If you have ever spent time with a child, you know that no matter how different their personalities or interests, they all share one thing: the ability to ask “why” about everything. It is a genuine question – a desire to better understand how things work and relate to what interests them, and a chance to enhance a discussion.
I find that the question of “why” – whether it comes from a child or a colleague – helps me communicate things a little better. It inspires me to explain actions in terms of an end goal, or to better define the reasons some things happen or other things must occur.
There are many more questions in the world of higher education these days, and many more opportunities to articulate the reason behind our goals and decisions. There is more focus on outcomes and more desire for business models and transparent operations. There is a call for degrees and not just discourse. There is a hope that more students will pursue higher education for job options, and not just for the experience it brings.
There is a demand that we explain why NAU is succeeding – why our enrollment is growing, why we focus on research and new programs, why the state should invest in our buildings and our students.
Why do students choose NAU? Because here, they are the center of our jobs and our purpose. Our university has thrived because of our unique attention to the student experience, and it will continue to succeed because of our devotion to our Lumberjack community. It is the foundation for the climbing retention rate that ensures our students leave our programs with a degree that opens doors for their careers.
Students choose us because we invest in them. Our One NAU initiative is the driving force behind this. It is a deliberate effort to remove barriers for every student, and a decision to make our operations across the state increasingly efficient and responsive to students and community needs. It is a commitment to ensure our high-quality, personal touch applies to students around Arizona. It is a step toward balanced enrollment throughout the state, and not just on our Flagstaff campus. It is a reminder that we support all of NAU, wherever our students may be.
Students come here because our faculty members seek a connection to them, and include them in innovative research and education. They come here because we provide an academic challenge at every level, and because our community embraces them for the enthusiasm they bring.
And often, they stay here. There are more than 93,000 NAU alumni living in Arizona, and more than 15,000 in Coconino County. In Flagstaff, 50 percent of the households have an NAU graduate – a stunning number that means our alumni continue to add to the vibrancy and quality of life here.
Why NAU? Because here, the future is bright. We are not afraid to answer “why.” We know why we are successful – why more students are choosing us, why we draw such accomplished faculty and staff, and why our influence is growing across Arizona. We know that our ties to each other make it all possible – why our unique environment is built on shared values. Together, we will build even stronger possibilities as we work to create the future. FBN
By Rita Cheng
Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.