It Takes a Team

Northern Arizona University president Rita Cheng chats with members of the Welcome Jacks team Thursday morning during move in day at the university.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

It’s hard to believe that the county fair is right around the corner.

But it’s true, and that means NAU students are back in class in Flagstaff – all 22,244 of them.

That’s about 500 more than last year and 45 percent more since 2005. If it’s any consolation to locals worried about students putting the squeeze on local housing, the Mountain Campus added more beds in the Skyview dorm this year than there are new students. And off-campus, there are about 960 more bedrooms this fall over last.

And next fall the new Honors College dorm will add 630 beds on campus, and the Hub will add 531 beds in Southside. Throw in the Standard with 600 beds and Milltown with 1,221 beds in a few years, and, at least in the student housing niche, supply might actually begin to meet demand.

That doesn’t mean housing citywide will become suddenly affordable or congestion will ease – Flagstaff has a long way to go before its infrastructure catches up with recent rapid growth in the city as a whole. And NAU can be an active partner with some creative thinking. Some college campuses, for example, now open up dining halls to neighbors and put up joint student/resident housing that includes stores, academic offices and classrooms. There’s a renewed commitment at some colleges to hire high school students alongside college kids and insist on local-hire provisions for new construction and renovations.

NAU is doing its part in getting students out into the community with off-campus job placements and internship programs. Work-study is especially important on a campus with a demographic profile like NAU’s – many students come from families of very modest means and are also the first in their families to enroll in a four-year college. It is one of the more noble missions that NAU has been assigned by the Regents, and it's one that we hope all of Flagstaff embraces.

To NAU students, we urge you to get acquainted and involved with your new host community. Even if working a job to pay the rent, take some time to explore the mountains, take in a First Friday Art Walk, or serve up dinner at the Family Food Center. You might see your main purpose as getting an education, but becoming an educated person won’t happen if you hole up on campus for four years.

And when you are in town, remember the golden rule that comes with being essentially a guest: Leave your host better than before you arrived. We understand that living away from home for the first time involves stretching the rules and flexing your new freedoms. But we suggest introducing yourself to the neighbors first thing – that way you won’t meet for the first time over their barking dog or your late-night party.

So welcome back, NAU students. Flagstaff wouldn’t be the same without you, and we mean that in a positive way. We hope after four years you’ll be able to say the same about us.

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