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Student Success is in the DNA of NAU

Published Sep 30, 2022

IHEP’s latest case study outlines how Northern Arizona University (NAU) undertook an ambitious strategic planning effort to prioritize the equitable delivery of postsecondary value to all current and future students.

WASHINGTON, DC (September 30, 2022) – The nationwide Equitable Value Movement is underway. As students settle into the fall semester, there is growing momentum toward ensuring everyone interested in pursuing the better living and better life that higher education can provide has the opportunity and support needed to “complete quality, affordable credentials that offer economic mobility and prepare them to advance racial and economic justice in our society.” Evidence of the shift catalyzed by the Postsecondary Value Commission just over 16 months ago is clearly visible on the campus of Northern Arizona University (NAU). 

A case study released today by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) outlines strategies the public, four-year, Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is employing to build NAU into an engine of opportunity for students and the communities they represent. Informed by interviews with campus administrators and NAU students, the first of several case studies IHEP will release, Student Success is the DNA of NAU outlines the four key lessons that other institutions seeking to undertake similar work can glean from NAU’s intentional, authentic, and data-informed approach. As one of five institutions on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Postsecondary Value Commission Task Force, NAU unveiled a strategic roadmap earlier this year that sets equitable postsecondary value as the university’s north star. The work of NAU’s roadmap facilitators, a group comprised of NAU faculty, staff, students, and subject matter experts informed NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence, which seeks to ensure the Flagstaff institution drives social impact “by delivering equitable postsecondary value in Arizona and beyond.” 

“All people, regardless of race, income, background, or circumstance, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential by participating and succeeding in higher education. That means institutions have a unique opportunity – and responsibility – to equitably serve students, especially those who stand to gain the most from the mobility a postsecondary credential can provide—students of color and students from low-income backgrounds,” said IHEP President and CEO, Mamie Voight. “An institution’s policies and practices shape who has access, who persists and completes, who must borrow, and who experiences economic and social mobility; in short, institutions have a critical role in determining for whom the promise of higher education is kept. NAU is embarking on an ambitious journey to improve outcomes for their students, and we commend them for their determination to do what it takes to deliver on the promise of higher education.” 

NAU will officially install Cruz Rivera as its 17th president in a ceremony in Flagstaff, Arizona today. Cruz Rivera served as one of 30 diverse leaders representing colleges and universities, policymakers, advocates, researchers, the business community, and students who comprised the Postsecondary Value Commission.  

*Attribute to Laurie Dickson, vice president for university strategy and senior associate to the president, whose quote, in full, reads: “Student success is the DNA of NAU. First and foremost, NAU cares deeply about educating students, and we want to increase opportunities for students and communities, especially for those who historically haven’t been afforded these opportunities.”