NAU signs partnership with Hispanic Heritage Foundation to focus on STEM pipeline, research supporting Latino development

Hispanic students celebrate NAU commencement.

Earlier this month, Northern Arizona University and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) announced a partnership with the goal of promoting academic cooperation and human capital development through research and education.

As part of the cooperation, both organizations are committed to:

  • Exchange of materials in education and research, publications and academic information
  • Development of joint proposals to funding entities (federal, state, institutional) for projects of mutual interest
  • Joint meetings/seminars for training, education and research
  • Technical assistance, to include strategic development and consulting
  • Student exchange and liaison
  • And conducting research on HHF’s programs across the country including Code As a Second Language (CSL)

“The importance of diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math cannot be overstated,” President Rita Cheng said. “STEM skills are critical in the ability of the U.S. to compete in a global economy. As the largest minority group in the public school system, Hispanics are underrepresented in undergraduate and graduate STEM programs and are not sufficiently exposed to STEM subjects at the K-12 level.”

Recruiting, nurturing and graduating Hispanic and Native American students in the fields of STEM is a priority at NAU. In one effort, NAU launched Center for Materials Interfaces in Research and Applications (¡MIRA!) in 2019 as an interdisciplinary materials science research center focused on the development of advanced functional materials through the exploration of materials interfaces.

In Spanish, ¡MIRA! means “look”! As the name suggests, ¡MIRA! is an invitation to look at the impact of materials interfaces and look at the impact of NAU on the state of Arizona. The center is a recognition of the demographics of Arizona, one that is multicultural and a deliberate welcoming to underrepresented minorities to consider education and career paths in materials science and STEM in general. As a group, 50 percent of ¡MIRA! leadership, core faculty and affiliated faculty are in underrepresented groups and/or female, which sets a new precedent for inclusivity among materials research centers across the country.

More than 1,350 Hispanic students graduated in May or will finish their degrees during the summer. Additionally, NAU-Yuma is federally designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution; this designation makes the university eligible for increased funding for faculty development, student support services, endowment funds and laboratory equipment, among other things. NAU also has a long history of collaboration with various Mexican universities, including research, student and faculty exchange and partnering on seeking out solutions to border issues, energy and agriculture.

“We are thrilled to work with Northern Arizona University, a world-class research institution, which will help us move our mission forward in ensuring Latinos and Native Americans have a stronger path to the STEM fields in education and careers,” said Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. “Research is critical to better programs, strategies and service in support of our Latino community, who are underrepresented in the STEM fields, not because of talent but because of opportunity. This partnership will work to increase opportunities for Latinos in STEM.”

About the Hispanic Heritage Foundation

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is a national nonprofit organization focused on education, workforce, leadership and culture through innovative, impactful, award-winning programs. HHF is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles with satellites in New York, Silicon Valley, Chicago, Austin and Miami. Follow Hispanic Heritage Foundation on Facebook and IG @HispanicHeritage, and @HHFoundation on Twitter.