NAU Announces Finalist For Presidency

Jun 6, 2014

The Arizona Board of Regents today announced the final candidate in its search for the next president of Northern Arizona University. As Arizona Public Radio's Gillian Ferris reports, Rita Cheng, current Chancellor at Southern Illinois University is poised to take over the post.

Rita Cheng, poised to become the new president of Northern Arizona University
Credit Southern Illinois University

Cheng was one of about 500 candidates who applied for the job. She comes from an accounting background, is a certified CPA and holds an MBA as well as a doctorate in Management. Cheng, 61, is also the current chair of the NCAA finance committee. At a press conference this morning, Rick Myers, co-chair of NAU's Presidential Search Committee, said Cheng stood out from the pool of candidates for many reasons.

"She has a varied background of administrative and leadership roles," Myers said. "Her scholarly work in accounting, all those things are very impressive. But, when you meet Rita, the person, and you see her charisma and her style, her openness to others, I think we just have the best combination of experience and human nature and personal capabilities that will serve NAU very well."

LuAnn Leonard, also a co-chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, says Cheng was also an attractive candidate because of her emphasis on the undergraduate education experience...something Leonard believes will empower students and help the university better serve incoming students.

"What's interesting about her," Leonard says, "is that she is also a first generation student who has worked their way up. So that was very important because NAU does serve many first generation and underrepresented students."

Officially, Cheng has been offered a tentative contract since the state Board of Regents must still finalize her appointment. If officially confirmed, she will replace current NAU president John Haeger, who plans to retire at the end of 2015.