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Working Together for Common Goals

We are emerging from an historic summer in Flagstaff, which includes celebrating the contributions of hundreds of thousands of innovative and creative people who helped put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.

Though it took place 50 years ago and a quarter million miles away from Earth, the Moon landing is woven into the history of Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University. Astronauts trained at Meteor and Sunset craters near Flagstaff, and engineers and scientists used telescopes at Lowell Observatory and NAU to study the moon.

A line in one of many stories I read about the Moon landing struck me: “NASA estimates it took more than four hundred thousand people to get Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the Moon,” Melissa Sevigny wrote in a story for KNAU.

This summer, Flagstaff became the center of another important story — a wildfire that consumed nearly 2,000 acres of forest, an event that galvanized our community. Hundreds of volunteers, first responders, city and county elected officials and staff, Forest Service personnel and NAU students, faculty and staff worked together for one common goal – to save lives, property and our forest.

Looking around me during the last few weeks, it is clear the greatest work is accomplished in teams, and there are many examples of teamwork every day at NAU.

Hundreds of volunteers, including NAU athletes, faculty and staff filled sandbags to protect homes and structures in danger of flooding from monsoons.

Researchers are working with road and city officials to use traffic camera technology to predict and respond to flooding in Flagstaff neighborhoods.

Scientists are using technology to study forest thinning and help restore ecosystems on the four national forests along the Mogollon Rim in Northern Arizona, which contributes to better resiliency and recovery in the future.

A research team, led by Bradley Butterfield from NAU’sCenter for Ecosystem Science and Society(Ecoss) and includingScott Andersonfrom the School of Earth and Sustainability, found that a plant’s evolutionary form – whether it’s a tree or a shrub, for example – and how its seeds are dispersed, are strong predictors of how quickly it can move to a more favorable climate when its current one becomes hotter or drier.

A recent conversation with our new director of the Alliance Bank Economic Policy Institute (EPI) at NAU’s W. A. Franke College of Business reminded me of the stories of the Moon landing and fire rescue efforts and the idea that working together as inclusive teams is crucial to accomplishing great things.

It is Dr. Joseph Guzman’s charge to position EPI as the dominant source of economic policy for our region.

His approach, which he shared with me, will be one of inclusiveness — one that embraces the many contributions of the university’s academic departments, its researchers, students and staff. It will be one that highlights their contributions to the local economy through tourism, service, development and collaboration, all of which serve to create better economic policy.

He also plans to prioritize engaging businesses and Native American communities in pursuit of EPI’s and NAU’s goals in a manner that respects their cultures, traditions and future interests.

“I think the best contribution we can make to all communities is to bring respect for our differences and an appreciation for the uniqueness of every culture,” Guzman said. “My goal will be to listen and do my best to ensure everyone has a seat at the table and their voices are heard.”

Guzman comes to us from Michigan State University, where he most recently served as Interim Director of the Chicano/Latino Studies program and was recognized as Latino Educator of the Year by the State Civil Rights Commission.

Along with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, business, statistics and economics from the University of Arizona and Stanford University, Guzman has taught at Michigan State and Georgetown and held leadership positions at Washington, D.C. thinktanks RAND and CNA corporations as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

His career has been marked by efforts to reach across the aisle and bring groups together toward common goals.

Along with the many examples of cooperation we have seen in the last few weeks, I’m inspired and excited to have Dr. Guzman on board as we begin a new academic year and continue to work together in the same spirit of collaboration that got us to the Moon. FBN

By Rita Cheng

Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.

 

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