Northern Arizona University is furthering its commitment to the Verde Valley area to make higher education more accessible and affordable to a burgeoning population.

NAU President John Haeger has approved two NAU appointments to Yavapai College with the objective of strengthening the university’s partnership with Yavapai. At the same time, the two institutions have signed a dual admissions agreement.

Haeger has assigned David Camacho, special assistant to the president, to serve as liaison to the Yavapai College campus and Beverly Santo to serve as faculty coordinator for the university’s Distance Learning programs in Prescott and the Verde Valley.

Both Camacho and Santo will have offices and regular hours on the Yavapai campus.

“I’ve already been meeting with Yavapai College leadership for strategic planning, and I will begin going out into the community to assess their needs and wants,” Camacho said. “We want to explore what programs are best suited for the 2+2 and other programming options.”

Camacho is especially suited for the new position as liaison. He has been with NAU for 17 years. In addition to serving as the president’s special assistant, Camacho is a professor of political science, a past president of the NAU Faculty Senate and former faculty representative on the Arizona Board of Regents. His experience gives him administrative and academic perspectives on any program changes that might be considered.

Santo is well-acquainted with NAU’s Distance Learning mission. She is a full-time faculty member in the College of Education and for the past six years has been lead faculty and coordinator of the elementary education partnership program with the Apache Junction School District.

Santo previously served as director of Teacher Education at Central Arizona College. Before she arrived in Arizona, she served as a senior assistant dean, an assistant dean, and director of Instructional Development with the University of San Francisco.

“Dr. Santo has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with us as we all embark on our journey to enhance and grow our partnership with Yavapai College in the months and years to come,” saidBrenda Sutton, assistant dean of NAU Distance Learning Rural Areas.

James Horton, president of Yavapai College, said the appointments will allow the college to expand opportunities for students. “I believe very strongly in NAU offering baccalaureate degrees in our local communities so that everyone has access to a variety of higher education opportunities,” he said. “Yavapai College and NAU have committed to pursue a common educational mission that benefits all students.”

In the dual admissions agreement, modeled after a similar arrangement NAU has with Arizona Western College in Yuma, students admitted into Yavapai College will be offered the opportunity for admission into NAU. Students will be provided academic advising for their degree goals from both NAU and Yavapai advisors.

“The dual admissions agreement is a tremendous motivational factor in helping young people understand that we expect them to earn a baccalaureate degree,” Horton said. “They’ll know that when they come to YC they’re jointly admitted to NAU. It will also help us in advising students and ensuring that they are on the right track academically.”

NAU currently has four undergraduate and nine graduate programs delivered in person at Yavapai College. Depending on interest and enrollment, Camacho said other new programs that might be offered included health professions. There also may be opportunities to expand current programs in nursing and education, he said.

According to a recent article in the Arizona Republic, the “Arizona Sun Corridor” is expected to stretch from Prescott south to the Mexico border as early as 2040. Prescott’s population has climbed from 9,000 in 1990 to about 38,000. Economists predict it could have as many as 80,000 residents by 2025, the Republic said.