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New Northern Arizona University president addresses campus

February 20, 2021 GMT

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The newly appointed president of Northern Arizona University has addressed the campus community following a visit to Flagstaff, citing plans to develop programs and build initiatives that improve the university’s access, success and community engagement.

The Arizona Board of Regents announced on Thursday that Jose Luis Cruz, executive vice chancellor and university provost of The City University of New York, accepted the position.

“The past couple of days have been very constructive and impactful,” Cruz told the Arizona Daily Sun on Friday. “I have had an opportunity to meet members of the campus and Flagstaff. I have learned about their aspirations, about the challenges and the opportunities that they see moving forward, and I very much look forward to having those conversations. I want to hit the ground learning and work together with all of our stakeholders, internal and external, to create a vision that we can all rally around and move forward.”

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Cruz said he decided to leave his position in New York in favor of NAU because he wanted to return to a more community-integrated university. He will become the 17th president of NAU.

“I have spent 25 years in higher education working throughout the country on issues of access, success and equity, and the opportunity that this represents was so well aligned with my values and what I would hope to be able to contribute moving forward that it was not a hard decision to make,” Cruz said.

The regents expect to approve contract terms and formally appoint Cruz at a subsequent meeting. Cruz will replace current President Rita Cheng, who announced in September that she would not seek a contract extension after serving as head of the university since 2014. Her contract was not set to end until 2022.

Cruz previously served as provost of California State University, Fullerton, is a former vice president of higher education policy and practice at The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., and a former chief student affairs officer for the University of Puerto Rico system. He began his career as an engineering faculty member in engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, later serving as a department chair and dean of academic affairs.

“I will be meeting with as many community members and organizations as I can early on, establishing structures and routines that will ensure that there’s continuous communication,” Cruz told The Arizona Republic.

Bret Danilowicz, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Atlantic University, was also a finalist for the position.