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Photo: Bill Gates NAU 2023 commencement
Bill Gates commencement speech at the Northern Arizona University. Photo: NAU 2023 Commencement

Northern Arizona University-Yuma announce two new programs

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Noviembre 05, 2023

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With commencement season already on its way and many higher universities and colleges wrapping graduations— Northern Arizona University had a special speaker, tech visionary and philanthropist Bill Gates, who inspired graduates to embrace change, pursue lifelong learning, and leverage emerging opportunities. 

In his blog, GatesNotes, Gates mentioned that what prompted him to give a commencement speech at NAU is “because something remarkable and all too rare is happening in Flagstaff: The school is redefining the value of a college degree,” adding that “higher education tend to focus more on the students' input than the school’s output….and whether those skills and credentials translate into well-paying jobs for large numbers of students.”

A sentiment echoed by former Temple University President Jason Wingard in his book, The College Devaluation Crisis, presents a proposition for higher education institutions to pounder its longevity, relatability, and ability to provide students with marketable skills to be employable after achieving a degree. 

“A piece of paper doesn’t qualify someone for work or improve their life; the education it’s meant to represent does,” said Gates in GatesNotes. “So we don’t just need more degrees— we need more valuable ones.” 

In his commencement speech to the graduates of the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences and the College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences, Gates highlighted the value of adaptability by saying, “While you may feel pressured to make career decisions that seem permanent, remember that what you do tomorrow—or for the next ten years—does not have to define your entire future.” 

Gates urged young professionals not to fear reinvention or pivoting, adding, “Not only is it okay to change your mind and reinvent yourself, but it can also be a transformative experience.” 

As part of his inspirational speech, Gates shared 5 things he wish he heard at the graduation he never had: 

  1. Your life isn’t a one-act play — While you may feel pressured to make career decisions that seem permanent, remember that what you do tomorrow—or for the next ten years— does not have to define your entire future.  
  2. Gravitate toward work that solves a problem — Not only is it okay to change your mind and reinvent yourself, but it can also be a transformative experience. 
  3. You are never too smart to be confused — The first step to learning something new is leaning into what you don’t know, instead of focusing solely on what you do know. 
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of friendship — At some point in your career, you will face a problem that can not be solved alone. When that happens, don’t panic. Take a breath. Force yourself to think things through. And then find smart people to learn from.  
  5. You are not a slacker if you cut yourself some slack

Following Gates' address, President José Luis Cruz Rivera highlighted the university’s collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and announced NAU-Yuma’s two new programs designed to shape the local workforce and address critical needs. 

In partnership with Arizona Western College (AWC), NAU-Yuma will launch a mechanical engineering degree this fall, supported by an initial $2 million investment. Additionally, NAU-Yuma unveiled the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, aimed at significantly reducing the time required to complete nursing requisites, with the support of a $6.4 million grant from the Arizona Department of Health Services. 


 

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