President Cheng addresses the luncheon crowdSince the arrival of President Rita Cheng in August 2014, Northern Arizona University has seen minority student population’s rise at campuses throughout the state.

Last week, Cheng was recognized with the Advocate for Educational Diversity Award by the Victoria Foundation for her support of Latino and Hispanic students.

“This award is truly an honor,” Cheng addressed a crowd of hundreds at the awards luncheon on April 28. “While I am humbled and grateful that my name is associated with this award, this really is a recognition for Northern Arizona University. The work of our faculty and staff surpasses expectations as they promote diversity throughout our campus communities.”

The Victoria Foundation, the first community-based Latino foundation in the United States, advocates for higher education and awards scholarships to colleges that focus on improving the human condition. This year, the foundation awarded NAU $150,000 to fund four important scholarships: the Raul H. Castro Memorial Scholarship, the David Joseph Yniguez Scholarship, the David Gonzales Scholarship and the Manuel T. Gauna Scholarship. Each scholarship honors the legacy of Latinos in the community and helps support Latino students, some specifically first-generation.

“What our students achieve clearly influences the progress and future of our state,” Cheng said. “These scholarships open up doors and allow our students to do great things. Students’ contributions to Arizona’s prosperity become our legacy. This is the transformative power of education. We take great pride in our students’ success, which is without a doubt our finest accomplishment.”

In addition to Cheng’s recognition, NAU was recently named an Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. On the Flagstaff campus, Latino students comprise 21 percent of the total enrollment. NAU-Yuma’s campus was designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution in 2007 and enrolls 71 percent Latino students. Of the total Latino enrollment, more than 60 percent are first-generation college students.