Rita Cheng, President, Northern Arizona University
Rita Cheng serves as the 16th president of Northern
Arizona University. As a first-generation and non-traditional college student, Dr.
Cheng firmly believes in making higher education accessible and affordable for
all students. Her top priorities for the university are to enhance student
success, promote effective teaching and learning, support the research environment
and expand community engagement.
Dr. Cheng also is part of the Arizona Board of Regents’
Enterprise Executive Committee, comprised of the presidents of NAU, Arizona
State University, the University of Arizona, and ABOR as the executive
leadership of the Arizona public university enterprise system responsible for
driving achievement of statewide goals.
At NAU, Dr. Cheng oversees an operating budget of $491
million and 5,500 faculty and staff. The university offers more than 200
undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs to its 26,000
approach to interpersonal relationships and institutional leadership traces its
roots to Dr. Cheng’s small-town upbringing in Wisconsin, where her father was a
farmer and her mother a schoolteacher. An accountant by training, she leads by
relying on values, analyzing data and inviting the input of stakeholders. She
also emphasizes shared governance, transparency, communication, accountability
and inclusiveness. Dr. Cheng supports a strong, academically focused athletics
program, but also champions music, art, theater and other cultural and
recreational activities that contribute to the vibrancy of campus. She also
regards campus as an integral part of the local community.
Dr. Cheng arrived at NAU from Southern Illinois University
in Carbondale, where she served as chancellor for four years and was a
professor of accounting. She previously spent 22 years in teaching and
administrative roles at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, including five
years as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
A certified public accountant and certified government
financial manager, Dr. Cheng is internationally recognized for her research in
government and nonprofit accounting. She serves on a variety of local and
national boards, including the NCAA Division 1 board of directors.
Dr. Cheng earned her Ph.D. in management from the Fox
School of Business and Management at Temple University, an MBA degree from the
University of Rhode Island and a bachelor of business administration degree
with honors from Bishop‘s University in Quebec.