Last month, Northern Arizona University’s faculty and staff from around the state gathered online and on our Flagstaff campus for the 2018 Fall Campus Forum. I enjoy the many ways I get to interact with our Lumberjack family throughout the year, but our Campus Forum is especially valuable. It is a great way to hit “pause” on our busy lives and take time to focus on the impact we have on our students, our state and our world. It is a time to celebrate what we have accomplished and remember what motivates us to reach for more.
Tom and I have been a part of the Flagstaff community for five years now. We know that our neighbors are an important part of our Lumberjack family, so I want to share highlights of our Campus Forum discussion with you.
Contribution to the Economy
An updated economic impact study by the Alliance Bank Economic Policy Institute recently showed that NAU contributes more than $2.5 billion to Arizona’s economy annually – a 25 percent increase from the estimated impact in 2016, when adjusted for improved methodology and higher enrollment numbers. Our impact comes from the 22,000 jobs NAU supports throughout the state, as well as the number of Arizona students who come to NAU and remain after graduation.
Responding to Arizona’s Changing Workforce Needs
Our graduates stay in Arizona because our programs train them for our state’s workforce needs. We adapt to prepare for the jobs of today and tomorrow and provide hands-on experience and preparation. Many local employers rely on our degree programs for their employees because they know our graduates are prepared to thrive in the workplace.
Now more than ever, NAU is essential to Arizona’s success.
But, we know we must always reach for more, so NAU’s Strategic Plan charts our course toward an even greater benefit to Arizona. It reflects the insight from across our campus and community, and identifies the priorities that will enhance our service to students, employers, members of our communities, and our faculty and staff.
Student Success and Access
At NAU, our focus on enrollment and retention has led to the development of in-demand degree programs, strong mentoring connections and an environment that celebrates and enhances learning. We meet students where they are, and we prioritize affordability and financial aid to ensure that students from every background can succeed at our university.
Research and Discovery
NAU’s research programs are growing in their success and their impact. Our researchers participate in groundbreaking studies, patents, inventions and national publications. Both graduate and undergraduate students participate alongside these renowned experts to gain first-hand, experiential knowledge. We are closer than ever to ranking within the top 200 research universities in the United States, as measured by the National Science Foundation.
Outreach to Native Americans
NAU has had a strong commitment to our Native American neighbors throughout the history of our university, and we seek to enhance those connections. We actively partner with Native American tribes to recruit Native American students, and we provide robust resources and support to help these students succeed. Our connection to Native American students is long-lasting: a recent survey found that almost half of NAU’s current Native American students come from legacy families, following a parent or grandparent who is an NAU graduate.
Our community has always shaped and enhanced the NAU experience, and our students benefit from our neighbors’ support. Engagement is enjoyable for us and will always be a priority – everyone at NAU loves our community and values our opportunities to blend the university we love with our daily lives outside the campus. Through engagement, we prepare educated, engaged citizens and strengthen the values of civic responsibility.
Stewardship is the result of our commitment to continually improve in all aspects of university operations – including better educational opportunities, employee care, financial management and infrastructure investments.
Every student who enrolls, every graduate who builds a career on his or her NAU degree, every member of our alumni who enhances Arizona’s economy and community – they are the reason we do what we do. They are the reason we work together, why we adapt and expand high-demand programs. Every day that we are here and everything we do comes down to this: we make it possible for our students to achieve success in a changing world.
NAU stands on a strong foundation that allows us to address the challenges that come our way. Though economic conditions and expectations of higher education may shift, our focus on our students remains constant. FBN
By Rita Cheng
Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.