For many, February means the romance of Valentine’s Day or the shadow of a groundhog that foretells future weather. For Arizonans, though, this month holds another notable celebration: the birthday of our state. Arizona celebrates statehood on Feb. 14, marking the anniversary of a unique addition to the United States.
Many years have gone by since the start of our 48th state, but much remains the same. We still have an independent spirit, and a loyalty to the people and places around us. We still treasure the diversity of our neighbors, climate and opportunities. We still celebrate the fact that many, like me, chose Arizona as a home because of the quality of life and opportunities available here.
Northern Arizona University’s role in Arizona extends to well before that first celebration of statehood, and since 1899, we have proudly served Arizonans. As the state’s population has grown, our connection to every corner of Arizona has expanded with it. Through our campuses in Prescott Valley, Phoenix and Yuma, we connect to our neighbors with degree options that meet the economic demands of the region – so our students graduate from NAU not just with a higher education, but with skills and training to pursue a career where they want to live. Our online programs also meet our Lumberjacks where and when they need us, so they can earn their degree even while they balance work and family obligations. And of course, our Flagstaff Mountain Campus continues to carry on the student-focused college experience our founders envisioned.
Arizona is changing, and NAU is prepared to help our state thrive into the future. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this state recently entered the top 10 in the United States for population growth. Our economy is evolving to adapt to that growth, and both rural and urban areas of the state are finding new educational options to meet economic demands.
Change can be scary – for individuals, for organizations and even for a state. NAU will continue to proudly serve as a key component of Arizona’s future throughout that change, however, and will provide the affordable, accessible degree options our neighbors need not just to be secure through Arizona’s changes but to thrive in them.
So, as we wish our state a “happy birthday” this month, we also offer a pledge that we will continue to serve Arizona and the people who make this a place we all love. Our Lumberjacks are proud to be a part of the diversity and commitment that makes this a great place to live and work, and we look forward to continuing that tradition through many more celebrations of Arizona statehood. FBN
By Rita Cheng
Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.