Over the next two weeks our faculty return, students move in, and we all prepare for the excitement, promise, and opportunity of a new academic year. As a “sophomore,” I’m excited to experience another rich academic year at NAU, equipped with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the milestones, traditions, and rhythms of life as a Lumberjack. In addition to these treasured traditions, I am excited to launch a new tradition this fall to kick off the academic year—the University Convocation. After a summer of rest, rejuvenation, and planning, the Convocation offers an opportunity for our NAU faculty and staff to come together, and for me to share a reflection on the road we have traveled so far, our shared vision for the future, and how we can all see ourselves in the important work of Elevating Excellence. I hope you will join me at HCCC or via livestream on Monday.
Over the past few weeks, I have been busy engaged in the preparations to secure a successful fall and advocating for NAU externally, including on a recent trip to Washington, D.C. Below are my notes on the eve of the Fall 2022 semester:
July 27-Aug. 17:
- At the end of July, I met with several external foundations to advance conversations in support of NAU’s equitable postsecondary value agenda, highlighting the strength of our work this past year and the opportunities before us. I’m excited by the level of interest our vision has garnered nationally and look forward to advancing partnerships and securing investments from organizations over the year ahead that will accelerate our work.
- It was a bittersweet moment on July 28 as a traveled to Coconino Community College to wish President Colleen Smith well in her retirement and thank her for her long partnership with NAU. I had the privilege of working together with Dr. Smith this last year and know that she leaves CCC in a good position for the future—and it was a distinct honor to be able to recognize her service and achievements by awarding an NAU honorary doctorate degree to her this spring! Best wishes in retirement, Dr. Smith.
- On our final day True Blue Summer Friday of 2022, I stopped by campus to welcome attendees at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Environmental Sustainability Summit and share a little about the work NAU is doing—in the classroom, in the field and labs, and in our operations—to contribute to a more sustainable future. Thanks to all who have expressed appreciation for the True Blue Summer Friday program. We will soon debrief to determine if we will move forward with this in the future and if any changes are needed to make the program more impactful.
- Early August has been filled with planning for the fall and meeting with many of our teams to shape the path that lies ahead, including retreats with the President’s Cabinet, discussions of how to best organize our work as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, partnerships with our local and statewide communities, opportunities to collaborate with community college districts throughout the state to broaden access and attainment, and more.
- I recently joined the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, a collaborative group of CEOs and leaders from Tucson and elsewhere in southern AZ, to share more about NAU’s vision and the actions we have taken to advance equitable value and drive economic mobility and social impact. These discussions encourage me and reiterate that our value is recognized throughout the state. There are many pathways and partnerships that exist and can be enhanced to grow NAU’s impact.
- A great highlight for me was announcing the launch of our Early Learning and Development childcare center, that will begin operations this spring. My thanks to all who brought this important initiative to fruition, and I’m excited that the search for a director is underway.
- With our semester close upon us, I also enjoyed spending time with our dedicated team to lend my voice to “Forecast from Flagstaff,” to help welcome students and their parents to all things NAU.
- Last week, the highlight of my calendar was traveling to Washington, D.C., to join more than 40 other college and university leaders for the Raise the BAR summit hosted by the Secretary of Education. You can read more about the conference in today’s edition of The NAU Review, but it was affirming to know that our work is being held up as a national model, we are at the forefront of innovation to drive equitable access and attainment to a postsecondary education, and we have many supporters and colleagues who will help us deliver on the promise of economic mobility and social impact for all in Arizona.
- This week began with a meeting with our provost and faculty senate president around priorities for the year ahead. I look forward to continuing the close collaboration with our faculty senate and building on the strong foundation of shared governance built over the last year.
- I also had an opportunity to swing by Poba Medical, a Flagstaff medical device startup, to meet with their founder, tour the impressive facilities, and discuss possibilities for collaboration and partnerships.
As the pace of activity increases on campus, I’m excited for what lies ahead. But before the semester starts, before our University Convocation on Monday, I have what might be one of my greatest challenges yet at NAU ahead of me … throwing the ceremonial first pitch at a Diamondbacks game this weekend. Thankfully, I’ve had the help of a patient Lumberjack to help refine my pitching mechanics in the past few days, and, whether I hit the mark or not, I’m excited to join hundreds of NAU alumni at the game, and am heartened to know that as long as I do a better job than 50 Cent a few years ago when he threw the first pitch at a Mets game in CitiField, I will likely survive what I hope will be good-natured ribbing for my lackluster performance! Just to set expectations, after my most recent practice session, I feel I have a 1 in 6 chance of getting the ball over the plate (no short-hopping) in the general vicinity of a pretty generous strike zone!
Looking ahead to another bold and boundless academic year!