We are emerging from a historic summer in Northern Arizona, which includes celebrating the contributions of hundreds of thousands of innovative and creative people who helped send Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon.
Though it took place 50 years ago and a quarter million miles away from Earth, the Moon landing is woven into the history of Northern Arizona and NAU. Astronauts trained at Meteor and Sunset craters, and engineers and scientists used telescopes at Lowell Observatory and NAU to study the Moon.
A line in a KNAU story about the Moon landing struck me: “NASA estimates it took more than four hundred thousand people to get Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the Moon.”
This summer, Northern Arizona became the center of another important story — a wildfire that consumed nearly 2,000 acres of forest, an event that galvanized our community. Hundreds of volunteers and first responders from around the region, city and county elected officials and staff, Forest Service personnel, and NAU students worked together for one common goal – to save lives, property and our forest.
Looking around me over the last few weeks, it is clear the greatest work is accomplished in teams, and there are many examples of teamwork every day at NAU:
Researchers are working with road and city officials to use traffic camera technology to predict and respond to flooding in local neighborhoods.
Scientists are using drones to study forest thinning and help restore ecosystems in the four national forests along the Mogollon Rim in Northern Arizona, which contributes to better resiliency and recovery in the future.
Researchers are studying the evolutionary builds and seeding patterns of plants to determine what makes plant species mobile during periods of warming and drying.
A recent conversation with our new director of the Alliance Bank Economic Policy Institute (EPI) at NAU’s W. A. Franke College of Business reminded me of the stories of the Moon landing and fire rescue efforts and the idea that working together as inclusive teams is crucial to accomplishing great things.
It is Dr. Joseph Guzman’s charge to position EPI as the dominant source of economic policy for our region.
His approach, which he shared with me, will be one of inclusiveness — one that embraces the many contributions of the university’s academic departments, its researchers, students and staff. It will be one that highlights their contributions to the local economy through tourism, service, development and collaboration, all of which serve to create better economic policy.
He also plans to prioritize engaging businesses and Native American communities in pursuit of EPI’s and NAU’s goals in a manner that respects their cultures, traditions and future interests.
“I think the best contribution we can make to all communities is to bring respect for our differences and an appreciation for the uniqueness of every culture,” Guzman said. “My goal will be to listen and do my best to ensure everyone has a seat at the table and their voices are heard.”
Guzman came to us from Michigan State University, where he served as interim director of the Chicano/Latino Studies program. He was recognized as Latino Educator of the Year by the State Civil Rights Commission.
Along with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, business, statistics and economics from the University of Arizona and Stanford University, Guzman taught at Michigan State and Georgetown universities and held leadership positions at Washington, D.C. think tanks RAND and CNA corporations, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.
Along with the many examples of cooperation we have seen in the last few weeks, I’m inspired and excited to have Dr. Guzman on board as we begin a new academic year and continue to work together in the same spirit of collaboration that got us to the Moon. QCBN
By Rita Cheng
Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.