Notes from the President: June 14, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

It’s been a month since my last update and much has transpired as our university community has shifted from the celebratory end-of-semester events and activities to the thoughtful planning and preparations that characterize the rhythms of summertime.

Below are my summary notes of the past few weeks:

  • Our four commencement ceremonies were a joyous occasion where the excellence of our students was celebrated alongside so many friends and family. Looking back, I am humbled and inspired by this moment as we launched Lumberjacks into the next chapter of their lives. In addition to our student celebrations, we recognized tremendous individuals with Honorary Doctorates and toasted with our faculty who helped make so many of our students’ achievements possible through their dedication. A special thanks from me to all of the staff and volunteers who made these days possible!
  • The week following commencement began with the kickoff of Employee Development Days and an opportunity to reflect inward and help our staff grow and succeed as professionals, mentors, and leaders. I was pleased to join the opening day for a candid discussion on leadership.
  • Throughout the week, I had conversations with state business partners and national higher education colleagues, and I filmed messages to various constituencies that will be shared over the summer and fall…because it’s never too soon to start preparing for next academic year!
  • The final milestone of the semester was heading to Yuma. After spending the day in transit, I joined our NAU-Yuma students and colleagues at Arizona Western College on stage for a fantastic celebration.
  • After returning to Flagstaff, the following week was more focused on meetings and internal strategic planning and work. Highlights included interviews with Yuma-based media, an Education Trust meeting, conversations about attainment-focused initiatives with the Greater Phoenix Leadership organization, a visit to our Admissions student ambassador training, joining the Yuma Arizona Biomedical Research Centre (ABRC) forum where I shared NAU’s work in the Yuma region, and discussions with my team centered on major goals and initiatives on the horizon.
  • Following the Memorial Day holiday, the month ended with a multi-day Big Sky Presidents’ Council meeting. I also joined our NAU-Yuma advisory board to share our plans for educational attainment in the region.
  • The beginning of June marked an ABOR committee meeting, where NAU had several items on the agenda, including amendments to our admissions pilot program that will make more transparent our access mission for students and families, approval of our metric targets, and various finance and audit updates provided by our team to the Board.
  • I also enjoyed meeting with Justin Mallett, our new vice president for inclusion, diversity, and engagement, on his first official day on the job. Looking forward to Justin’s partnership and the work he will advance on behalf of our university and its people.
  • Last week I took some vacation time, taking off my president’s hat and joining my youngest son on a series of college tours as he explores where his aspirations will take him next.
  • Before returning to Flagstaff, I joined our partners at College Track at their annual celebration in Cupertino, California. I’m excited that NAU will soon be a leading collaborator with College Track in supporting students’ aspirations to meet their full potential and I look forward to sharing more about this work soon.
  • This week is focused on the full summer meeting of the Arizona Board of Regents in Flagstaff. Already, the agenda has been filled with meetings with the ABOR team about a range of topics and I’m thankful for their partnership and support as NAU advances its crucial access mission focused on the attainment and prosperity of Arizonans.
  • And since there’s always a good reason to brag about the excellence of NAU Athletics, kudos to our men’s cross country national championship team and coaches, who visited Washington, D.C., this week for a celebration at the White House as the top team in the country (again)!

As I prepare for engagements with ABOR over the next few days, I want to also acknowledge that today marks my two-year anniversary as president of NAU. So much has been accomplished during this time, and as I reflect on the achievements registered that have advanced educational access, equity, and excellence at this great institution, I am most thankful for the people of NAU who have made it possible. Thanks to the members of the cabinet and to all our faculty and staff for a fantastic two years. I cannot wait for what’s next for Northern Arizona University!

In partnership,

José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications