Native American Cultural Center gets green light

Native American Cultural Center rendering

The Arizona Board of Regents has granted Northern Arizona University final approval to begin building a Native American Cultural Center on its Flagstaff campus.

At the regents meeting last week in Tempe, the university sought approval to move forward with the $7 million, 12,540-square-foot Native American Cultural Center at its new location across from Cline Library. The project includes new construction, demolition, site work and utility infrastructure extensions. It will be funded with $3 million in donations and $4 million in general university funds, which will be offset as additional gift funding is received.

Regent Bob McClendon said the center’s proposed location, in the heart of campus near the library and University Union, will make it “a focal point for the whole campus and makes NAU a focal point for the country.”

As home to 1,400 Native American students from 62 different tribes, Northern Arizona University has a commitment to serving Native students, explained Jane Kuhn, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. She told the board that a center that allows intensive advising will help graduate and maintain these students.

In addition to serving the university’s Native population, NAU President John Haeger pointed out that the cultural center will serve the entire NAU campus. “The center will be a link between students and faculty and will reach out to the entire campus by teaching Native American culture,” Haeger said. “It helps fulfill the undergraduate mission of the university.”

The center will be a platform for the diverse traditions, perspectives and contributions of Native American culture on the NAU campus, and will welcome students, scholars, tribal communities, the university community and the public, providing opportunities to engage with and learn from each other.

The facility will house activities that support student recruitment and retention, serving as a point of contact for Native groups on campus and programs involving NAU and the tribes. The center will embody Native values and will serve as a symbol of NAU’s ongoing commitment to Native Americans, integrating Native design features and sustainable design principles.

Regent LuAnn Leonard, an NAU graduate and member of the Hopi Tribe, praised the project, saying she is proud to support the center on a campus that is “very spiritual to many tribes.”

Construction is expected to begin this fall with the center open for the fall 2011 semester.

Also during the meeting, Regent Dennis DeConcini reaffirmed the board’s commitment to maintaining the Regents’ High Honors Endorsement Award, known as the AIMS scholarship. No immediate changes to the merit scholarship were discussed and the issue was tabled until the regents’ September meeting in Tempe.

The regents also approved three administrative personnel changes at NAU that better reflect added responsibilities. Christy Farley was appointed as vice president of Government Affairs and Business Partnerships. Farley came to NAU in 2004 as director of Government Affairs to be the university’s chief lobbyist. She has since moved into the position of associate vice president for Government Affairs and Business Partnerships and increased her portfolio to take on special projects in the Flagstaff community and also oversee and advise on NAU’s outreach activities in the Phoenix business community. As a member of the president’s leadership team, Farley also advises on federal and state policy discussions.

The regents also approved David Bousquet’s appointment as senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, and Fred Hurst’s appointment as senior vice president for Extended Campuses. Bousquet has been at NAU since 2003, and Hurst since 1999.