Notes from the President: May 12, 2022

Dear Lumberjacks,

What a week! Our semester has concluded. Almost 5,600 NAU grads were recognized and now are launching into careers and lives after college, equipped with an NAU degree, rich experiences, a wealth of knowledge and the support of nearly 200,000 members of the global Lumberjack alumni family. This weekend, I’ll be in Yuma with our partners at Arizona Western College celebrating NAU-Yuma graduates and then quickly return to Flagstaff to welcome back almost 1,000 graduates from 2020-2021 for a ceremony and a re-conferring—in person—of their NAU degrees.

Below is a summary of my week:

  • Thursday, I met with NAU’s Native American Advisory Board and then joined four convocations that took me from end-to-end on NAU’s campus:
  • Each ceremony was spectacular, filled with energy and enthusiasm. I was glad to have Rima by my side at nearly every one to share joint remarks with our students, congratulate them on their accomplishments and prepare to send them off to their next adventure with a few words of wisdom and encouragement.
  • Friday and Saturday were all about commencement:
    • Four receptions honoring our faculty from 1) CEFNS and CAL, 2) FCB and COE, 3) SBS and CEIAS, and 4) CHHS and Online, Yavapai, and Yuma.
    • Four commencements—with four corresponding selfies—with thousands of students being recognized, tens of thousands of family members and friends in attendance cheering them on and hundreds of faculty and staff recognizing the culmination of their accomplishments and volunteering to ensure successful ceremonies. The four selfies correspond to 1) CEFNS and CAL, 2) FCB and COE, 3) SBS and CEIAS and 4) CHHS and Online, Yavapai and Yuma.
    • We awarded honorary doctorates to four exceptionally deserving individuals, one at each ceremony, and hosted them for a reception that recognized their exceptional legacies of leadership, success, service, distinction and achievement—in their professional careers, of course, but also as people who so thoroughly deserve this honor and embody all that we wish to see in Lumberjacks:
      • Dom Flemons—Grammy-award winning songwriter, multi-instrumentalists, producer, actor, slam poet, music scholar, historian and record collector.
      • Nancy Parra-Quinlan—2022 Arizona Teacher of the Year, 2017 Air Force Association Teacher of the Year and STEM teacher at Kino Junior High School in the Mesa Public School District.
      • Colleen Smith—Fifth president of Coconino Community College, with a long history of leadership and service in community colleges throughout the nation as an administrator, faculty member, consultant and keynote speaker.
      • Mickey Urdea—Founder and partner for Halteres Associates, a biotechnology consulting firm and a founder and chairman of Catalysis Foundation for Health, a nonprofit organization addressing gaps in global health care caused by inefficiencies in disease diagnosis and monitoring.
    • It’s hard to top a week like last week! Things have been much quieter these past few days. I joined with several foundations and policy making partners from throughout the country to share more about NAU’s leading work in advancing equitable value through intentional action and the bold vision of NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence.
    • Tuesday, I convened the President’s Cabinet to discuss some of our upcoming priorities and initiatives, our team released a university-wide call for proposals to advance Elevating Excellence through impact funding grants of up to $2 million, I visited with the new leaders of ASNAU to welcome them aboard as they prepare for a summer of planning and what’s sure to be an excellent year ahead, and I finished the day at the City Council chambers sharing an update about all things NAU with the council, staff and public of the City of Flagstaff.
    • Yesterday, I took advantage of a lighter meeting schedule to read and write, preparing for numerous upcoming engagements. The day concluded with a very special moment as I got to join a non-NAU convocation here in our Flagstaff community—the Flagstaff High School Hispanic Graduate Ceremony. It was wonderful to be able to speak to high schoolers who will soon be headed to college and into the world, forging new paths and leading the way to a brighter future.

This weekend closes our celebratory season before we truly enter the summer break. As the rhythms of our collective work at the university change over the summer, I plan to share my notes every other week moving forward to reflect what is often a time of planning and thinking. To all of our Lumberjacks, I hope the weeks and months ahead bring rest, reflection, time with loved one, and a sense of re-energization and purpose as we look forward to the academic year ahead.


José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications