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Community Partnerships Key to Successful Academic Year

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on commerce, business, health, and access to goods and services.

It has had a strong impact on business communities that are closely tied to Northern Arizona University. It is more important than ever for NAU to continue providing students, faculty and staff the opportunity to study, innovate, do research and use its collective creativity to imagine a new way of living.

At NAU, we are devoted to our mission of providing a high-quality education accessible to all. In order to do so, we know mitigating risks must be at the center of everything we do. And as such, over the last few months, NAU’s leadership team has worked closely with community leaders across business, the arts, not-for-profits and local religious organizations to promote “safety first” messages where students engage in town.

We have been in conversations with every student organization, including fraternities and sororities, to ensure they assert their understanding that deviating from our safety and health policies will not be tolerated. We also are working with national organizations governing Greek life, which fully endorse our uncompromising approach. In addition, we have worked with off-campus housing to ensure enforcement extends beyond our own residence halls. NAU is also asking all students to refrain from hosting or attending in-person social gatherings.

Our community outreach has been focused on the following:

Partnering with Coconino County, the City of Flagstaff and the Flagstaff Downtown Business Alliance to emphasize the importance of restaurant operators adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and local and state orders, especially for those establishments serving alcohol.

Encouraging students to shop during off-peak hours – generally after 7 p.m. on weekdays and Sundays.

Encouraging students of faith to worship responsibly via physically-distanced or video-streamed services when available.


We are requiring students, faculty and staff to visit NAU Healthcheck and take a daily COVID-19 assessment to help us return to campus safely and assist our community in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

We are providing strong, direct communication to our students that conveys our expectations for cautious behavior both on and off campus. We are determined to fully enforce our student code of conduct as it relates to mask-wearing and physical distancing.

We have been very active sharing information with students about our collective responsibilities to keep themselves and others safe. We also shared this Welcome Back video at
vimeo.com/445040813 with expectations for the semester.

Throughout the month of August, in partnership with Coconino County and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, NAU hosted a walk-in testing site on campus offering free COVID-19 testing to NAU community members and their families in the University Union Fieldhouse. All faculty and staff are also eligible for free antibody testing through a partnership with the University of Arizona at sites throughout the state.

We know that prevention begins now and will extend throughout the semester. We are committed to working with faculty, students and staff as well as our community partners to enhance our ability to have a successful fall semester. FBN

By Dr. Rita Cheng, FBN

Rita Hartung Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.


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