Ana Aranda outside The W. A. Franke College of Business. Ana Aranda outside The W. A. Franke College of Business.
Arts & Culture 

Boundless community

advisor Alumni Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) Biological Sciences CEFNS Chemistry Communications exercise science food security issues Glen Canyon Dam Grand Canyon hands-on experiences honors college military-connected photography public relations Public Relations Student Society of America SBS student regent student success telecommunications Urdea Undergraduate Research Award Veteran and Military Services Veteran Success Center Veterans Day

Students achieve success with the help of the communities they built at NAU.

Northern Arizona University has many sources of school pride: our accredited programs, experienced faculty, and enthusiastic alumni, to name a few. Our biggest source of pride, however, is the success of our students. Student support in all its forms—from military veteran student resources to undergraduate research opportunities and beyond—is part of NAU’s goal to unlock achievement and unlimited possibility for our student body at the Flagstaff campus and statewide locations. “Lumberjack pride” is pride in our community.

Celebrating Veterans Day at NAU

Pete Yanka speaking behind an NAU lectern, in front of a red and white background.
Pete Yanka

November 11 marks an important date for director of Veteran and Military Services Pete Yanka—it’s Veterans Day, an occasion to honor and acknowledge America’s military veterans. “Veterans Day to me personally is a day to say thank you for veterans’ commitment to the greater good in our communities, in the region, and in our nation,” Yanka says. “It’s a humble way to honor those who have committed to something that we all benefit from.” NAU commits to supporting our military-connected students not only for one day but throughout the calendar year. Brandon Hutton, an NAU student and military veteran, says the Veteran Success Center “helped me by giving me guidance about anything in the school as well as getting tutoring sessions. But most importantly, it’s a place where I can relax and have someone to talk to.” Yanka agrees and expands on the ultimate goal of his department: success for each military veteran student at NAU.

“We serve as a hub. But we’re also able to get them connected with resources, not only within our department, but throughout the entire university, that help them succeed,” Yanka says.

Communicating school pride

Headshot of Scott Hanson.
Scott Hanson

Scott Hanson is an NAU alumnus who gives back to his alma mater through leadership in NAU’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. Graduating in ’83 with a degree in Telecommunications, Hanson’s early career focused on sports journalism at KNAZ-TV, Ed Moser & Associates, and KPHO-TV. In 1991, Hanson became the president and owner of Ed Moser & Associates (now called HMA Public Relations), the oldest continuously operating public relations agency in Arizona. Hanson recommends the Flagstaff community and NAU connections to prospective students and feels that “being associated with so many other successful NAU grads who were classmates creates a sense of pride.” He also encourages students to consider the field of communications.

“The communications industry continues to evolve and grow. Today there are directors of departments overseeing things that didn’t even exist five years ago! Public relations is a truly dynamic field where your expertise in communications and storytelling aligns with business,” Hanson says.

Advancing the future: scientific discovery and a diploma at NAU

Chemistry major Zachariah Bess built his story of success on the foundations of NAU support systems and a passion for hands-on work in Professor Cindy Browder’s research lab. Her encouragement, as well as guidance from NAU advisor Helen Hemmer, helped Bess overcome a difficult freshman year. “[Hemmer] cared enough to still be my advisor and wanted to make sure that I was able to graduate and finish what I started,” Bess says. “She also made sure that when I got here, I had everything in order. She impacted my life, more than anybody, ever.”

Zachariah Bess wearing white lab coat and eye protection while working in a health and science laboratory.
Zachariah Bess

Over a period of two years in Browder’s lab, Bess pursued two separate projects, one of which involved creating an antifungal solution using amino acids. “Basically, it’s like an antibiotic but for fungi, specifically fungus that grows on plants,” Bess says. “So, I’ve been working on making an antifungal solution that you can spray on plants and break down the fungus without harming the plant.” Bess continues, saying that “the second project is still using the same medium as we did with the antifungal solution—ionic liquids prepared from amino acids—but this time we’re using the ionic liquids to make solid electrolytes.” For his work on solid electrolytes, Bess won an Urdea Undergraduate Research Award. Following his success at NAU and recent graduation, Bess plans to pursue a master’s degree and, ultimately, a PhD in organic chemistry.

Speaking for the students: an ABOR student regent represents her peers

Rachel Kanyur in front of the Old Main building on NAU's Flagstaff campus.
Rachel Kanyur

Rachel Kanyur, an Exercise Science major at NAU, became an Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) student regent in July 2021. Her objective is to represent her peers and make sure their voices are heard. “My main goal is to make sure that students have support on campus. That they’re able to have the tools that they need to enroll in college if they want to pursue that. That they have support on campus, so then they’re able to finish those degrees, go back in their communities, and contribute in whatever ways their career allows them to,” Kanyur says. 

In addition to Kanyur’s drive, NAU has been instrumental in encouraging “outside-the-classroom” experiences through our commitment to experiential learning. In conjunction with Robyn Martin, a senior lecturer in NAU’s Honors College, Kanyur previously completed a freshman research project focused on food security issues on college campuses. “That, I think, was the moment that I realized that I wanted to make sure that students had resources and felt supported, because the data that I found was shocking,”

As Kanyur puts it: “If you told me as a freshman that my research paper was going to be something that I’d actually be able to make a difference for students with, I wouldn’t have believed you. But [Martin] giving me that confidence and advice of, ‘You’re actually able to make a difference with this,’ really encouraged me to learn more and take the opportunities that would allow me to do that.” 

Seeing opportunity through a new lens

Claire Sipos with a camera on an NAU photography trip.
Claire Sipos

Claire Sipos, a Photography alumna who graduated in 2020, wants to put things in perspective—in her photos as well as her life experiences. During a class trip to the Grand Canyon while still a student, she used her photographic eye to capture the human impact of tourism and the Glen Canyon Dam. “It’s not just taking pretty pictures for the sake of pretty pictures, but it’s, what are you trying to say? The species that typically live there are dying off and going extinct,” she says. “There’s an undeniable feeling that comes with being outside. Creating art in nature takes it another step further. You’re connected to something greater. There’s a lot to be gained that you can’t get looking at that photo or learning about a place. It hits differently when you’re actually spending time in that area—engaging with it,” Sipos explains. Following graduation, and with her NAU experiences to guide her, Sipos started Suppose Studios, offering graphic design and photography services.

Sipos offers advice to other NAU students: “Seek out opportunities. There are a plethora of opportunities through NAU that will completely transform your college experience.”