Notes from the President: March 7, 2024

Dear Lumberjacks,

Last time I wrote, I was on the road to Tempe for meetings with the Arizona Board of Regents. For NAU, the meeting was productive—key topics were discussed and celebrated, strategic conversations about our plans took place, and we emerged with strengthened confidence from the Regents in the value, impact, and sustainability of our mission now and into the future.

With spring break just days ahead, my schedule has been busy with engagements since then, and I’ll be looking forward to some rest and relaxation next week. I hope you all can also take some downtime over the break. Refresh, recharge, catch up on projects that have been put aside, and enjoy time with friends and family. You all deserve it!

Here are my notes from the past two weeks:

  • Following the ABOR meetings, I returned to Flagstaff Friday afternoon then quickly turned around and traveled back to Phoenix on Saturday with Rima. We attended the Xico annual dinner and art auction along with artists, leaders, philanthropists, and others from the greater Phoenix community. It was a tremendous opportunity to connect and celebrate, and in addition to leaving with some new art for our home, I took the opportunity to share frequently and with pride how NAU is powering access and attainment in Arizona.
  • We enjoyed a beautiful weekend in the Valley before Rima returned home to Flagstaff and I prepared to depart Monday morning for a trip to Washington, D.C. After landing, I headed straight to a celebration of our DC alumni leaders—featuring a special and most welcome appearance from NAU President Emerita Dr. Clara Lovett. I enjoyed meeting with so many dedicated Lumberjacks who continue to advocate for and contribute their time and energy to NAU from across the country.
  • Tuesday was spent immersed in the winter meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), a federal body on which I serve. This group’s work is important in ensuring quality and value for students through its oversight and advisory work on institutional accreditation throughout the country.
  • Wednesday was spent in transit back to Flagstaff, but I was able to make the most of the day with a great deal of catching up on email in particular—sometimes long transit days have the benefit of minimizing regular distractions and allowing for heightened focus and productivity!
  • All of the travel meant that I missed the week’s classes, and I’m thankful for the support of my graduate teaching assistant for not only leading the weekly labs for EE110 but filling in with instructional duties on occasions like this to keep up the momentum of student learning.
  • I held much of Thursday for whitespace to think and write, before a busier Friday, which included a visit from a Vice President for Capital Planning and Campus Operations candidate; meeting with our Provost, Franke College of Business Dean, and outside partners on potential entrepreneurial partnerships; and visiting with our local partners in the educational sector of Flagstaff—Coconino Community College and Flagstaff Unified School District—to share ideas and consider how our collective work can strengthen attainment, prosperity, and student outcomes right here in our backyard.
  • The weekend was relatively quiet, though I did hold virtual office hours for EE110 to ensure students could ask any questions that came up from the previous few weeks and be well-prepared leading into the final two classes before spring break.
  • This week kicked off with a series of meetings involving community partners; time with Bjorn Flugstad, our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and an introductory meeting with our new leader for NAU Online, Carmin Chan, who brings a strong vision to grow our online enterprise, center student success, and enhance instructional design for a truly world-class experience for NAU’s students. After these meetings, I was off to the classroom to teach in the afternoon.
  • I spent much of Tuesday at the University Union, beginning with an excellent retreat facilitated by our Vice President for IT Services, Steve Burrell, on the emerging field of artificial intelligence and how as university leaders we must learn, embrace, and harness this technology of the future—which is very much making its mark in the present!—to meet the needs of our students and optimize our work. I was pleased to have members of my cabinet, the Deans’ Council, and other representatives in attendance to listen and learn together.
  • I then met with several of my direct reports before closing the day with NAU faculty, donors, and members of our Advancement team for an inaugural event celebrating our endowed chairs at NAU and the donors whose generosity makes so much possible in scholarship, creativity, and teaching. It was an inspiring event, and I am thankful for the visionary philanthropists who have entrusted so much to our university and to the faculty who, powered by these gifts, have expanded the frontiers of knowledge and elevated our humanity.
  • Yesterday, in addition to teaching, I held several meetings in the morning and prepared for the final few commitments that will take place today and tomorrow before we head into spring break.

In closing, I want to again wish all our Lumberjacks a safe and restful weekend ahead. Throughout the week, I’ll be tuning in regularly to watch the Big Sky basketball tournament to cheer on our men’s and women’s teams in the hopes that we have another legendary run to the finals!

Take care,

José Luis Cruz Rivera




NAU Communications