At a time of great flux in higher education, the annual flow of students to campus remains an inspiring and invigorating sight.
Despite the growing sophistication of the higher education calendar — now filled with campus visits, summer camps, freshman orientations, early arrivals and various academic prep events — move-in day holds a high place in our culture as a symbol of aspiration. Cars, trucks and trailers bursting with the material goods of students are fitting metaphors for optimism.
A majority of our students are arriving at the Flagstaff campus of Northern Arizona University for what is now considered a traditional academic experience. But there are thousands more who are joining, or returning to, the NAU family on campuses across the state and through online degree programs.
Visible changes will greet those arriving in Flagstaff. Yes, there is construction: a science building and an intramural field are under way; new dining space at the Union is being completed; and a new residence hall will begin. There will be more.
Other changes are programmatic: new programs for first-year students through University College, and a competency-based Personalized Learning program that will draw non-traditional students into the NAU fold from across the nation and perhaps the world. These are just two examples of how our curriculum is undergoing revolutionary changes to meet the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s work force.
Yet one constant is that students arriving at our main campus will still feel at home. A full calendar of Welcome Week gatherings and events offers something for just about everyone. And they will probably notice what the community is also feeling: an air of excitement building around athletics as NAU readies for a big year in the Big Sky Conference. No matter which sports you follow, this is indeed a great time to be a Lumberjack supporter.
Underneath all the activity lies the NAU experience. Our students, faculty and staff truly embody the diversity, positive attitude, active lifestyles and personal touch that make this community so special. There is nothing quite like being reminded of it.
I hope all of you in the community will join me in welcoming back our students as we enter the new academic year.
John D. Haeger is president of Northern Arizona University.