Notes from the President: April 20, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

After a few weeks with lighter travel, I’m writing from Tucson today, where Arizona Board of Regents meetings are getting underway. It’s been a busy last few days, with meetings and events in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Tucson, filling my schedule for the late spring. Below are my notes:

  • Throughout the day last Thursday, I spent time preparing for several key meetings with philanthropic partners and higher education advocates that took place during the day.
  • In the evening, I was privileged to meet for more than 90 minutes with our Black Student Union, where we had a far-reaching conversation about NAU’s commitment to building an inclusive environment where all students can affirm their identity, build community, and contribute their lived experiences to our educational process.  I was pleased with the candid exchange of impressions and ideas on topics ranging from the university’s response to a recent incident where racist images were displayed in a rec center monitor, the need to accelerate efforts to build support infrastructure for Black students, better publicizing activities designed to surface the Black lived experience on campus and beyond, and the imperative to diversify our faculty and staff. Along with the entire NAU leadership team, I am committed to the hard, important work ahead and am thankful for the productive conversations we can have on these critical topics and the ongoing engagement of our Student Affairs professionals on this matter to help best prioritize our efforts moving forward. And I particularly look forward to the positive influence and momentum that will be generated with the start of our new VP for Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement, Dr. Justin Mallett, on June 1.
  • Friday started early as I joined regional partners for a meeting of the Flagstaff Alliance for the Second Century, a group composed of NAU, Coconino Community College, Flagstaff Unified School District, the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, and Mountain Line. I shared updates on behalf of NAU, which included our Early Learning and Development Center launch, which was made possible thanks to the strong collaboration between NAU and FUSD.
  • In the afternoon, I joined some of our other partners—including both CCC and Mountain Line—for the groundbreaking of NAU’s Commercial Drivers License course. This facility will help bolster much needed training opportunities for jobs in our area and I’m pleased with how NAU’s team is finding innovative and impactful ways to best leverage our footprint to provide these facilities. I look forward to the ribbon cutting when the facility goes online in the future!
  • As the new week got underway, with a lot of preparatory work taking place over the weekend given the busy time of year, Monday was filled with meetings ranging from board members, recording videos for end-of-semester events, joining with a cross-divisional leadership team to take a deep dive into our retention outlook—with an emphasis on how best to equitably serve our students and help them persist until graduation—and further meetings with my team to prepare for the remainder of the week.
  • Tuesday, I prepared to head to Phoenix, but before hitting the road I joined the Center for International Education and colleagues in Academic Affairs to welcome a delegation from National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan to Flagstaff for an MOU signing between our institutions. Important work is underway to strengthen international partnerships at NAU that benefit our students, provide avenues for exchange, scholarship, and learning, and will enhance our outreach to and partnership with industry—in this case, specifically with TSMC and the booming semiconductor industry growth taking place here in Arizona.
  • Then I was on the road to Phoenix, stopping by the Greater Phoenix Chamber to have an engaging conversation about the state of higher education and NAU’s attainment-focused initiatives that will air in a forthcoming podcast episode, before finishing my day with over 100 friends, alumni, and donors to NAU at a celebratory evening, recognizing those who do so much to support our mission and give generously their time, talent, and money to elevate NAU’s excellence.
  • Yesterday, I spent the morning at the Arizona Capitol, meeting with elected officials as the state budget process moves forward, sharing NAU’s ambitious plans to support economic mobility and social impact, and specific efforts around teacher education and physical and behavioral healthcare education. After a lunch with a local business leader and a commitment with the Phoenix Business Journal around upcoming news stories, I finished up the day with the next travel leg down to Tucson, where I am now as ABOR meetings get underway this morning.

Over the course of the board meetings taking place today and tomorrow, NAU will have several items on the agenda, including approval of our tuition and fee proposal, a renewal of Mike Marlow’s contract as VP of Intercollegiate Athletics, and conversations around access, mission differentiation, and health care education plans. I look forward to sharing more next week in my notes.

In partnership,

José Luis Cruz Rivera


NAU Communications