Notes from the President: Sept. 1, 2022

Dear Lumberjacks,

Our Jacks are back, and the semester is underway. I’ve been busy since my last update, and I’m excited to share my notes from an incredible and energizing welcome week for faculty, move-in for students and the first few days of academic year 2022-23.


  • I joined the Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative (SHERC) Advisory Committee to share some words of welcome for their convening at NAU and speak to the incredible work undertaken by our SHERC team. Thanks to Regents’ professor Julie Baldwin and the rest of the SHERC team for all they do advancing knowledge and working to address health equity and eradicate health disparities in communities throughout the southwest.
  • As a recently appointed member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) representing Arizona, I joined my first meeting of the WICHE executive committee. I’m glad to be a member and to be representing NAU and our state to help advance higher education.
  • On Thursday, I began my day meeting with our Staff Advisory Council to kick off the semester, listening to their priorities and thinking about the intersections of our work and opportunities to collaborate. I’m excited to have an energized and mobilized community of staff contributing to our mission. I look forward to working together in the year ahead on important issues, such as compensation, to ensure our employees are recognized and retained, and that they have pathways for personal and professional development. I learned a bit about the Community Engagement Expo and I encourage all of our staff to attend in early October (more info soon!).
  • The rest of Thursday and much of Friday included time preparing for the week ahead, internal meetings with members of my Cabinet, and worrying about my first pitch with the Diamondbacks looming on Saturday.
  • On Friday afternoon, I walked across campus to visit our Campus Living student staff as they completed an intensive period of training and prepared to support our new and returning students as they moved back to campus. They are a talented and dedicated group, and I’m thankful for all they do to enrich our NAU community.
  • I also started off a very sporty weekend by joining NAU Athletics and hundreds of supporters at Meet the Jacks. The accomplishments of our student-athletes over the last year set the bar high—and I know this next year will be just as memorable!
  • Saturday, I traveled to Phoenix to join more than 1,000 NAU alumni and friends at NAU Night at the Arizona Diamondbacks game. And while I had a tremendous support team, including Rima, my son Álvaro, Louie the Lumberjack and my dedicated student coach Luis Carlos Estrada, I was anxious about throwing the ceremonial first pitch. I’m pleased to report that I saved my best throw in years for this moment and represented our NAU community with pride!

Aug. 21-27:

  • With our faculty returning to campus on Aug. 22 to prepare for the academic year, I was thrilled to see so many from throughout our NAU community join at a new tradition to kick off the year: the University Convocation. For me, it was humbling and inspiring to be able to reflect on the year that was, filled with accomplishments and milestones, and look to the year that will be, with clear strategic priorities, a university that is strong and a community that is mobilized and energized to meet the future.
  • Later in the day, I joined with members of my team to discuss some of those strategic priorities for the year ahead around academic excellence and student success planning.
  • And to close out an eventful Monday, I joined the Faculty Senate Executive Committee alongside Provost Karen Pugliesi to meet with our faculty leaders and discuss our mutual agendas for action over the academic year. We have a strong foundation of collaboration and have accomplished a great deal working together last year. I’m excited to see the work progress, including new bylaws to be developed this year to complement our new faculty constitution.
  • Tuesday began with an interview with KAFF Radio about the year ahead and a visit to our new Graduate Student Orientation before quickly packing up and heading to Phoenix to meet with national educational foundation partners to discuss NAU’s work and consider opportunities for innovative partnerships and collaboration.
  • Another round of meetings with funders focused on higher education took place on Wednesday, and then I turned to the beginning of several meetings with the Arizona Board of Regents between Wednesday and Thursday (with a few Zooms sprinkled in with our NAU team for good measure).
  • Before returning to Flagstaff on Thursday evening, I had the privilege of joining leaders from across Arizona and beyond in celebrating ASU President Michael Crow’s 20 years of service.
  • Friday, back at NAU, it was all about our new students and new faculty. I spent time walking campus, meeting students and their families and seeing first-hand the excitement and promise of a new academic year beginning at move-ins at numerous campus living facilities. Welcoming new students is always memorable and inspiring.
  • Between events on campus, I had the privilege of joining VP for Athletics Mike Marlow and multiple NCAA Division I national championship coach Mike Smith to celebrate extending Coach Smith’s contract and having another five years (and five more championships?) to look forward to in Flagstaff!
  • And I hosted our new faculty later in the day at a reception, getting a chance to learn more about their work, what brought them to NAU and the contributions they are sure to make educating our students and advancing impactful scholarship in their disciplines. Our new, 160+ new faculty cohort is an exceptional demonstration of our commitment to teacher-scholars and the rich scholarly community at NAU.

Aug. 28-31:

  • As was the case last year, the real kickoff of the fall semester happened on Sunday at the Letters event, where our first-year class came together to make N-A-ULouie the Puppy met the moment, securing quite a large number of new fans.
  • Monday, classes began, I walked our campus in awe, hosted several Regents for an orientation to NAU on one of the most exciting days of the year, met with the new Coconino Community College interim president to discuss our partnership and joined the Faculty Senate for an update (and a chance to brag about the amazing class who began their NAU journey that day).
  • The University Advisory Board convened for the first time this academic year on Tuesday, with updates on our legislative, budget, governance, enrollment and strategic context shared, as well as a roundtable discussion of each of our Cabinet members and represented groups’ priorities for the year ahead. What’s certain is that there is a lot of great work underway and to come across our university community!
  • Later in the day, I joined colleagues to discuss educational innovations that could power greater access and attainment and worked with our team on refining metrics that would help us monitor our progress toward institutional goals and ensure we are moving in the right direction and calibrating our work accordingly.
  • Yesterday was a bit quieter, as I sought to write, reflect and prepare for upcoming priorities. In the afternoon, I traveled to Phoenix to spend the evening with some of our  Phoenix Bioscience Core partners, the Phoenix Rising FC, media and more. The energy was high, the game was exciting and being able to speak to media and partners about the value of our health care programs that are directly addressing needs in our state and helping to build healthier, happier communities was thrilling.

Today, I will be spending time at ASU—first learning from our public university partners, then cheering on our Lumberjack football team as they take the field against the Sun Devils!

As we embark on another academic year, we will meet talent with opportunity, drive economic mobility and social impact, and through all of our contributions, we will elevate the excellence of NAU.

Looking forward to the great work ahead,

José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications