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NAU on the Front Lines of Coronavirus Response

In the past months, Northern Arizona University’s leadership has focused its efforts on ensuring the health, safety and well-being of our Lumberjack and surrounding communities. COVID-19, its far-reaching impacts, and our preparation and response, have been our utmost priority. NAU has worked diligently to leverage our resources and expertise to serve our communities and our state.

Earlier this month, we were proud to celebrate the nearly 6,000 students who earned NAU degrees, becoming Lumberjack alumni in a virtual commencement ceremony. This was accomplished following the successful transition to online of nearly 8,000 sections of our courses for 28,000 students.

I am proud of our faculty and their engagement in important research in response to COVID-19.

The Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at NAU, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, and the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Arizona have formed COVID-19 Genomics Union, a statewide effort dedicated to tracking the coronavirus. NAU Regents Professor and microbiologist Paul Keim is part of this effort, helping to lead the state’s response to the pandemic.

Dr. Ben Ruddell, of the School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems, and his FEWSION project, is leading an effort to map U.S. supply chains critical to the pandemic response.

And, NAU’s Cline Library MakerLab partnered with Guardian Air, a division of Northern Arizona Healthcare, to 3-D-print personal protective masks for medical professionals.

NAU’s Economic Policy Institute Director Dr. Joseph Guzman is working closely with Coconino County to plan, prepare and cope with COVID-19’s financial impact.

And, under the leadership of Dr. Julie Baldwin, 15 NAU faculty members from the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER), are offering Coconino County their public health expertise investigating cases and analyzing the pandemic’s effect on county health systems.

NAU is also responding to the public health needs of rural and underserved communities, deploying nursing and physician assistant students to bolster response efforts. And, nursing faculty member Frank Santorelli travels three days a week to Kingman Regional Medical Center in Mohave County to serve as a clinical preceptor for nursing students completing rotations there.

NAU researchers and Master of Public Health students are collaborating with the Coconino County Health Department to develop models that predict the spread of COVID-19 throughout Coconino County and Northern Arizona.

NAU’s ITS division is supporting the City of Flagstaff in expanding its bandwidth to support increased network demands due to COVID-19. We are also working closely with Navajo Nation leadership to expand WiFi capacity on Navajo Nation land. In addition, we are coordinating with Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman to provide technology to support the needs of public instruction across the state.

Like so many universities and communities across the country, we are not immune to the impacts of COVID-19. However, we are focused on finding solutions. Our researchers and students have remained engaged, showing incredible resilience in the face of adversity. I am inspired by the strength of our community as we aim to conquer this challenge. FBN

By Dr. Rita Cheng












Dr. Rita Hartung Cheng is
Northern Arizona University’s 16th president.

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