Notes from the President: Nov. 9, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

It has been an eventful fall semester, but for our students, the finish line is in sight. These next few weeks are a time to focus efforts, enjoy a few well-deserved days of rest, and finish the semester strong. Institutionally, we continue to build the momentum I have talked about in numerous forums and blazing a path to a bright future for NAU and Lumberjacks everywhere.

Here are my notes from the last two weeks.

  • Homecoming Friday was filled with activities that speak to the tireless dedication, advocacy, and generous support of our Lumberjack community. Over lunchtime, I joined and addressed our NAU Foundation and Alumni Association Boards, as well as members of the 1899 Society and others. There is a tremendous amount of energy around all dimensions of our mission and we have an impressive group of champions who know the value of an NAU degree and are mobilized to share our impact near and far.
  • In the evening, I joined several hundred alumni, friends, and other guests at the Honored Alumni and Hall of Fame awards ceremony. This magical evening highlighted the best of NAU and the lasting positive impact of an NAU education on the trajectory of individuals’ lives. My congratulations to all of the honorees whose stories were truly inspirational. The evening was punctuated by a stirring choral performance by an alumni choir, who performed in honor of Edith Copley, Regents’ professor emeritus and director of choral studies at NAU from 1993-2021. Dr. Copley’s lasting legacy at NAU and in Flagstaff was on full display with so many talented alumni of the choral studies program convening during homecoming to sign in her honor.
  • As we left campus for the evening, the ASNAU Carnival was well underway as members of our community prepared for Saturday’s festivities.
  • The weekend began with an early breakfast at Café au Louie and the NAU Homecoming Parade, then the walk from north to south campus for tailgating at the Skydome before the big game. And what a game it was as the NAU football team delivered with a fantastic win against UC Davis. In the evening, volleyball played hard to cap off an action-packed weekend.
  • After a break on Sunday, last week began by visiting with student journalists at The Lumberjack for a wide-ranging conversation about all that’s taking place at NAU. I’m always impressed by the thoughtfulness and engagement of our student journalists and look forward to these conversations that have become a tradition each semester to share where the university is heading and discuss the many issues that are top-of-mind for them. Later in the day, I convened members of my team for focused meetings on topics including NAU Online, student reengagement programs, and more, before wrapping the day in conversation with an external partner to prepare for an upcoming speaking engagement.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday included meetings about NAU Health, welcoming Mark Becker, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Institutions (APLU) to Flagstaff for an overview and tour of NAU, interviews with Arizona media about current endeavors—including a profile on the emerging work of NAU Health—and more.
  • I’m pleased to share that among the week’s highlights was news that the criteria for Carnegie R1 research institutions is being updated and NAU will be on track to officially receive this designation in 2025. This is a testament to our scholarly excellence across disciplines, our impactful and expanded doctoral programs, and the tireless commitment of our faculty to living out the teacher-scholar model that supports our students and propels transformational knowledge creation. What’s even more impressive is that NAU will enter an even more selective category of public institutions that meet the criteria for being both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an R1—a distinction that only about 20 universities across the country currently hold. Truly, access and excellence are on full display at NAU!
  • On Thursday, I was on the road early to Phoenix for an Arizona Board of Regents committee meeting, where I shared updates on NAU’s efforts to expand its access mission for Arizona and discussed some of our goals for the year ahead. Provost Karen Pugliesi presented our proposal for a new College of Nursing (which was approved!), and Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Bjorn Flugstad presented our Sustainable Smart Master Plan to the Regents. All in all, a productive day and a demonstration of the multiple workstreams underway that are supported by the Board and allow NAU to drive economic and social mobility for all Arizonans.
  • Heading into the weekend, I had a bit lighter schedule. Unfortunately, our NAU women’s soccer team came up just short in the Big Sky tournament final here in Flagstaff, but their grit and impressive performances throughout the year show the program is going to be one to watch once again in 2024.
  • Starting off the week, I met with supporters of our Honors College along with current honors students and then headed to the Native American Cultural Center for a celebration of Native American Heritage Month with our dedicated teams from throughout campus who elevate and advance our crucial priority—commitment to Indigenous Peoples.
  • Tuesday was spent largely on north campus in and around Old Main, with a leadership gathering to kickoff comprehensive fundraising efforts for NAU—which will build on a record-setting foundation we have secured in the last two years—meetings with individual members of my leadership team, filming messages for upcoming projects, and meeting with Andy Wang, Dean of the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences to discuss my teaching commitment as a faculty member this spring. I’m a bit nervous, but have been doing plenty of advance work to ensure my course is ready to go!
  • Yesterday, I visited with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid during their retreat and spent time writing and preparing for events on the agenda today and to get ahead in preparation for a busy week of travel next week.

With the Thanksgiving holiday ahead, my next update will be pushed into December, but I know there will be much to report and together we will accomplish much. Until next time, best wishes in studies, scholarship, and work!

In partnership,

José Luis Cruz Rivera

NAU Communications