Northern Arizona University’s Skydome
NAU president sees ‘possibilities in every direction’
“At Northern Arizona University, we see possibilities in every direction,” President Rita Cheng told the Arizona Board of Regents during Friday’s annual Operational and Financial Review.
During her presentation, the president highlighted the university’s many accomplishments over the last year, thanking the members of the campus community, Flagstaff and board for their contributions.
“Northern Arizona University has notable accomplishments and even bigger goals. We have unique services that attract the best and the brightest, and discoveries that have—and will continue to—change the world around us,” Cheng said.
The president also shared an update on this year’s record-breaking enrollment growth, and how incoming students are increasingly diverse and reflective of the many faces of Arizona. She noted that NAU is leading the way in educating students from every corner of Arizona.
She stressed the importance of economic development, and provided insights into changes in the NAU organizational infrastructure that allow for more efficient operations that lead to stronger service and even more valuable connections to students.
She further congratulated everyone on the successful completion of the university’s first comprehensive campaign, which raised more than $103 million in philanthropic support for student support and critical priorities.
Strong relationships with Native American partners are vital to NAU, and the president pointed to NAU’s distinction as the university of choice for students from 122 Native American nations. “Status quo is not enough–we seek to be the nation’s leading university serving Native Americans,” Cheng offered.
While NAU has long been known as a leader in research areas important to this region, President Cheng highlighted NAU’s changes toward a more dynamic research agenda.
“More than ever, NAU is committed to expanding the boundaries of knowledge to improve lives,” Cheng stated. NAU is investing in world-renowned research faculty, moving the university’s ongoing discoveries into a higher level of attention, recognition and potential.
Cheng shared information on how the university is working to meet workforce development needs in a changing economy. The university launched the new School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Security and is planning to evolve the Honors Program into an Honors College next year. There are also plans to launch several new degree programs through Personalized Learning, the university’s online subscription program that has gained national attention as a premier competency-based learning model focused on student needs.
“These accomplishments demonstrate our commitment to our students, our community and each other. They show that we welcome every challenge that moves the needle on the dial of knowledge,” noted Cheng.
She also recognized NAU as an economic engine with broad impact that extends beyond the Flagstaff campus. She referenced NAU’s efforts in healthcare as one example.
“Independent living after injuries make jobs in physical and occupational therapy in high demand, and NAU is the only public university in Arizona educating professionals in these increasingly important fields,” Cheng said.
While there are challenges ahead, President Cheng encouraged collaboration and partnership to support a “smart growth” strategy that supports enrollment goals around the state. She further reinforced the need to maintain the Pledge program to ensure consistent tuition rates, and stressed the important need for investments in infrastructure and space.
“Though we diligently continue to be as efficient as possible and stretch to meet our goals, our list of needs extends beyond our resources. Partnerships are more critical than ever, and we continue to build new and existing cooperation. But basic infrastructure and foundational issues must be addressed,” Cheng told the Regents.
Cheng closed her presentation by reminding the board that NAU is agile, strong and ready to adapt as the university comes of age at a critical time in the history of American higher education experience. “There are possibilities in every direction, and exciting opportunities for our future,” Cheng said. “We will pursue them with the optimism of our potential and the wisdom of past experience.”