The Backpack: A news source for parents and families of students at Northern Arizona University The Backpack
Now Hiring Peer Jacks Now Hiring Peer Jacks
Blank Side column top
Vol. 8 No. 13 | December 6, 2011

Congratulations Graduates!

by Crystal Nance, Parent and Family Services Coordinator

We would like to send our congratulations to students and to you as their parents and family members who have helped along this journey. If you still need to make last-minute hotel accommodations, visit our website for a list of local hotels offering discounts to parents and families. Also, be sure to take the proper precautions in the event of inclement weather. Finally, best wishes to your student as he/she continues past the undergraduate experience and on to the next phase of life!

Fall 2011 Commencement Schedule

Please take note of the commencement schedule listed below. All ceremonies will take place in the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome, bldg. 73. Tickets are not required for entry. For more information about the various receptions, visit the commencement webpage.


9 AM Ceremony

Baccalaureate Students ONLY

  • College of Arts and Letters
  • College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences
  • W. A. Franke College of Business
  • College of Health and Human Services

1 PM Ceremony

Baccalaureate Students ONLY

  • College of Education
  • College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • NAU-Yuma Branch Campus

5 PM Ceremony

ALL Master's and Doctorate Students

  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences
  • College of Health and Human Services
  • College of Arts and Letters
  • College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • NAU-Yuma - Master's of Administration

Don't Forget The Commencement Flowers!

Sutcliffe Floral and the Associated Students for Women's Issues will be partnering this commencement to provide flowers for purchase before and after the commencement ceremonies. Single and double leis, spring mix flower bouquets, and roses by the dozen, half dozen, and three stem bouquet will be available. For more information or to pre-order your flowers, please contact Sutcliffe Floral at 928-774-0670.

Winter Driving Safety

Flagstaff is prone to having severe winter weather from December through April. Many of our students are novices to driving in these conditions. If your student is driving home for the holidays, consider sharing these tips for safe driving on icy roads:

  • Decrease speed and leave plenty of room to stop.
  • Allow at least three times more space than usual between vehicles.
  • Use lower gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Don't use cruise control or overdrive.
  • Turn on lights to increase visibility to other motorists.

Also, when driving at night

  • Reduce speed: black ice is difficult to see and is quite common on Flagstaff's city streets and the interstate highways on the Mogollon Rim.
  • Keep headlights, tail lights, signal lights, and windows (inside and out) clean.
  • Have headlights properly aimed. Improperly aimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce the ability to see the road.
  • If an oncoming vehicle doesn't lower beams from high to low, avoid glare by watching the right edge of the road and using it as a steering guide.

For up to date information on driving conditions in Arizona, call 511, or visit Outside of Arizona, dial 1-888-411-ROAD (7623).

Here is a list of winter emergency gear to help your student during the winter driving season.

Now Hiring Peer Mentors

Peer Jacks is now hiring mentors for 2012. Peer Jacks is a peer mentoring program for out-of-state students coming to the university. Out-of-state students who participate in Peer Jacks are retained at higher rates than their out-of-state peers. The program gives students a head start on getting connected and meeting new people on campus.

Mentor Qualifications

  • Currently enrolled at NAU
  • Attended NAU for at least two semesters (sophomores and above are eligible)
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Available to work up to 9 hours per week
  • Must NOT work more than 10 hours per week OUTSIDE Peer Jacks
  • Preference given to students who attended NAU for their freshman year
  • Submit all required application information
  • All are welcome to apply, however, out-of-state students are preferred
  • Mentoring experience is desired
  • Commit to completing required training

Encourage your student to apply today! Applications are due Friday, January 20, 2012.

A Difficult Topic

by Melody Hicks, MC, LPC, Substance Abuse Counselor, Counseling Services

As a parent, there are so many difficult discussions to have with your children, but one of the most difficult has to be about the topic of suicide. Every year, this university and others around the country have students who take their own lives, leaving behind devastated families and friends who struggle with hundreds of unanswered questions.

Not all suicides are preventable, but most students who contemplate taking their lives have a period of ambivalence that may last a few hours, days, or months. If an intervention can take place during those moments of uncertainty, then there is hope a life may be saved.

Below are some possible warning signs that students may experience or express to parents that could mean they are at risk of self-harm. If parents learn of or observe one or more of these signs, do not hesitate to be direct and ask if they are thinking of harming themselves. Most students will answer this question directly and be relieved that the topic is now out in the open. Parents should reassure their students that telling them about their thoughts and plans was the right thing to do and they will do whatever is needed to keep them safe.

Parents have several options, depending upon the need for an immediate response or a response that should be timely but not immediate. To become better informed about resources on campus and in the community, check out the information on the Counseling Services website.

Here are some possible warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide or wanting to die
  • Giving away possessions
  • Repeated losses and failures
  • Family history of suicides
  • Mental health problems
  • Serious alcohol and drug abuse/addiction
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities
  • Writing "goodbye" notes to friends, family and others
  • Unexpected loss of relationships, friends, or family
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Previous suicide attempts

Event Highlights

See a complete listing of university events on the official university calendar website. More Flagstaff event highlights can be seen at ShowUp Flagstaff and Flagstaff Happenings. More travel, dining, shopping, and event information is available from