Welcome to a new year and a new semester at NAU! Since my last set of notes in December, much has happened. We closed out the fall semester in style, celebrated commencement with thousands of students, families, and friends, enjoyed some downtime over the holidays—including, for me and Rima, a trip to Puerto Rico to visit with family—and now have welcomed our students back into the rhythms of the academic with all their excitement, variety, hope, and opportunity.
This semester is a special milestone for me as I return to the classroom. Through my first few classes teaching EE110, I have been inspired by the enthusiasm of our students. I also find myself in a reflective mood as I consider how best to live the values of teaching excellence, tailored support, and content mastery that all our faculty must bring to the classroom each day to propel our students’ academic momentum.
I hope to use my “Notes” from time-to-time this semester to share reflections on my teaching experience and consider how the lessons from the classroom, the support of my faculty colleagues, and our vital student support programs can enhance the experiences of all of our students as they pursue their educational aspirations. I know I will learn a great deal and, perhaps most importantly, this work will sharpen my understanding and appreciation for the prioritization of effort and quality of execution necessary to fulfil our mission at scale for every individual who entrusts their educational future to NAU.
Clearly, teaching is much on my mind. That said, I’ve also been as busy as always with the traditional work of the Presidency. The spring semester brings with it a significant amount of time invested in Phoenix, where I will be meeting with the Board of Regents often—as I am today!—working with the state legislature to ensure that NAU has the resources necessary to sustain and deliver on our mission, and connecting with partners whose support is essential to expand access and opportunity powered by NAU.
With that backdrop—and knowing where much of my time, energy, and thought will be invested in the weeks ahead—below are a few highlights from the last week, which has seen a return to the busy calendar that typifies this time of year:
- On Friday, our NAU Foundation Board convened, and I joined them for a conversation about our achievements from the past year and an outlook for the year ahead. Our Board members are engaged and stand ready to support and advocate for NAU’s mission. I am thankful for their support and know that our partnership will yield significant results in the months ahead as we continue to elevate our work in the philanthropic sphere.
- On Tuesday, the President’s Cabinet convened for its first meeting of 2024, where we spent our time in a deep dive on the university’s financial status and how best to solidify our position of strength and align resources with our mission. Financial sustainability is a topic of much debate throughout the higher education community, and I am proud of the controls we have at NAU that ensure our responsible stewardship of resources. This work is an ongoing priority, and I am confident in my team and the efforts of our university community to ensure we can deliver on our mission, invest in our dedicated faculty and staff, and sustain our work for the benefit of Arizonans for generations to come.
- In the past few days, I’ve also spent time with several individuals on my leadership team prepping for upcoming engagements with the Board of Regents, the state legislature, conducting outreach with our educational and philanthropic partners, and more.
- I have been investing considerable time this week evaluating the university community’s feedback on our four finalists for the Provost position, reflecting on my own interactions with the candidates, reviewing information compiled by our search firm, doing my own diligence consulting with internal and external stakeholders and references, and viewing all of this information against the backdrop of the challenges and opportunities available to us and the momentum we have built together as we head into our 125th Anniversary. Ultimately, our Provost must be the ideal thought-partner who can help me—help us—drive this crucial work forward.
- Finally, today, I am on the road to Tempe for a Regents meeting where we will discuss NAU’s goals, university operational efficiency measures, our football coaching contract, and more.
Let me close by sharing my confidence in the energy we all have to advance NAU’s work and deliver on our promise to our students this year. On the first day of classes, I shared my Top 10-ish highlights from the fall semester. The only challenge in putting together that list was reducing it down to just 10. I know we’ll have many more to celebrate before the spring semester is over and cannot wait to see what we’ll achieve!
Here is to a spring filled with intentional work to drive academic momentum and relentless welcome that will enable us to deliver equitable postsecondary value to each and every student we serve!
Let’s go Jacks!