Notes from the President: Sept. 28, 2023

Dear Lumberjacks,

Later today, NAU will host the Arizona Board of Regents’ (ABOR) fall meeting in Flagstaff, during which I will present NAU’s State of the University. In working on this update to our board members over the last few weeks, I have been reflecting on how privileged I am to be at this great institution and to have such an incredible community energized by a shared vision to deliver equitable postsecondary value. In this presentation, I look forward to sharing and celebrating our accomplishments together, to articulating the strength of our university’s position to pursue an ambitious agenda for the future, lay out a roadmap for some of our most impactful access-focused initiatives on the horizon, and unveil NAU’s plan to contribute to building a healthier tomorrow for all Arizonans.

I hope you can tune in to the ABOR livestream at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, September 29, and stay tuned for an important announcement that represents a culmination of more than 60 years of work and leadership at NAU in health education for Arizona. I can’t wait!

Besides preparing to host the Regents, the last two weeks have been full of other activities, and my notes are below:

  • During my last update, I was in Phoenix at an ABOR committee meeting where the state’s public universities engaged in a rich dialogue around mission differentiation and how best to serve Arizonans and sustain our institutions’ financial health. Certainly, this will be a topic for continued discussion in the year ahead, and I am thankful for the Regents’ support of NAU’s clear vision and purpose as the access institution for Arizonans.
  • On Friday, I joined the Native American Advisory Board to connect with members, share updates, and hear from valued advisors and colleagues as we advance our work to serve Indigenous Peoples. It was a timely meeting as we continue to gain momentum on this front, enrolling a record-setting class of Native American students this fall and securing a groundbreaking grant to create a Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • As a faculty member in the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences at NAU, I was proud of my home college where 30 years of excellence for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering were celebrated. Kudos to all!
  • Over the weekend, football season kicked off in Flagstaff, with our home opener and the annual tradition of the Running of the Freshmen. I might be more acclimated than I was for my first edition of this event, but I certainly am not getting any faster!
  • The new week began with a fast trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with colleagues from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, as well as key philanthropic partners to discuss challenges and opportunities facing our institution. The whirlwind trip began Monday morning and ended Tuesday night, but the time in DC was well-spent, showcasing both NAU’s leadership in the field and learning from colleagues operating in a range of contexts throughout the country.
  • There wasn’t much time for recovery on Wednesday as I shifted into a series of internal discussions on strategy and direction for various arms of our university’s operations, with a focus on the future goals of NAU Online to expand our reach to students in Arizona and beyond.
  • Thursday began by joining the Staff Advisory Council to share my appreciation for their work and outline several of our university’s top priorities. Other engagements included reconnecting with colleagues from the California State University system to discuss alongside members of our NAU team innovative, data-informed approaches to student success.
  • On Friday, I had the honor of joining my wife, Rima Brusi, for her keynote presentation at the Hispanic Leadership event in DuBois. It was wonderful to hear Rima’s distillation for the occasion of how leadership is an amorphous quality that shifts in space-time from individuals to groups and vice versa. In the end, as she so clearly stated, we are all leaders, and the ultimate measure of our success is a reflection of how we lead our lives.
  • The weekend was filled with Lumberjack dominance in athletics, with an upset win over Montana in football, a volleyball victory over Idaho, and in Virginia, an epic win for men’s and women’s cross country teams—sealing the individual and team titles.
  • As I shared in the opening, this week has largely been dedicated to putting the finishing touches on a significant portfolio of work that will be shared with the Regents today and tomorrow. The highlight in terms of meetings was convening the University Advisory Board for the first meeting of AY23-24 and sharing the high-level agenda for how the group will engage in the year ahead, as well as hearing timely updates from key university leaders on topics that included RAISE planning efforts, finances, government affairs, the provost search, and more.

Thank you again for your partnership and I look forward to sharing and celebrating the good work you all have contributed to with our Regents soon

In partnership,

José Luis Cruz Rivera



NAU Communications