My last notes for the spring 2023 semester are finally here. I’ll start by sharing two highlights during this week of finals and commencement—where stress and celebration come so close together—that have served to confirm for me the excellence and importance of the work we’ve undertaken this past academic year. First, my top 10ish highlights from the spring—it’s a fun tradition that speaks to the incredible accomplishments we have registered together at NAU in service of our students and communities. And second, the reflection of one of our honorary doctorate recipients, Bill Gates, on why he is visiting NAU. The perspective Mr. Gates offers on the value of college—and what we are doing at NAU to ensure our students equitably realize that value—reinforces just how critical our work is and how far we have come in realizing our vision.
Below are my notes for the week:
- Last Thursday, I spent my time meeting with various internal groups on timely topics as we closed out the semester. These included our state budget request for fiscal year 2024, our marketing and branding efforts, updates on the work of the Arizona Attainment Alliance, and a visit to a meeting of the University Strategic Planning Advisory Board to discuss their work in documenting our many initiatives that support the priorities of Elevating Excellence.
- My work on Friday was highlighted by the closing session of the 2022-23 University Leadership Program, where I spent time with participants, shared some of our institutional work this year, and discussed their experiences in the program. I look forward to this cohort’s continued contributions to our university community. My thanks to Roger Bounds and Kim Ott for their expert facilitation of ULP this year.
- I also joined our international students—both those who came from abroad and those who participated in impactful study abroad programs—for the International Graduation Celebration. My congratulations to our talented students and thanks to the team at the Center for International Education for their excellent work.
- Over the weekend, I joined the Rainbow Convocation—the first of many convocations taking place this week—to speak to our students as they prepare to set forth on the next stage of their life journeys. I am certain that they will take what they have learned at NAU to help create a better future for all.
- Following the convocation, I headed down to Phoenix on Sunday evening to prepare for my opening plenary talk at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) spring commission meeting. I spoke about a topic that is essential and timely: the value of higher education. I shared that yes, it is clearly worth it, but that higher education’s value has been inequitably delivered far too often. I offered the example of NAU and what we have done to center equitable postsecondary value in our mission and our actions and discussed at length with other WICHE commissioners how our lessons learned could help inform meaningful action at their institutions and in their unique state and local context.
- Back in Flagstaff on Tuesday, the President’s Cabinet convened and discussed several topics, including business services strategies, our university’s web presence, and upcoming summer priorities.
- And, I made sure to carve out time on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for a full slate of convocations and commencement ceremonies that will take up almost every minute of the next three days. Preparations are in place, our talented University Events team and the dedicated volunteers who staff our commencement ceremonies are at the ready, the view from the Skydome stage is as impressive as ever, and we are looking forward to celebrating our graduates alongside family, friends, faculty, and staff to close out the year strong.
Thank you again for a wonderful and memorable semester. I hope to see many of you at Commencement and throughout campus these next few days. And I wish you all a restful and fulfilling summer ahead.