Notes from the President: Sept. 14, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

The past two weeks have seen our university community settle into the rhythms of the fall semester, with welcome back events wrapping up and transitioning to the usual business and schedules that typify campus life. I’ve been lucky to have spent this time in Flagstaff, fully immersed and enjoying the final days of summer in the high country before travel ramps up (beginning today with a visit to Phoenix).

Below are my notes from the past two weeks:

  • The first weekend of the year brought the opening of the football season. I cheered for from afar as the Lumberjacks took on UArizona in Tucson and while it wasn’t a repeat of the upset for the ages that happened in my freshman year at NAU in 2021, it was great to have the fall sports season fully underway and see so many alumni and fans come out for a show of force in Wildcat country.
  • The week got underway, I joined partners from Greater Phoenix Leadership, TGen, and ECoNA for meetings throughout the day Tuesday and convened with members of my team on Wednesday for a series of strategic discussions around the direction and prioritization of our programs to best fulfil our vision.
  • Thursday afternoon I was pleased to recognize members of the Begovac family, who are longtime friends of NAU, for their generous contribution to establish the Secret Garden, which is an oasis and site for experiential learning and engagement on our Flagstaff campus.
  • Friday morning, I charged the search advisory committee for NAU’s next Executive Vice President and University Provost, sharing my vision and priorities for the role. I look forward to the efforts of co-chairs, search consultants, and committee members in the months ahead as they guide this important process and am appreciative of their commitment this week to hold numerous listening sessions with members of our university community to sharpen the priorities for this position.
  • I then joined many colleagues and leaders from across the university for the kickoff of the Raising Attainment Impact through Strategic Enrollment (RAISE) event. As I shared during Convocation, this ambitious plan will help organize our work toward meeting multi-year enrollment and attainment goals for the university and set us on the trajectory to award 100,000 high-value credentials by 2035. The truly universitywide representation of this group and the tenor of the event demonstrates the sincere, mission-driven commitment of so many at NAU to broadening access, driving attainment, and positioning the students we serve for lifelong success.
  • This week began by commemorating the anniversary of 9/11 at the Skydome, where first responders, ROTC cadets, and members of the Flagstaff community gathered to honor the lives lost and walk the stadium’s steps in an act of remembrance.
  • Later in the day, I joined a broad cross section of Flagstaff community members to re-start our tradition of community breakfasts—this time as a lunch!—and share some reflections on NAU’s rich history of engagement and partnership with the Flagstaff community, describe our equitable access initiatives, and highlight the facts about our student enrollments and what they mean for our local community. Beyond the presentation, the conversations I had with Flagstaff community members working in business, education, and the public sector were invaluable and I am pleased by the sense of shared purpose and high aspirations we all have for a bright future for our city, region, and state.
  • The balance of the afternoon was spent preparing for the ABOR meeting taking place at the end of the month and NAU’s work to elevate our programs and initiatives that will contribute to the Regents’ Arizona Healthy Tomorrow initiative, as well as a Spanish-language interview with Telemundo discussing the positive impact of Access2Excellence in spurring college-going rates among Arizona residence this fall.
  • Tuesday, I convened the President’s Cabinet for a meeting where topics included updates on Arizona Attainment Alliance (A++) implementation efforts, major goals on the horizon for this year, operational and financial matters, and our approach to systematically and intentionally supporting students’ academic momentum.
  • I also had the privilege of stopping by Cline Library in the afternoon for a guided tour by our university archivists of the presidential collections. I have recently been digging deeper into the rich history of NAU from its earliest days, name changes and the transition from college to university in the 1960s, and through to the present. Being able to see firsthand the thinking of past presidents and the clarity of purpose and consistency of institutional identity that has spanned our 124-years of work is eye-opening and inspiring. As I have said many times, our work today to deliver equitable postsecondary value truly builds on a legacy of leadership and excellence that has been championed by the people of NAU and Flagstaff since our founding.
  • Finally, yesterday, I used a bit of whitespace on my calendar to catch up on emails, put pen to paper on several items that have been top-of-mind, and prepare for today’s ABOR meeting, where mission differentiation will take centerstage as a topic for discussion.

I’ll conclude by sharing a story that has stuck in my mind and which I am proud to have shared earlier this week in The NAU Review. Recently, NAU was ranked as a Tier I institution in Third Way’s Economic Mobility Index. What does this mean? Well, in short, our students—particularly those from lower- and middle-income households—are seeing a return on their investment for going to college in less than three-years, demonstrating that not only is higher education a good investment, but that NAU is a great investment and truly does help drive lifelong economic mobility.

We had hoped to achieve this ranking by next year as part of our new institutional metrics approved by the Board, so I am proud that we are ahead of schedule and have tangible data that demonstrates the impact of our work. With Access2Excellence now in effect and the infusion of 100% career readiness into our work across all academic programs and student experiences well underway, I know that future Lumberjacks will be positioned to experience even better opportunity to achieve their goals, pursue careers of consequence, and live lives of purpose powered by an NAU education.

My thanks for your work in helping us realize this vision.


José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications