Everywhere I look on the beautiful Northern Arizona University campus these days, I am reminded of change and its inherent potential. Flagstaff is transforming from a winter wonderland to a spring that calls us to spend every possible moment outdoors.
This spring, more than 4,900 students are celebrating their commencement and the bright future awaiting them. As our state continues to recover from a challenging economic recession, we are also involved in discussions around long-term decisions and the financial investments needed to ensure a strong future.
Actions at the state legislature do not always generate optimism, and to be sure they do not always bring what I would like for higher education in Arizona. But political discussions and state budget decisions present countless opportunities to inform leaders from around the state of the great successes and breakthroughs that happen every day at NAU.
A recent state economic report pointed to population and tourism increases as a factor in Arizona’s ongoing fiscal improvements – both areas in which our area of the state thrives. We’ve been recognized among the best places in the country to go to college, to live, to work and to eat. The report emphasized the importance of quality roads, consistent government, and fiscal stability: all areas of success for our region.
Most importantly, the state’s economy is directly connected to a quality workforce – an area where NAU has excelled and continues to thrive. We not only fill the need for skilled professionals, we also create the industries and professional opportunities through our research and partnerships.
Albert Einstein advised that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” and I am excited by the possibilities implied by that statement. Our students see the possibilities with a broader vision than my generation can, since they are armed with technological options not previously available to the great minds of their parents. Our academic disciplines are more entwined and more connected, providing innovative breakthroughs that open new doors to solutions. And our university leadership team, fueled by these opportunities and dedication to our students, our school and our state, will continue to serve as cheerleaders for our graduates as they open the doors of opportunity to those that follow them.
I congratulate our graduates that are moving from our campus to pursue their dreams, and the family and friends that helped enable their accomplishments. As we move into a new season in Arizona, I hope we all see the world as our graduates do. I hope we all view each day as a new beginning, and a chance to make our world a better place than it was yesterday. FBN
President Rita Hartung Cheng