Obama team arrives on campus to discuss sustainability, jobs, partnerships

Obama Team

Northern Arizona University had a chance to show off its sustainability efforts Thursday when officials from the Obama administration visited Flagstaff and campus to learn about the region’s renewable energy endeavors and economic developments.

“Good ideas don’t necessarily have a (political) party,” said Adolfo Carrion, director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. “There is good stuff happening all over.”

Carrion was speaking Thursday morning before a crowd of about 200 people at NAU’s Applied Research and Development building. The contingency included Megan McCluer, the Department of Energy’s manager of the Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program; Elizabeth Willmott, senior program manager for economic recovery funding at the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Derek Douglas, special assistant to the president for Urban Affairs; and other federal officials.

NAU President John Haeger was host to the group’s campus visit, which also included Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler, Andy Kruse, co-founder and vice president of Southwest Windpower, and Russ Yelton, president and CEO of the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies.

The officials met with local leaders to discuss “green” jobs and sustainability efforts throughout the region. They were in town to listen to community members about what steps the federal government can take to help the local efforts.

Haeger called the discussion an “amazing strategy by the White House to want to hear from communities all over the country.”  Carrion agreed. “At the end of the day, we believe that any federal investments will be smarter because they will be directed by regional plans,” he said.

Haeger took the opportunity to explain some of Northern Arizona University’s research activities and environmental resources, underscoring the university’s unique position in the state.

“We are proud of the distinctions that set us apart,” Haeger said. “One of those distinguishing features is our commitment to education and innovation in the areas of sustainability and the environment. We look forward to continued collaborations with the city of Flagstaff and the federal government to advance these all-important agendas.”

NAU has learned how to be the driver of economic change through partnerships, Haeger explained. He then pointed out the offices that fill the first floor of the ARD building, including an office of the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

Haeger has long been a supporter of collaboration with local businesses, political leaders and the community in general as a pathway for NAU students to get “high quality” baccalaureate degrees. As recently as Tuesday, he challenged to campus to rethink the curriculum to accommodate society’s needs.

“We need new programs explicitly tied to the 21st century needs—green jobs, health informatics, service management, health professions and sustainability,” he said. “We need to invest in growing programs.”