Northern Arizona University has signed an agreement with the Pueblo of Zuni, committing to help students from the Zuni community earn a college education.

The agreement is part of the Zuni Tribal Council’s move to turn A:shiwi College & Career Readiness Center into a tribal college. As an educational partner to this new college, NAU will offer joint admission, 2+2 programs, dual enrollment and integrated academic degree progression to A:shiwi students.

NAU President Rita Cheng met with Pueblo of Zuni Gov. Val Panteah Sr. and A:shiwi executive director Hayes Lewis to sign the agreement in March. She lauded the council’s decision.

“The agreement we celebrate today is the right step to ensure the best possible outcome for the A:shiwi College and the Zuni community,” she said. “Coordinating our educational resources will provide a cooperative network of higher education for the Zuni nation.”

Chad Hamill, vice president of the Office of Native American Initiatives, said NAU will help the college and tribal leaders as they shift focus to higher education.

“NAU and the Office of Native American Initiatives will be a primary partner in navigating that transition,” Hamill said. “In the short term, we plan to establish a joint enrollment program and begin offering courses that will be of particular value to the Zuni community.”

Cheng called this collaboration the right step to ensure the best outcomes for A:shiwi College and the Zuni community. As NAU seeks to be the nation’s leader in serving Native American students, partnerships like this are key.

NAU has a long tradition of outreach and support for Native American students, including providing the Native American Cultural Center and a number of programs geared toward helping Native students acquire mentors, do research and become leaders while also keeping the connection to their cultures through the Elder/Cultural Adviser Program and by giving students the opportunity to study and work in their communities.

“We are proud of the ties we are building that will open new doors for Native Americans,” Cheng said. “We want the partnerships we are starting today to create opportunities for all the Zuni people.”