Would a student ambassador help bridge rifts between longtime residents and students living off campus in neighborhoods?
That is the goal of the new Neighborhood Liaison, Valeria Chase, whose signature program will be the student ambassadors program. Ambassadors in the program would work with longtime residents to host neighborhood activities and build connections between those who live in neighborhoods.
So far, Chase has spent her first few weeks on the job meeting with various stakeholders, including neighborhood associations, the citizen’s liaison committee with the police department and plans to meet with block watch groups.
Chase, who worked in NAU’s student affairs department for about 15 years before becoming the neighborhood liaison, got both her bachelor's and master’s degrees at NAU and is raising her family in Flagstaff. She has lived in Flagstaff for about 20 years, and prior to living in the city served eight years in the United States Army.
“I like to build relationships and connect people,” Chase said of why the position interested her.
Now, Chase is working to schedule off-site office hours where people can drop in and share concerns or ask questions about students living in neighborhoods.
“It’s important to listen to what the citizens have to say, to validate their concerns,” she said. “Some things are out of the university’s control, but we can connect them with people who can help them. I will not leave them without answers.”
Most concerns that she has heard so far stem from worries about loud parties, noise complaints and other disturbances in neighborhoods.
“Sometimes off-campus students get a bad rap,” she said.
Another program Chase has proposed is a party registration, where hosts could notify the police department in advance of the party. If police get a call about a noise complaint for a registered party, the dispatcher could contact the host to tell him or her to turn it down. If the host complies, police do not get sent to the party and the host avoids a citation that could come with a noise complaint.
The registration system would help free up police resources for other issues, including parties at places that tend to get out of hand.
Speaking specifically about an apartment on Franklin Avenue where a party was held before the fight that led to the fatal shooting of Colin Brough and injuries to three other NAU students, which had been visited by police multiple times for party complaints in the months before the shooting, Chase said ongoing problems will be dealt with first through meetings.
“If we had a recurring thing, like the Franklin house, the university does have the ability to call them in and talk with them,” she said.
She plans to have an “educational approach” to her meetings with students about conduct.
“I’m always open to starting a relationship on a good note,” she said, adding that if a resident came to her with concerns, she would try to talk to both sides fairly and work toward a positive outcome.
Chase fills the position that has been open since May, when Karissa Morgan, the former liaison left for another job.
“We are so happy to have the position filled,” city spokeswoman Jessica Drum said. “Both the city and NAU see the need for it and see the role it can play and the service it can provide.”