Notes from the President: Feb. 22, 2024

Dear Lumberjacks,

We’re well into the semester, and spring break is almost in sight. The milestone for me is having given my first exam in EE110 to assess the cumulative learning of the semester to date. Throughout our university, there is a great deal of energy, activity, and work taking place that I am so proud and honored to be a part of as we collectively work to advance NAU’s mission.

Below are my notes from the past two weeks:

  • Picking up from my last update—which was sent on a Friday following a few days of disruption from significant snow events—I spent my day in several meetings, including discussions with my team about our K-12 interventions to ensure that the entirety of the ecosystem in Arizona— from K-12 to Community College to NAU to career—is strengthened. I also joined our Executive Vice President and University Provost search advisory committee to review the state of the search and inform my thinking on the final steps in that process as I headed into a weekend of reflection.
  • Over the weekend, I spent several hours on campus in the classroom, hosting a review session for EE110 to ensure students were grasping the material and as prepared as they could be for the upcoming first exam.
  • Monday held a day of teaching, followed by our Years of Service recognition event. We had to postpone this celebration a few days due to the previous week’s snowstorms, but I was glad to see so many Lumberjacks who have dedicated so many years to our university in attendance. With honorees whose years of service ranged from 10 to 50 years (yes…50!), it was an inspiring afternoon and one that demonstrates clearly that no matter how the world around us changes, the ethos of our Lumberjack community remains strong for decades past and decades to come.
  • Tuesday, I brought together a team of instructional design experts from NAU and faculty and instructional designers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology to consider how to build upon NJIT’s open educational resources (OER) efforts and enhance the work being conducted in my class by creating a library of learning modules and assets that will enhance future students’ experience in EE110 and beyond. It is invigorating and important to stay involved at this level and sharpen teaching, learning, and OERs that provide access for our students. I look forward to continuing this work throughout the semester and beyond.
  • During the remainder of the day, I shared with our university community the news of Dr. Karen Pugliesi’s continued service as University Provost into the future, where her deep knowledge and valued thought partnership will help me in continuing the momentum of our work in the years ahead. I also visited with presidential colleagues at EAB to understand current dynamics and impactful practices across higher education and met with our Vice President for Advancement on matters related to philanthropic engagement, our campaign, and more.
  • Finally, knowing many of my students would be pulling all-nighters studying for our first exam the next day, I hosted a virtual late-night study hall.
  • After Wednesday’s EE110 exam, I traveled to the NAU-TV studio for several videos—including a personal favorite of reading for a local school in anticipation of Read Across America Week in March! The book, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, is bilingual and is authored by our very own Dr. Monica Brown. I recorded a Spanish version as well, and you will be able to see it soon on Univision and @nauespanol. I also met with my team to discuss enrollment projections and university finances as we continue to closely monitor financial health and sustainability at all times.
  • Thursday morning, I joined an interdisciplinary team from NAU’s Southwestern Mountains Climate Resilience Center and a team from the U.S. Department of Energy, including Director of the Office of Science Dr. Asmeret Berhe. I am proud of the work underway by this group that is focused on impactful and much needed scholarship on critical issues of climate change, environment, and forest health—all of which is pursued in a manner that is deeply integrated into our educational mission to provide access and value to students, particularly those from historically underrepresented communities. Later in the day, our instructional design working group reconvened to advance the work. Then, I wrapped things up with a visit to our women’s basketball game—our Lumberjacks fell short, but the reality is that they are on a roll, and I can feel the excitement building as the regular season comes to a close and we prepare for the Big Sky tournament!
  • Friday was anchored by a lunch with philanthropic supporters who have a deep interest in educational access and equity, and I also participated in preparatory work for NAU’s upcoming Giving Day in April and joined with colleagues who are leading our RAISE efforts to debrief on their current achievements and future work plans.
  • This week, I’ll be spending more time in Phoenix than Flagstaff. Monday was a bit more open, with teaching as the main time commitment and the balance of my day dedicated to prep for the rest of the week.
  • Tuesday, the President’s Cabinet convened and we discussed the enrollment landscape and how NAU can continue to grow its access mission while meeting the strategic and demographic context we will face in the years ahead; we reviewed our financial situation with a focus on how we can best position ourselves for sustained success and mission alignment of affordability for students and investment in our faculty and staff; we previewed the permanent launch of TrueBlue Summer Fridays; and we closed with a discussion of our inclusive excellence strategies and how to integrate these core values into the daily work of all areas of our university.
  • After a few quick meetings with my team after Cabinet, I then hit the road for Phoenix to join the Greater Phoenix Chamber and the presidents of Arizona State University and the University of Arizona for a discussion on the state of higher education. Through a wide-ranging and engaging panel discussion, we talked about the value of higher education in Arizona, the linkage of our work with economic outcomes and workforce needs, the critical interventions associated with Arizona Healthy Tomorrow, including NAU Health, and our work at NAU collaborating with community colleges through A++ and the K-12 partners who will be essential for strengthening the pipeline for the future. Then it was back on the road to get to Flagstaff just in time for dinner.
  • Yesterday was my final day in Flagstaff for the week, which was spent in a higher education climate action convening with national partners, prep for my course, and offering makeup exams for a few students.
  • Today began early with travel to Tempe for two days of meetings with the Arizona Board of Regents, where we will discuss attainment, legislative priorities, international strategies, metrics, and university goals and priorities, among other topics.

As a final note, I encourage you to review and consider nominating a deserving colleague for the President’s Achievement Awards, which are given each year to staff who exemplify the Lumberjack spirit and truly go above and beyond in contributing to our mission. I know there are many deserving individuals throughout our university and I look forward to reviewing the nominees in the next few weeks.

Wishing you the best now and always.

In partnership,

José Luis Cruz Rivera



NAU Communications