New faculty fellowship supports research for Hispanic and emerging communities

NAU student types on laptop

Wanting to create a gift as unique as her late husband, Harriet Young, a former professor in NAU’s Department of Politics and International Affairs, established the Dr. Richard D. Young Hispanic & Emerging Communities Faculty Fellowship to honor the life and legacy of Richard D. Young.

“Richard was a broad-minded humanitarian, immensely funny and empathetic person,” Harriet Young said. “As an early developer of decision-making artificial intelligence, I wanted his incredible work to be memorialized. This fellowship is something special I wanted to do to honor him and enable someone to go out and do great, meaningful work.”

As the NAU Foundation’s first endowed faculty fellowship, the Dr. Richard D. Young Hispanic & Emerging Communities Faculty Fellowship advances NAU’s designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), supporting research on the emerging Hispanic community in Arizona. Leading the research is Stephen Nuño-Perez, a professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs.

Nuño-Perez came to NAU in 2008 to expand his research on the relationship between Latinos and the American political system. Having known Young from working together in the political science department, the two grew their relationship during the past six years over their zeal for politics and community events.

“Harriet and I share a concern around Latines and emerging Hispanic communities being prepared for the marketplace,” Nuño-Perez said. “We wanted to develop a space where students can learn about the world, access data and conduct research driven by their passions and interests.”

Through Young’s transformative gift and Nuño-Perez’s vision, the Hispanic and Emerging Communities (HEC) Lab was created. Fostering students’ knowledge and skills for professional success, the HEC Lab equips Lumberjacks with the competencies to be sought-after professionals in the Arizona workforce.

“The lab will be the research project and depository of the work we are doing. It is the calling card for our students and NAU to show that Arizonans are doing impactful work for Hispanic and emerging communities,” Nuño-Perez said.

NAU is one of the top 10 producers in the country for Hispanic student bachelor’s degrees. Having achieved HSI federal designation in 2021, NAU is doubling down on its commitment to educational attainment by bolstering grant funding and additional resources for the diverse Latine community.

“We are incredibly thankful to Harriet Young for creating this prestigious fellowship in her husband’s honor that enhances NAU’s teaching excellence and educational mission of the Department of Politics and International Affairs,” said College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Dean Deedee Pérez-Granados. “The partnership between Young and Nuño-Perez unveils a tremendous research potential around NAU’s HSI designation, creating opportunities for Arizona’s economic, social and political landscape.”

Gifts like Young’s elevate impact across the university by increasing resources for Latine students and Hispanic research. Through Nuño-Perez’s teaching excellence, students learn about the political system and understand their valuable role as informed citizens building sustainable careers that will continue to transform the American fabric.

“There are not a lot of Hispanic Ph.Ds. out there, and I feel a responsibility for my community and family to afford more students similar opportunities to what I have been given,” Nuño-Perez said. “At this point in my career, I want to help raise others and give them opportunities to excel.”

“And Stephen is the shoulders on which these students will stand,” Young added.

Learn more about transformative impacts and how philanthropic support advances NAU’s strategic priorities by visiting


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