Notes from the President: Oct. 26, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

Happy Homecoming week! I’ve just returned to Flagstaff from a trip to New York City, and campus is alive at this most special time of the fall semester. I cannot wait for a full slate of activities beginning tonight and through the weekend to celebrate with Lumberjacks past, present, and future here in Flagstaff.

Below are my notes from the last two weeks:

  • As we were heading into Family Weekend, I had a busy day of meetings, beginning with a discussion with the Commission on Commissions, where I discussed how we can best organize and pace our work to pursue inclusive excellence in every corner of NAU—a goal that is closely related to our success as an institution that serves a diverse student population and is oriented toward putting their success as our foremost priority. I am thankful for Justin Mallett’s leadership in orchestrating this work and for our commission co-chairs for their tireless dedication and advocacy.
  • Next, I visited with this year’s cohort of Presidential Leadership Fellows, a group of undergraduate students who are dedicated to learning and modeling leadership excellence in their activities throughout the university. I am proud of their work and passion and thankful for the excellent team of mentors in Student Affairs who help make this program a success and guide our students to meet their full potential.
  • I also spent time with our 2023-24 University Leadership Program cohort—a diverse group of faculty and staff invested in learning more and elevating their university perspective and leadership. We had a rich discussion around how we can best live up to our vision; how I have thought about academic momentum, retention, persistence, and success as the core priorities for this year; and how we can energize and engage all corners of our university community in contributing to this work.
  • I also met with valued partners at the NARBHA Institute who have contributed to the founding of NAU Health and who will be partners and advocates in pursuing this important work. Together, we are excited for the future and the potential to transform lives and positively impact so many in northern Arizona and beyond through a stronger healthcare education ecosystem dedicated to serving the people and communities of our state.
  • I also visited with Big Sky commissioner Tom Wistrcill and talked about strategies for pursuing continued athletic and academic excellence with Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Marlow.
  • Over that weekend, Saturday was filled with tailgating and football and most importantly visiting with so many families, friends, and supporters who were taking in the beauty of NAU and Flagstaff over Family Weekend. It was great to see the crowds and know that each guest was also playing an important role in helping their Lumberjacks maintain momentum and pursue excellence in this fall semester.
  • Last Sunday, I caught my breath and prepared for another busy week. And things kicked off in style as I made my first trip to Window Rock as NAU president to meet with Navajo Nation leaders, NAU alumni, and many others for the day, with the good company of Ann Marie Chischilly (vice president for Native American Initiatives) and Ron Lee (development director for Native American Initiatives). There were many highlights:
    • Meeting with the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education (DDOE)
    • Visiting the President and Vice President’s office
    • Attending the Navajo Nation’s fall council meeting
    • An engaging lunch visit with NAU alumni who are working at Diné College
    • Meeting with leadership from the Tséhootsooi Medical Center and discussing the potential for collaboration with NAU Health and our newly announced College of Medicine
  • After returning to Flagstaff in the evening, it was a quick turnaround into Tuesday to open our campus to Vice President Kamala Harris for an event at NAU. During the day, I spent time with the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, and discussed our work at NAU and how we are connecting our programs to workforce outcomes through efforts like 100% Career Ready and various A++ initiatives—areas of particular interest to the Department of Education.
  • While my calendar was largely free on Wednesday due to some last-minute adjustments, it was one of the busiest days spent finalizing the message and goals shared on Thursday around academic momentum and the imperative for our NAU community to take an all-hands approach to supporting our students, providing a relentless welcome, and delivering on our vision. I encourage you to read my full message along with the special edition of Notes released last Thursday that include reflections on good work underway at NAU that we must nurture and expand.
  • Thursday included several internal meetings on Zoom, filming a few messages (including one for Homecoming!), and then a visit to the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance education committee to provide an update on the work NAU is doing, particularly as it relates to Flagstaff and regional impact for attainment, health, and prosperity.
  • Friday, Saturday, and Sunday offered a bit more free time heading into Homecoming week. And as if Homecoming wasn’t enough activity, I had a short visit to New York City planned for Monday through Wednesday, where I would join my final meeting with the Education Trust and meet with colleagues from the City University of New York on a range of topics where their shared expertise can greatly inform and benefit our own efforts to drive economic mobility at NAU.
  • The greatest consequence of this trip is that I unfortunately had to miss the Homecoming Dedicatee lunch, honoring Sharon Singer Doctor (director of the Office of Indigenous Student Success). I am excited that I will get to see Sharon later this week and recognize her exemplary contributions to fueling student success at other Homecoming activities. My congratulations to her and thanks to our students for selecting a most worthy Homecoming Dedicatee for 2024.

Today, I will be reacclimating to the altitude and getting ready for a vibrant weekend of events. I hope to see many Lumberjacks on campus these next few days enjoying the fall festivities and traditions that mark Homecoming.

Let’s go Jacks!

José Luis Cruz Rivera



NAU Communications