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NAU Strengthens Arizona by Serving Students and Communities 

We have reached the end of another great academic year at Northern Arizona University, and we have much to celebrate, including the more than 5,700 graduates who joined our spring commencement ceremonies. We know those NAU alums will use their degrees to positively impact Arizona, since 70 percent of the graduating class already calls our state home.   

This year, we continued our work to train the medical professionals that will treat and cure disease, the astronomers who will find answers in the universe, the engineers that can design structures and societies better suited to those that live in them, and the educators who will teach future generations.  

Our students thrive because NAU’s faculty and staff are the best in their fields, and our student success initiatives attract and encourage Lumberjacks from across the state. This year, for the first time in our university’s long history, three of our students were selected as Goldwater Scholars – a merit-based and highly competitive national scholarship program. Only 11 universities in the country had three students selected for this honor, including NAU, Stanford, Harvard, Duke and Johns Hopkins. Governor Ducey appointed ASNAU’s President, Lauren L’Ecuyer, to a two-year term as a student member of the Arizona Board of Regents, and many other Lumberjacks earned high-level national awards and scholarships.  

Our students succeed because their NAU experience provides hands-on opportunities to explore, discover and use their talents to make their ideas a reality. We directly connect students to NAU’s leadership in a growing range of research.  

Our team generates $46.3 million in funded research expenditures – a three-fold increase over the $14.7 million we generated in 2001. Our public service projects have more than doubled in that same timeframe, and now total $32.6 million. The research that is supported by these dollars has led to almost 50 invention disclosures per year, and an average of almost six U.S. and world patents every year since 2013.  

We continue to invest in the infrastructure that hosts this pursuit of new knowledge. Our construction and renovation of the Honors College, Recital Hall and Science Annex will provide updated classrooms, labs, performance space and new housing for 630 more students on campus.  

Though the academic year is behind us, our work and our service to our communities continue throughout the summer. We are implementing our Strategic Plan across campus, improving our efficiency and becoming better stewards of our university. We are continuing to adapt our programs to ensure NAU remains at the forefront of engineering, forestry and natural science research expertise, and we are strengthening our partnerships with businesses, community colleges and Native American communities to expand our impact on Arizona. 

NAU’s success continues because our priorities remain the same: we are student-centered and connected to the communities we serve. FBN 


By Rita Cheng 

Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University. 


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