Notes from the President: May 4, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

We’re almost at the finish line! What a semester it has been, and with just more than a week left until commencement I am so proud of all that our students have accomplished—growing as learners, advocates, and leaders—and of the contributions of our faculty and staff to advancing NAU’s mission. Over the next few days, I encourage everyone who may be a little bit distracted or need some extra help to reach out to friends and colleagues and take advantage of the exceptional resources we have on campus to finish the semester strong.

Here are my notes from the past week:

  • On Thursday evening, I was pleased to introduce Thomas Doherty’s talk on environmental identity and coping—a critical topic that reaffirms the imperative to commit ourselves to climate action at NAU and beyond. Thanks to Dr. Doherty for joining us.
  • Friday started early as I joined the Undergraduate Symposium, a signature event that showcases our students’ participation in high-impact practices that enrich the learning experience and prepare them for the future. Congratulations to our students for their exceptional work, and my thanks to the countless faculty mentors who supported these efforts and created meaningful experiences for our students to learn and grow.
  • I spent time in the office catching up on emails; working with our media relations team on several externally focused messages to support NAU’s recruitment, retention, and public relations work, and closed the day by visiting with Flagstaff alumni and members of our Foundation and Alumni boards to build connections and celebrate the positive impact of our university in the Flagstaff community and beyond.
  • Our Foundation and Alumni Boards convened for official business on Saturday, and I was pleased to share a university update with the joint boards during the day. It was also an honor to recognize Dave Franke for his service as NAU Foundation Board chair, celebrating a most successful term leading the board and looking forward to his recognition with an honorary doctorate from NAU next week at our commencement ceremonies.
  • The weekend continued to be full with a flight from Flagstaff to D.C. on Sunday to join college and university leaders from throughout the country at a convening hosted by the U.S. Department of Education on how to use data to improve student success. My presentation on Monday was focused on how institutions center strategic plans on equitable student outcomes, shared how we have translated a bold vision for equitable postsecondary value at NAU into tangible, student-centric actions in short order, and what other institutions can learn from these experiences. I am energized by how our work is being recognized as a leading model in this important work, and I enjoyed connecting with colleagues and learning how other institutions are advancing equity-focused agendas.
  • Early Tuesday morning I headed back to Flagstaff, using the flight to catch up on work and prepare for the events that comprised the remainder of the week.
  • Those events began first thing Wednesday morning with a tremendous gathering of Flagstaff Unified School District students on our mountain campus for NAU Day. Interacting with students, parents, and teachers and encouraging the college-going aspirations of students excited to shape a brighter future is important and rewarding work. Thanks to our partners at FUSD and the team in Enrollment Management at NAU for putting on this exceptional event for students in our local community.
  • In keeping with this theme, a recent conversation I had on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation podcast “Make Me Care About…” was published as I took on the crucial question of whether a college degree is worth it. The answer is yes, and I enjoyed talking with host Jen Hatmaker about why that’s the case and some of the ways that NAU is ensuring that all students derive full value from their college experience.
  • Finally, I also joined with fellow university leaders for a convening on climate action in institutions of higher education for an important conversation aligned with our mission and expertise. I look forward to the work of this group and how it will inform and contribute to our institutional efforts around climate action.

Today, I’ll be engaged in several internal meetings before shifting gears to events for much of the next week as we finish the semester and celebrate the accomplishments of our students. I am looking forward to it!

Good luck to all of our Lumberjacks on your finals!


José Luis Cruz Rivera



NAU Communications