Notes from the President: Sept. 16, 2021

Dear Lumberjacks,

Thanks for clicking in and taking a look at my new weekly update—Notes from the President. One of my most important commitments to you as part of our 17th presidency is transparency, as expressed during the listening sessions over the transition process. I started including highlights in my Friday messages but am transitioning to this column to ensure they do not come across as an afterthought within key operational messaging. I’m excited to provide a window into our work through these regular updates.

It has been an incredibly busy and productive few weeks since my last update. In that time, we have launched a Strategic Roadmap process that will engage our university community in the shared visioning of our future. The time has also been filled with many meetings and activities in support of the roadmap and numerous other initiatives of which I share today:

Week of Aug. 29 

  • I shared information about the NAU provisional branding campaign and the Strategic Roadmap with the Faculty Senate. I’m excited about the engagement of the Senate and and the future outlook for both our branding, which will leverage and promote NAU’s distinctive excellence, and our roadmap, which will propel us toward a bold and bright future with the commitment to equitable postsecondary value for our students and their communities.
  • I met with our local leaders—the Mayor and City Manager of Flagstaff— to discuss our partnership and opportunities to support each other moving forward. Our focus on community is embedded throughout our work, and I know we have good partners with whom we will continue to work closely to advance a mission focused on service and impact to our students, our employees and to the communities where we live, work and serve.
  • As the fall sports season kicked off, I had a valuable conversation with our Faculty Athletics Representative, Alisse Ali-Joseph, to learn more about her important work.
  • I joined a higher education convening hosted by the U.S. Department of Education that included leaders from throughout our higher education community in Arizona. It was an important opportunity to learn more about federal budgetary and policy agenda items that will impact our higher education ecosystem in Arizona, and it was a lively discussion that was informative to our ongoing work.
  • Having had the opportunity to enjoy some of our dining options on campus, it was great to meet with Brett Ladd, CEO of Sodexo, our partner for campus dining. I’m pleased to have this strong partnership to rely on and the tremendous service they offer to our residents and community.
  • A highlight of the week and a major milestone for my first semester at NAU was attending my first Lumberjack athletics event: the season kickoff of NAU football against Sam Houston State University. It was a day I won’t soon forget. While it wasn’t a W for the Lumberjacks, I had a great time meeting our students, alumni, community and supporters. The absolute highlight was the Running of the Freshmen. I wasn’t the fastest, but it was an exhilarating experience participating in this NAU tradition to kick off the season.
  • I enjoyed meeting with my colleague, Alisa White, who was visiting NAU for the game as president of Sam Houston State, and we enjoyed a conversation about how our institutions can lead the way and advance the cause of higher education in our states and throughout the country. Wishing President White a successful semester!
  • Rima and I also attended the NAU Soccer opener against GCU. I love the sense of community at these games and even enjoyed having my face painted blue and gold to show my support for our team.
  • I closed the week by responding to the call for random COVID-19 mitigation testing. I stopped by the Fieldhouse for the test and it was quick and easy and helps NAU and our community monitor health and stay safe. I encourage you to respond to the call to get tested. Or, just get tested any time if you feel unwell, you may have been exposed to the virus or you just want the peace of mind to double-check.

Week of Sept. 5

  • Following Labor Day, I dove into another full week that began by meeting with my colleagues from Greater Phoenix Leadership (GPL) Education Committee for a lively discussion of how we can advance access, attainment and prosperity in Arizona.
  • As my message of the week shared, a significant amount of work was dedicated to laying the foundation for our Strategic Roadmap process.
  • I spoke with The Lumberjack about Hispanic Heritage Month, providing perspective on what it means to me and to NAU. I look forward to seeing the article soon and to all we are doing throughout the NAU community this month to celebrate.
  • I dedicated my Wednesday to partnerships locally and throughout the state. I joined the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Board of Directors meeting, which focused on statewide economic and educational developments. And I engaged with local and regional partners from the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona for their advisory council meeting.
  • Thursday was a day spent in Phoenix for committee meetings with the Arizona Board of Regents. NAU had several important items on the agenda, which were highlighted by the Board’s recommendation to adopt NAU’s General Education curriculum. My thanks to the team of dedicated faculty who made that work possible and I’m excited to see its implementation moving forward.
  • I met with the President and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to discuss opportunities to collaborate and support one another. This was a timely discussion given this is NAU’s first year with a Hispanic Serving Institution designation. I look forward to expanding our reach, service and impact in serving a student population that is reflective of the diversity of our home state.
  • I was able to spend some time with the 2021 cohort of the Flinn-Brown Leadership academy, sharing my personal journey with this diverse group of aspiring leaders from across the state.
  • Much of Friday was spent at our University Leadership Program 2021-2022 cohort’s kickoff meeting. It was wonderful to speak with these engaged individuals from throughout our university community. We spent time discussing the Strategic Roadmap, sharing our vision for NAU and answering some lighter questions, such as where I prefer to shop for groceries during a “meet the president” session.
  • After driving back to Flagstaff, I made it in time to enjoy a home volleyball game against ASU, which was an exciting and extremely competitive match in front of a boisterous crowd at Rolle.
  • Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and I spent my morning joining our NAU and Flagstaff community in the 9/11 Tower Challenge at the Skydome in remembrance of those who died that day. We honor their memories and redouble our efforts to forge a better future for our world.

Week of Sept. 12

  • This week has been active and began with a conversation with our NAU Executive Team that covered topics ranging from the Strategic Roadmap and our ABOR priorities to our upcoming brand assessment and positioning.
  • I had a most enjoyable meeting with our Native American Advisory Board that highlighted our current work and our aspirations for the future, as NAU advances work to provide access and resources to support our Native American students and their communities. This core priority is reflected in the leadership and engagement of Ann Marie Chischilly, our Interim Vice President for Native American Initiatives, and in the work of our Native American Advisory Board. I am excited about the important work ahead on this front.
  • I met one of our longtime local partners, Larry Lang, executive director of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. I’m looking forward to attending my first concert later this fall. NAU’s partnership with the FSO and others is a testament to the centrality of the arts to university life—they enrich our campus and bring vitality to our community and our region.
  • I had the privilege of meeting with Marcy Olajos, a longtime supporter of NAU, and Duan Biggs, holder of the Goslow-Olajos endowed professorship. I so appreciate all that Marcy does for our university and look forward to Dr. Biggs’s contributions to an important area of distinctive excellence in education, research and service at NAU.
  • Tuesday evening was spent in a wonderful celebration of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice initiatives at NAU during our annual Diversity and Equity Awards Celebration. I was honored to share my thoughts about the importance of this work and to join with our community in celebrating the accomplishments and impact our diversity fellows and diversity commissions. There is much more to come, but we have so much to be proud of for the work we do as a university community to encourage, support, champion and advance DEIJ.
  • And yesterday, we kicked off our celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. There’s much to look forward to—including a curated playlist from Rima and me—over the course of the next 30 days. I’m excited for the many events and activities. Let’s celebrate together and continue our work to advance NAU’s service to Hispanic and Latino/a/x students and communities throughout the state and across the country.

As I reflect on all of this, what strikes me most is that so much of this work is taking place all around us as part of a truly rich and vibrant campus environment. We absolutely face challenges with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but we have adapted and are enjoying the breadth of opportunity that a fully realized in-person experience brings with it. For our students, faculty and staff—in Flagstaff, in Yuma, in Phoenix, at our many community campuses throughout the state and online—the NAU system is strong and here to serve. Every day, we work to advance our mission, to deliver equitable access and value from our educational experiences and to support our students and enhance the vitality of our communities. Onward together! I look forward to sharing more next week.

José Luis Cruz Rivera, NAU President




NAU Communications