Peter Braza, a current professor and dean from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), eagerly introduced himself Thursday morning as a candidate for dean of The College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences (CEFNS).

Braza is currently a dean of The College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at UCCS, and has taught applied mathematics since 2012. He attended Northwestern University and received a doctorate in applied mathematics before beginning his teaching career as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of North Florida in 1988.

During his first open forum, Braza said his primary focus at UCCS was distinguishing his current institution from other universities by having specific programs designed to impact students. He explained that one program implemented undergraduate research and provided internships.

“Especially with declining enrollments and declining state funding, I think it’s important now, more than ever, for universities to be relevant to a variety of constituents,” Braza said.

The CEFNS candidate said he wants to provide internships for all science majors and allow NAU to achieve greater interaction within Arizona. As more funding and research opportunities become available, Braza said these opportunities could contribute to economic or cultural benefits for NAU.

Considering the diversity of CEFNS, Braza said he would focus on advancing all departments by being more involved in how they run. He also discussed the importance of classroom structure and communicating with as many staff members as possible.

During his time at NAU, Braza attended multiple classes to facilitate this communication. Additionally, he explained the importance of this technique.

“I went to a variety of classes across the college just to learn what was happening," Braza said. "I needed to be on the ground."

As a potential dean for CEFNS, Braza said he wants to increase funding by interacting with the Flagstaff community and by visiting other cities such as Phoenix, Tucson and Sedona to find donors.

Two out of four candidates appeared on campus earlier this month and Braza, the third candidate, hosted forums Thursday and Friday. The final candidate will appear Tuesday and Wednesday to wrap up the ongoing search.