NAU is a university known for supporting its students, including first-generation and ethnic minority students, said Wanda Costen, executive director of the School of Hotel Restaurant Management.

Costen has been traveling to the greater Phoenix area and nearby Native American reservations to talk with high school students about NAU.

“NAU strives to be the number one academic institution for Native Americans,” Costen said. “With our campus being so close to the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation, it makes sense to reach out and let them know we are an institution where they can get their academic credentials, and use that knowledge to better their communities.”

Costen, who came to NAU in 2014, developed a three-part outreach strategy: visiting high schools, engaging students during NAU campus visits and encouraging would-be college students to share information about NAU’s opportunities.

Her efforts are paying off.

During a trip to Apollo High School in Glendale, Costen invited students to see NAU’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management. A group of 35 students visited the Flagstaff campus for tours and presentations, including students who have been accepted to NAU and others who indicated they planned to apply.

“When we get students on campus and inside this building, they tend to want to come here,” Costen said.

NAU’s School of Hotel Restaurant Management is consistently ranked among the nation’s top hospitality programs.

Costen is a first-generation college student who said she enjoys sharing her passion for higher education with high school students, and encouraging some of the state’s best talent to choose NAU and the benefits that come with being a Lumberjack.