Dr. José Luis Cruz, finalist for NAU president, shares ‘better together’ vision during address to campus
February 20, 2021
“Better together” is the ethos by which Northern Arizona University presidential finalist José Luis Cruz will operate as he serves as the 17th president of NAU. Dr. Cruz shared his vision of the university during an address to the campus community, a future that will be characterized by a spirit of inclusion, transparency and shared governance.
“This is a dream opportunity for me. I am proud to join the strong Lumberjack community of teachers, learners, advocates and scholars, and I very much look forward to our work together as we chart the path forward and blaze the trail that will lead us to the bold and boundless future that awaits us,” Dr. Cruz said.
Dr. Cruz is dedicated to the individuals who are part of NAU – faculty, staff and students – and will “hit the ground learning” and listening to empower all to have greater agency over their destinies. He iterated his commitment to the success of all students, including NAU’s Native American students.
“It has been said that ‘a university must reflect the soul of its people’ — their values, their stories, their aspirations,” he said. “I’m proud that NAU ranks among the nation’s top 10 institutions in terms of both bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded to students of tribal descent … NAU’s focus on student success is part of what makes this university so special.”
Dr. Cruz praised the inherent value of public higher education, saying he would have never reached the presidency of NAU were it not for the education he has gained.
“A university’s focus on the success of its students not only establishes it as an engine of opportunity, but also as a vehicle of upward mobility and a driver of transformative change,” he said.
Acknowledging the work that has been accomplished through past NAU presidents, Dr. Cruz committed to building on the legacy of these leaders to advance the university in providing excellent educational opportunities, broadening the frontiers of knowledge in key strategic areas for the region and the nation, and serving as a strong steward of place that sets it apart from other public comprehensive universities.
Working together with the administration and faculty through shared governance, retaining and supporting faculty members, working with accountability, transparency and open communication and putting students at the center of everything are among his priorities.
“I believe diversity and inclusion are not just words on paper but, instead, a call to action that when heeded makes our university more resilient and adaptable to a changing world,” Dr. Cruz said. “I believe NAU is inseparable from the community in which it resides – Flagstaff – and that we rise or fall together.”
COVID-19 has changed and challenged NAU, but the university has proven resilient and more than demonstrated its worth during the pandemic, he said.
A few examples: NAU nursing and physician’s assistant students assisted as part of the public health response in tribal and other underserved communities; NAU modelers helped predict the virus spread in Northern Arizona; NAU’s Cline Library MakerLab partnered with Guardian Air, a division of Northern Arizona Healthcare, to 3D print PPE masks for medical professionals; and the Arizona COVID-19 Genomics Union, co-founded by NAU Regents Professor Paul Keim, is working to track the virus and develop therapeutics.
“I’m proud to be joining a university making such a monumental impact on this community and the world,” Dr. Cruz said. “This is exactly where I want to be, here in this moment. I am in this for the long run, and my family and I are very much looking forward to becoming Lumberjacks for life.”
Click here to watch Dr. Cruz's address to campus.