It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of another year. I am grateful for the chance to reflect on all that we have done together this year – as a campus and as a community.
In this column early this year, I wrote of our hopes for a renewed state investment in higher education. I outlined goals for increased student success and retention, and celebrated the partnerships that enhanced the NAU impact around the state. I expressed ambitious plans, and I am happy to say that though we have more to do, this year we have met and exceeded our goals.
This year, our state leaders enacted a plan to invest $170 million in NAU’s infrastructure and research facilities. This investment expands our possibilities, and creates a shared understanding of the importance of higher education that will help us move forward together to keep tuition low for our students.
For a 10th year, we were able to continue the NAU Pledge Program that provides a constant tuition rate so our students have predictability as they plan for an NAU degree. We paused any fee increases, and eliminated more than 200 class fees. We involved our student leaders in every step of the tuition-setting process, so their insight was connected to our priorities and investments.
We grew our partnerships to expand our ability to develop the workforce Arizona needs. Through agreements with Yavapai County, North Country Healthcare and tribal governments, we extended the internships and hands-on training we offer our students. Along with Governor Ducey, the Board of Regents and our sister universities, we established the Arizona Teacher College to bring more Arizonans into our high-quality education programs.
We broadened our outreach to Lumberjacks around the state and around the world, establishing NAU Near You programs to connect our alumni closer to our university and to each other. We renewed our Pine Magazine publication to share exciting news and information in a high-quality alumni magazine.
We added international connections that bring the best and brightest from around the world to our campuses, and provide our Arizona students with more opportunities to experience hands-on training in a wider range of locations.
We improved campus technology and infrastructure, so our classrooms offer a better experience and our campuses reflect the quality of our team.
We implemented the One NAU initiative to ensure that our investments benefit our Lumberjacks in every program and every location, and not just on the Flagstaff campus.
We grew our research programs to incorporate the renowned experts and investors who wanted to join our already renowned team. We added more than $6 million to our research programs, drawing in a total of $46.2 million for our significant research goals this year. Our public service programs, which put our research into practice in our communities, drew in a total of $32 million toward our direct impact on issues like financial literacy training and GearUp programs that show disadvantaged high school students how much a college education can transform their lives.
Helen Keller once observed, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” This year, I am grateful to our NAU team who proved that to be true. Each member of our campus community is dedicated and talented, and together we continue to move NAU toward more outcomes, more successes and more opportunities for our students. FBN
Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.