The week of commencement has arrived! Our entire NAU community has been exceptionally busy, engaged in closing out a most successful semester (finals, anyone?) and engaged in the events, activities around commencement, as well as preparing for the summer ahead that characterize this season at universities. My week? Similarly full of action.
Here are the highlights:
- Last Thursday, I met with a national board on higher education data policy, conducted several interviews related to NAU’s announcement of Access2Excellence and gathered with some of our dedicated staff who helped lead our COVID response on the front lines, thanking them for their incredible dedication to supporting public health and the wellbeing and success of our students.
- Friday began by meeting with Greater Phoenix Leadership staff, more interviews around Access2Excellence and then it was on to one of the busiest afternoons in my time at NAU. Events included:
- Meeting with the Green Fund and discussing our sustainability priorities for the year ahead, particularly around our bold vision for carbon neutrality by 2030.
- Congratulating this year’s University Leadership Program cohort at their graduation— and using the time to engage these current and future leaders in a robust dialogue about their experiences and vision for the program moving forward.
- Our International Graduation Celebration, a convening of so many talented international students that highlighted NAU’s commitment to global diversity and international education.
- The First-Generation End-of-Year celebration, an event that is a particular highlight for me and an opportunity to share my own experiences and congratulate students who have opened so many opportunities by pursuing a college degree.
- A toast to the students, faculty, staff and numerous supporters of our Construction Management program at their annual Demolition Ball.
- And, the kickoff reception of NAU’s hosting of the Regents’ Cup competition—a tri-university convening, competition and celebration focused on free speech.
- On Saturday, the real competition for the Regents’ Cup began in earnest, and the day was spent with our students, judges and colleagues listening to scintillating debates and compelling storytelling that ran throughout the day. I am proud of our NAU team and thankful to all who made this event such an incredible success.
- Sunday was the first of many convocations, and Rima and I enjoyed speaking to the students, families, friends and supporters at the Rainbow Convocation, sharing some stories from our experiences and celebrating the accomplishments of our students.
- This week began Monday morning with our University Advisory Board convening for its second official meeting. The business of the day was reviewing NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence, which was unanimously endorsed and shared with the university community later in the day, updating on the status of the Travel Service Team Optimization Taskforce, review of our academic calendar options and updates on our HLC accreditation assurance review. In addition, the Faculty Senate, ASNAU, GSG and SAC presidents all shared updates that highlighted some of their key work over this past academic year.
- Later in the day, I joined the final Faculty Senate meeting of the academic year. This meeting was punctuated by the announcement of the formal adoption of a new constitution of the faculty—bringing to a close a year of hard work and collaboration to revise this important shared governance document. I also shared a few highlights of my own from the semester and the year.
- On Tuesday and Wednesday, I set aside some time to wrap up business in advance of three straight days of almost non-stop celebrations. The President’s Council met, with a point of emphasis being how we can accelerate work on NAU 2025 immediately using the $4 million in funding that I have authorized to be allocated to support of our strategic priorities. I also met with colleagues at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, visited with our dedicated volunteers who will be making this year’s commencement a success and walked through the important roles and responsibilities I have during our commencement ceremonies. I want to thank our University Events team in particular for all of the hard work that has gone into this special occasion, orchestrating with many throughout our university to ensure our graduates truly have a day to remember. And the day closed celebrating with our golden graduates—50 years after their graduation from the recently renamed NAU (previously, Arizona State College), these are truly Lumberjacks for Life!
These days of celebration are both exhausting and invigorating at the same time. As I look back on the arc of my first academic year as president of NAU, I could not have asked for a more welcoming home, a more energetic and engaged community and a more impactful set of actions that capitalizes on a 122-year foundation of excellence and sets the stage for our university to accelerate into the bold and boundless future ahead.
Congratulations to all of our students, and thank you to all of our faculty and staff. Let’s celebrate!