We are just a week away from the conclusion of the fall 2021 semester at Northern Arizona University. Since our 17th presidency began in June, so much focus has been dedicated to a successful fall, filled with learning, engagement, and the full vitality of university life for our students. I am humbled to see the success of so much work as we bring the semester to a close. My thanks to our faculty and staff for ensuring that NAU is a welcoming, nurturing environment that generates opportunity for our students. And my congratulations to our students for all they have accomplished.
As we enter the homestretch of the semester, below are a few highlights of what I have been up to in the last couple of weeks.
- After returning to Flagstaff following a productive meeting with the Arizona Board of Regents in Tucson, it was a privilege to wake up Saturday morning to cheer on our NAU men’s cross country team as they raced to a fifth NCAA Division I national championship in six years in Tallahassee, Florida. I am inspired by our student-athletes who have such drive, and the exceptional team of coaches and administrators in NAU Athletics who have supported such dominance on the national stage. Congratulations are also in order for the NAU women’s cross country team on their strong showing at nationals.
- Thanksgiving week brought with it two great NAU basketball games and, importantly, some time to reflect and connect with family. For Rima and me, hosting our family for the first time in Flagstaff made us especially thankful to call this special place home. We are so fortunate to be part of this community and look forward to the boundless opportunities before us in the years to come.
- I started this week off with a virtual accreditation visit to discuss our combined counseling/school psychology Ph.D. program in the College of Education (COE). This program helps meet key behavioral needs in Arizona, and I am pleased to have the support of our accreditors and the strong leadership of the faculty and administration in COE to develop such an impactful program and educate students in this important field.
- I joined presidential colleagues from throughout the country for a facilitated discussion on disruption and innovation in higher education. It is incredibly helpful to work closely with peers as we face the challenges of the new normal and position our universities to deliver value and opportunity for students into the future.
- This week, I also met with a few of our local leaders, including Heather Dalmolin, the CEO and general manager of the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA), which is a long-time NAU partner for regional transportation that includes our campus bus system. I also met with Flagstaff City Councilmember Miranda Sweet and had an engaging discussion on our partnerships and opportunities for connection between the City and NAU.
- At the state level, I had a valuable meeting with Senator Mark Kelly to discuss the crucial role NAU plays in serving our state as a driver of economic prosperity, educational equity and attainment, and as an engine for providing solutions to key statewide issues, such as land and wildfire management and allied health care education.
- As a newly appointed member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Board of Directors, I enjoyed spending time with the new cohort of board members in an orientation session. I’m excited and honored to be in their company to and hold this important national leadership role in our higher education network.
- Tuesday marked the conclusion of Native American Heritage Month, and I greatly enjoyed spending part of the afternoon at the Native American Cultural Center celebrating all of the wonderful activities and initiatives of the past month. We were honored to be joined by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and First Lady Phefelia Nez. I look forward to our university’s continued excellence in being a leading institution serving Native American students and communities.
- The rest of my week has been filled with numerous meetings with executive team members, faculty, and students.
In closing, I want to share my best wishes to all of our students during reading week as you prepare to finish the semester strong.