NAU’s year of academic momentum—Highlights from the University Convocation

President Cruz Rivera stands on the stage in front of a slide that says NAU

In the annual University Convocation Monday at the High Country Conference Center, President José Luis Cruz Rivera talked about NAU’s historical efforts to promote student access and success, starting in 1899, and how the university worked toward those goals in the last year as part of NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence. He then pivoted to the coming year, laying out the roadmap for how the university will help prepare students for careers of consequence and lives of purpose.

The year that was—AY2022-23

It was a busy year with a lot of accomplishments for NAU and its students, faculty, staff, athletes and more. President Cruz Rivera included a smattering of those accomplishments in his speech, pointing to the committed work each accomplishment represents.

  • Elevated academic excellence through the 100% Career Ready initiative, expanded support for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, launched several new academic programs online, in Flagstaff and in Yuma.
  • Encouraged student success by launching the Universal Admissions program, implemented Access2Excellence, launched JacksCare 24/7 and relocated The CARE Center into a larger space to better meet students’ basic needs.
  • Redoubled commitment to Indigenous peoples through a $10 million investment to propel the Seven Generations Signature Initiative and launched an Indigenous pathway to a Ph.D. in the STEM-H program.
  • Generated impactful scholarship that is funded by millions of dollars in grants from public and private funders, partnered with our sister institutions to address issues specific to Arizona, presented a range of cultural events and infused the teacher-scholar model across the university’s work.
  • Supported mission-driven, diverse faculty and staff by investing in New NAU Workplace policies and practices, increased compensation for all full-time employees and increased the minimum compensation for student workers and hired talented leaders in Justin Mallett as the new VP for inclusive excellence and Nick Lobejko as the new VP for advancement.
  • Strengthened engagement with the community by opening the Early Learning and Development Center, offered an array of community-focused activities this summer and welcomed hundreds of middle-school students from FUSD to campus for NAU Day.
  • Stewarded our resources, including raising $53 million in FY 2023 (2.5 times more than our previous record, set last year), invested in sustainability initiatives, strengthened cybersecurity and, of course, kept the mountain campus in good shape after the record-breaking winter storms.

The first annual report of the University Strategic Planning Advisory Board (USPAB) details these and many more actions undertaken at all levels in support of NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence. The full report is available online.

The year that will be—AY2023-24

The theme for this year—the 124th in NAU’s storied history—is academic momentum. President Cruz Rivera talked about the critical importance of ensuring students receive degrees in a timely manner to help students recoup the costs of their education and derive full value from their academic journeys. Efforts across the university will be structured and prioritized in pursuit of this overreaching goal. In addition, he teased the Realizing Attainment Impact through Strategic Enrollment Plan (RAISE)—a plan to award high-value degrees to more than 100,000 people by 2035—and laid out a specific challenge to be undertaken this year: Increasing the number of students who earn at least 30 credit hours per year by at least 10 percentage points in the next three years.

Contributing to academic momentum is a complex process where all individuals and departments are key stakeholders. It includes ensuring campus is a welcoming environment, students have good relationships with faculty and staff, the necessary classes are available to help students move along in their degree plans and more.

“Finally, we must maintain and express our high expectations of our students because we want them to execute at a high level, be well-positioned for what lies ahead in their lives and let the world know of the world-class education afforded to them by NAU,” President Cruz Rivera said.

Watch the full University Convocation online.

NAU Communications