Reaching out to Arizona’s Native American tribes is a priority for NAU President Rita Cheng, who this week made her first visit to the Hopi Nation.

Regent and NAU alumna Luann Leonard introduced the president to Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie and the Hopi Tribal Council in Kykotsmovi on Wednesday.

“Dr. Cheng has a special passion for first generation students and she has a respect for our culture,” Leonard said. “I am honored she chose Hopi as her first visit to our Native tribes.”

Honanie thanked Cheng for making a visit to the council a priority and said her efforts will “broaden and enhance our relationship and ensure Native American students get the support they need.”

Cheng shared with the tribal council that education has transformed her life and that, with the proper resources, education will offer the same for Hopi students.

“Achieving Native American student success is an important part of the mission of NAU,” Cheng told the council. “We have a solid groundwork, and there are many things we can do better.”

Cheng said she will seek input from the university’s Native American advisory commission and will reach out to tribal leaders to identify ways to best support students. Her next visit to Hopi will include meeting with partners at K-12 schools and Northland Pioneer College.

This week’s visit included a discussion of the history of the Hopi tribe during a tour of First, Second and Third Mesa. Leonard facilitated a discussion with Cheng and several community leaders on the challenges and opportunities that exist for Hopi students.