NAU had many reasons to celebrate in 2017. Our outstanding faculty and staff and our strong degree programs placed us in the top 2.9 percent of degree-granting higher education institutions in the world, according to rankings from the Center for World University Rankings. Our team’s dedication earned our university a higher education civic engagement award from the Washington Center, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities named NAU as a leader in excellence and innovation in regional and economic development.
These are just a few of the many recognitions that came as the result of our committed, consistent service to our students, and we are grateful for each confirmation that NAU is thriving. It is our graduates, however, who are the best rewards for our efforts. More than 2,700 Lumberjacks joined the NAU alumni family in our December commencements, celebrating as they completed degree programs we offer around the state.
For these graduates, and for our university, commencement is not an end point. It is a beginning. It is a chance to start a new chapter and to strive for even more, an opportunity to build on the success of the past and reach for bigger outcomes and more possibilities.
Our graduates remind us that the road to a goal is not always easy, but it is worth it.
We could fill each page of the Flagstaff Business News with stories of our graduates’ commitment to their dreams. Sharon and David Despars, for example, are a mother and son who shared their graduation day because of a childhood promise that Sharon would go to college when David did. He joined us on our Flagstaff Mountain Campus and Sharon enrolled in our Personalized Learning program, and, together, they reached a goal that will start new career paths for both of them.
When PJ Quinn got cancer while he pursued his degree in elementary education, he did not quit. He kept going, and did his student teaching semester from a hospital classroom where he helped children with their studies while they – and he – fought the horrible disease. He will continue to be a role model as he moves into his own classroom at last.
Adrianna Camacho moved to Yuma in order to complete the NAU nursing program more quickly. Becoming a nurse is a calling for her, not just a career. When she was a teenager diagnosed with a heart condition, and when she supported her mother through a fight against cancer, she grew to understand the importance of caring and knowledgeable professionals. Now, she is prepared to be one of them as she pursues a role in cardiac care.
Our NAU students and graduates pursue their degrees with the knowledge that the goal is bigger than themselves, and greater than just a job. It is a chance to find new answers and to open new doors that hold opportunities for those who follow them. To dream of leaving their part of the world better than they found it. To fulfill the words attributed to the writer Mary Shelley: “The beginning is always today.” This is the Lumberjack spirit, and the dedication to educate, serve and discover. We dare to find answers to big problems and daunting challenges, and we choose to open new doors that lead to more possibilities.
We will celebrate and support our NAU alumni every step of the way, and we will continue to instill that Lumberjack spirit in everything we do. The start of a new year is just another day – another day to begin to serve more, dream bigger and accomplish greater. Thank you for joining with us as we start our new beginning today. FBN
By Rita Cheng