Biography and Philosophy
John D. Haeger leads Northern Arizona University in its
commitment to undergraduate education—a commitment enhanced by the university's
ongoing efforts in research, graduate education and distance learning.
Dr. Haeger has been Northern Arizona University’s president
since November 2001 after joining the university to serve as provost in June
During his term as president, Dr. Haeger has guided the
university to new heights in student enrollment in Flagstaff and across the
state, answering the call from the Governor's Office and the State Legislature
to make higher education accessible and affordable to all Arizona citizens. He
also has ushered the university into its largest building boom since the
22-year term of former Northern Arizona University President J. Lawrence
As the nation grapples with an increasing need for
scientists, health professionals, engineers and technical experts, Dr. Haeger
is re-emphasizing the university's efforts to attract and retain qualified
teachers who will draw students into these fields.
Further, he has fully endorsed a national effort to
increase institutional accountability, explaining that Northern Arizona
University must perform on a level that demonstrates its significance to
students and to society.
Among other university achievements under his leadership:Tuition guarantee
'Finish in Four' guarantee
While headlines abound about the cost of a college education today, the bottom line at Northern Arizona University remains focused on affordability. To bring some stability to a rapidly changing budget landscape, NAU President John Haeger instituted a pilot Pledge program proposal in 2008 that guarantees first-time, full-time freshmen and transfer students the same tuition rate
for eight semesters, bringing predictability to the cost of higher education. Not only have students and parents cited the Pledge as a motivating factor for choosing NAU, but the program also serves as an incentive for students to complete their degree in four years.
Expansion of nursing and the health professions
Northern Arizona University promises to provide students the advisement help and courses necessary to obtain their degree within four years
Commitment to research
The university has placed special emphasis on graduating more students in nursing and developing or expanding programs in the health professions, including a new master’s of physician assistant
studies program that will provide students with the clinical and professional knowledge to deliver compassionate medical care as a physician assistant, of particular importance in states like Arizona with a substantial rural population. The program will be housed at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus and conducted in collaboration with the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Innovative collaborations, partnerships
While NAU fulfills its mission to produce graduates who will help move the world forward over the years to come, its faculty and students are conducting research that today is producing important ideas and life-changing results. With a goal to underpin the university's distinctive research profile
, President Haeger in 2008 instituted Northern Arizona University's first office of Vice President for Research. In Yuma, a 12,225-square-foot building
provides collaborative research opportunities in environmental disciplines and accommodates expansion of four-year degree programs in engineering and nursing. NAU’s research leadership in areas such as genomics, cancer prevention, climate change and forest health makes the university a valuable regional asset and draws worldwide attention to the work being done in its labs and in the field.
Largest gift in university history
Public-private partnerships and alternative revenue streams have become the catchphrases of a university reinventing itself to keep pace with increasing enrollment while facing budget constraints. In the words of President John Haeger, NAU is evolving into a semi-public institution, meaning a greater focus on creative funding solutions and less reliance on state support. And it means striving for efficiencies at every level.
Collaborative partnerships have been key to these efforts. One visible example caps the north end of campus. Bringing the High Country Conference Center to Flagstaff involved university partnerships with the city and with Drury Hotels, while the NAU Foundation and Sodexo teamed to create the 1899 Bar & Grill restaurant in the historic North Union.
Economic benefits aside, the projects also contribute to the university’s reputation and educational mission, with the facilities serving as a hands-on learning environment for students in NAU’s highly regarded School of Hotel and Restaurant Management.
On the research front, a partnership between Translational Genomics Research Institute and NAU brought a pathogen genomics and biodefense facility to Flagstaff in 2007. One year later, NAU partnered with the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies to support the creation of successful science- and technology-based companies in northern Arizona.
Even a popular annual event, the Arizona Cardinals training camp, is the result of a partnership dating back to 1988. An agreement between NAU and the Cardinals that runs through the 2012 season ensures that Flagstaff will experience an influx of visitors and spending each August. One report showed the 2010 camp contributed nearly $7 million to the local economy.
NAU’s latest major public-private partnership, with American Campus Communities, includes a $65 million private investment in which the company will build and maintain two on-campus residence halls that will accommodate more than 1,100 students.
Yuma branch campus
The College of Business Administration was able to acquire the largest gift in university history
, a "transformative" $25 million donation from prominent business leader William A. Franke. The college was renamed The W.A. Franke College of Business, and the gift is being used for scholarships, faculty development and program development. Franke is especially interested in recruiting and retaining underrepresented and first-generation students into the business college.
Trailblazing new pathways to a college degree
Northern Arizona University took its acclaimed venture in Yuma
to a new level after receiving unanimous approval from the Arizona Board of Regents in 2007 to designate NAU-Yuma as a branch campus. Shortly after, NAU-Yuma was named a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution
by the U.S. Department of Education. Both labels made the campus eligible for increased funding that allow it to better serve its students and faculty.
Expanding into the future
Some of the university’s most pioneering alternatives to the traditional four-year college experience also have emerged under John Haeger’s watch.
NAU recently launched Personalized Learning, an innovative competency-based online degree program in which students can earn credit for knowledge gained in previous college courses and in the workplace. The self-paced program offers a pathway to a degree at a lower cost in time and money, with a $2,500 fixed six-month rate that includes unlimited learning modules.
Personalized Learning's initial offering includes bachelor's degrees in computer information technology, liberal arts and small business administration. There are no semesters, so students can start any time. The program blends elements of quickly evolving higher education that have found early success—high-tech learning analytics, a focus on outcomes, advanced online interactions—while emphasizing critical thinking, providing the same foundation in quality that underlies all of NAU's degrees.
When NAU-Yavapai opened its Prescott Valley doors in 2010, it rolled out a ground-breaking program in which students can earn bachelor’s degrees in three years and at about one-third the cost of a traditional, residential college experience. The savings comes from offering a limited number of degree options and using existing resources through NAU’s Flagstaff campus. The cost-saving model garnered the attention of Gov. Jan Brewer, who called it “visionary” and “an example for the entire state and the nation.” The Arizona Republic ran a front-page story on the unique campus, calling it “the state’s boldest move yet to confront the problems of rapidly rising tuition and a shortage of residents with bachelor’s degrees.
In addition to extending programs in rural Arizona, Northern Arizona University has expanded programs and buildings and solidified the university's presence throughout Maricopa and Pima counties. Enrollment in NAU’s online courses also has seen unprecedented growth over the past decade, with nearly 3,000 students now taking their NAU classes online each semester. Another well-received method for delivering affordable education to students has taken shape over the last several years and involves partnerships with 15 community colleges throughout the state. The initiative streamlines the credit transfer process, allowing students enrolled at partnering community colleges to save time and money by being admitted to NAU while they are earning an associate degree.
Through varied education structures that appeal to different kinds of students, NAU has earned a reputation as “Arizona’s university” and is poised to meet the diverse needs of Arizona learners.
Cultivating a culture of sustainability
A defining aspect of the past decade at Northern Arizona University is the physical transformation of a campus charged with maintaining rapid enrollment growth and improving university productivity. With a record 25,000 students now attending NAU—more than 17,000 of whom attend on NAU’s flagship Mountain Campus—President Haeger has aggressively led the charge to accommodate 30,000 students statewide by the year 2020, a goal set by the Arizona Board of Regents.
To help meet that goal, dozens of new buildings have been added or renovated, both in Flagstaff as well as throughout the state, including an innovative new campus in Prescott Valley. Such growth is the result of careful and deliberate planning and a demonstrated commitment to sustainability. The Princeton Review even cited the university’s three LEED-certified buildings in 2009—since then it has added a fourth—calling NAU a “green building superstar.”
By the end of 2011, 25 new or renovated facilities had opened their doors over the previous decade to provide students with a welcoming and sustainable learning environment, including:
Academic and Research Buildings
Extended Campuses Facilities
Opening a door to China
If the culture of a campus reflects the values of the university, then a commitment to sustainability is deeply rooted at NAU. The university’s approach to sustainability is outlined in its strategic plan, but its actions show how the theme has permeated research, teaching and campus life.
Recognition for all this progress has come on a national scale, most notably from the Princeton Review. For the past two years, the publication’s guide to green colleges included NAU on its list of colleges noted for sustainability. Of course, the work to earn that recognition began years ago. NAU established itself as a national voice in the ongoing climate change dialogue when President John Haeger became a
charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, effectively committing the university to addressing climate, social, economic and environmental sustainability.
The university has honored that commitment by producing some of the highest-rated buildings under the Leadership Energy and Environment Design building system from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Applied Research and Development building is in fact one of the “greenest” buildings in the world.
NAU’s curriculum also has undergone changes. A new School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability integrates a streamlined approach for students to pursue environmental careers. The move is producing a new generation of interdisciplinary graduates, generating new research opportunities across traditional disciplines and offering policymakers valuable insights from an academic perspective.
NAU’s Climate Action Plan ensures the university remains on course to achieving President Haeger’s call for carbon neutrality by 2020. The plan reinforces a pervasive, meaningful approach that adheres to the principles of sustainability, even as the university continues to grow and expand.
Learn more about NAU's sustainability efforts here.
Dr. Haeger, who serves on the American Association of State College and Universities' Committee on International Education, has signed agreements with several Chinese universities that enhances the international flavor of Northern Arizona University's campus and offers Chinese students a degree from Northern Arizona University and their home university.Highlighting the central role of diversity
A university needs students to succeed, but it needs diversity to flourish. That has been the approach at Northern Arizona University, where measures of diversity go beyond mere demographics to include a deepening of the curriculum and an infusion of ideas and cultures on campus.
Not that the numbers aren’t important. Steady growth in Hispanic and international students has literally changed the face of NAU over the past decade. Partnerships with Chinese universities are yielding a growing number of graduates. And NAU has continued its prominent role as a campus of choice for Native American students.
Beyond the numbers is a campus that has fully embraced global engagement. “Our students must live and work in a global environment,” NAU President John Haeger said in 2007, “and unless we make a campus that does the same, we are not fulfilling our mission.”
In support of that mission, NAU formed a Task Force on Global Education to transform campus and prepare students to become globally competent graduates. By 2010, recommendations of a Global Learning subcommittee were adopted to engage all students in meaningful global learning experiences in the NAU curriculum.
Not only are global themes being infused into the curriculum, but efficiency is being enhanced in the process as departments reevaluate and discern how existing resources can be shared better across the university.
While those changes are being seen mostly in the classroom, a more visible symbol of NAU’s commitment to diversity opened its doors in 2011: the Native American Cultural Center. The 12,540-square foot building in the heart of campus reflects the university’s commitment to Native American students and to helping others learn more about their cultures. The center houses activities that support student recruitment and retention, serving as a point of contact for Native groups on campus and programs involving NAU and the tribes.
"In a way, I am now living the story that I used to teach and write about."
— John D. Haeger
Dr. Haeger is a member of the board of governors for the Translational Genomics Research Institute, known as TGen, Greater Phoenix Leadership, Arizona Commerce Authority and the Flagstaff 40. He is a former member of the Arizona State Board of Education, former member of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment Steering Committee, and served as chair of the AASCU Committee on International Education and the United Way of Northern Arizona board. Dr. Haeger is a former commissioner for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and is past chair of the Big Sky Conference Presidents' Council.
He has worked at all levels of higher education—professor, chair, dean, vice president, and provost.
Dr. Haeger earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Loyola University in Chicago. He was a professor and chair of the history department at Central Michigan University as well as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He later worked as associate dean and then interim dean and finally dean of the College of Graduate Studies/Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the same institution.
He also served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Towson University in Maryland.
Early in Dr. Haeger's career, he conducted and published articles and books on the theme of economic change and how it affects individuals and institutions. He was founding editor of the Michigan Historical Review. His work on the 1982 book, The Investment Frontier: New York Businessmen and the American West, won a national award from Choice magazine, and his book on John Astor argued for Astor's role as the first modern American venture capitalist.
Dr. Haeger has said he still defines himself by his teaching and research on economic development. "In a way, I am now living the story that I used to teach and write about," he said.