASNAU, the Staff Advisory Council and the Faculty Senate.
- Hearing the words of our distinguished faculty speaker, Honors College Dean Kevin Gustafson.
- Sharing in the smiles and cheers as so many students walked the stage, putting an exclamation point on their collegiate experience.
- And having the opportunity for symmetrical selfies with our graduates on this momentous occasion in the Skydome!
- As I reflect on this wonderful event, sincere thanks are in order to countless individuals in our community, including:All of our faculty and staff whose work every day contributes to the success of our students.
- The University Events and Communications teams who spearheaded this commencement—our first in-person ceremony in two years—to make it a memorable experience for our students and their loved ones.
- The dedicated teams in Facilities Services and Custodial—who managed the extra wrinkle of morning snow!—and made our campus beautiful and welcoming.
- The NAU Police Department for managing our many campus visitors.
- And finally, to the many, many volunteers who stepped away from their desks to make the event a warm and vibrant success.
- Commencement is a tough act to follow! Over the last few days, I have met with our leadership team to debrief on our work this fall and chart the path ahead for the spring.
- I also spent time visiting with the Institute for Tribal and Environmental Professionals at their fall retreat—sharing my experiences and hearing about their crucial priorities and impactful work.
- I met with Flagstaff City Councilmember Adam Shimoni to hear about his experience and priorities as a leader in our community and discuss important intersections in our work, particularly in the area of sustainability.
- With my entire leadership team, we reviewed recommendations from the New NAU Workplace Committee. I look forward to sharing a robust update on this work in early 2022.
- I joined our Climate Action Plan steering committee to hear about their work and recommendations and to prepare our charge for the work ahead on sustainability and carbon neutrality—areas that are priorities for our university and where I am committed that we will lead the way.
- I close the week with a few media interviews, celebratory events and final calls with partners, elected officials, and stakeholders who are invested in NAU’s success and then will travel home to Puerto Rico for a few days with family and friends during which I look forward to spending some time reflecting, reenergizing, and planning for the future before us (and visiting Cayo Enrique, eating some mofongo, drinking some coquito, and listening to Bad Bunny).
Thank you again, Lumberjacks, for a wonderful semester. I wish you all the best and look forward to more great work in the New Year!