Notes from the President: Dec. 9, 2021

Dear Lumberjacks,

Tomorrow is commencement! As I shared earlier today, I am so proud of our students and so thankful to our faculty and staff. This week’s notes reflect the energy of the past week, as we have sprinted toward the finish line of a vibrant semester and the momentous occasion of our first in-person commencement since Fall 2019.

  • As finals approached, I had an opportunity to attend several NAU classes. Let me say first that it made me wish I were back in the classroom teaching and learning! Second, I was thoroughly impressed with our students and the great work they are doing.
    • In POS 421c with Dr. Lenze, I heard presentations on China’s belt and road initiative as students shared their impressive global political knowledge.
    • In EGR 186, I was lucky enough to get behind the lectern and share some of my own disciplinary knowledge as an engineer.
    • And in PSY 408 I heard from internship students as they presented on the impact of their service experiences in our community—my thanks to Dr. Walters for inviting me to join.
  • I met with local leaders from the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County, including Councilmember Regina Salas from the city, whom I spoke with at length about the role of NAU in contributing to the vitality and betterment of our community, and District 2 Supervisor Jerónimo Vásquez from Coconino County, who shared the ongoing priorities and projects at the county level and intersections with our work in areas of environmental, educational, and economic development.
  • Last Friday was jam-packed as I made my way across campus (briskly to not be late!) to join a number of important groups. Each covered a different area, but all were inspiring and served as opportunities to discuss our priorities for the future, the collaboration between all areas of our NAU community, and how we will position ourselves to deliver and accelerate the important work of advancing equitable postsecondary value. The groups included:
    • The NAU Teaching Academy, whose members embody our commitment to student learning and success through excellence in pedagogy.
    • The Commission on Commissions, who represent our diverse community and help us realize our aspirations for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
    • The NAU Green Fund, which advances our sustainability work through student-driven priorities and projects.
    • The Arizona Innovation Alliance Student Success Team, which is a new group collaborating with the Arizona Board of Regents, ASU, and UArizona to expand educational opportunities in Yuma by leveraging our public universities’ unique strengths.
  • With commencement tomorrow, it has also been a week of celebration as the semester winds down. This afternoon, I will join our veteran students as well as the Lumberjacks of Inclusion Convocation. Last week, I kicked off the celebratory season with our international students at the Center for International Education’s send-off ceremony before joining our first-generation students in celebrating their trailblazing successes as they prepare to graduate.
  • In addition to celebrating our students, this time of year is also a time to celebrate our community.
    • I joined many in our Flagstaff community to watch the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra’s performance of “The Nutcracker.” It was a special honor to be able to share this experience with Mike and Karen Kitt, who are such true champions of the arts and whose generosity is marked in our world-class Kitt Recital Hall.
    • On Sunday, Rima and I welcomed many from the Flagstaff community to campus for our Community Holiday Reception. As we chart the path to the bold and boundless future ahead, I am pleased to have the support of the engaged and enthusiastic Flagstaff community propelling our success.
    • Monday, I took a bus ride around campus with Santa and Mrs. Claus as finals got underway and the festive season gets into full swing.
    • Tuesday, I enjoyed spending time with our dedicated NAU faculty and staff at the University Holiday Reception. I cannot thank you all enough for the tremendous work in seeing us through a successful semester—and for all you have done to lay the groundwork for the bold future ahead!
  • Other highlights of the week included joining the DINE Institute for Navajo Nation Educators and Indigenous Early Childhood Educators Fellowship, where I spoke with an impressive cohort of teachers who are committed to learning culturally responsive pedagogy to bring to indigenous schools. It was an honor, as always, to be able to spend time alongside President and First Lady Nez from the Navajo Nation, who are proud NAU alumni and tremendous supporters of our educational efforts throughout the region.
  • Our international programs are well-recognized and bring diversity, vitality and many enriching perspectives to our NAU community. In continuance of these efforts and partnerships, I was pleased to join Provost Karen Pugliesi and CIE Director Cesar Flores in signing an agreement with BELTEI International that enhances student mobility, faculty collaboration, and rich cultural exchange.
  • I joined NAU and Pima Community College colleagues for an important kickoff of the Arizona Moon Shot for Equity campaign last week. As we seek to erase educational inequities and achievement gaps, a bold, collaborative agenda is essential, and I’m thankful to be leading the way with Chancellor Lambert at Pima.
  • I spent time over the weekend with some leaders from the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance reflecting on our priorities for an impactful year ahead in advancing attainment, vitality, and prosperity in our region.
  • The Southwest Health Equity Research Center Poster Presentation was an opportunity to view the impressive and truly impactful work of our students and join them and their faculty mentors for a wonderful evening.
  • I also spent time in smaller meetings with faculty and administrators and convened my leadership team to discuss a wide range of topics aligned with our vision for the future and the bold possibilities ahead for NAU.
  • Yesterday I spent the day in the Phoenix area with our Vice President of Advancement Michael Bassoff. We engaged with current and prospective friends and supporters of NAU in several meetings about what we are up to, what lies ahead, and how they can be involved.

Please join me in once again congratulating our graduates and thanking the faculty and staff who helped them realize this achievement. Commencement is a reminder of why we do what we do as educators.


José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications