President Cheng selected for Phoenix Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business list

Rita Cheng

Feb. 15, 2019

President Rita Hartung Cheng is one of 25 women being honored by the Phoenix Business Journal for significant contributions to their professions and communities.

Cheng, the 16th president of Northern Arizona University, is one of only two educators on the list. This year’s honorees were selected by a panel of former Outstanding Women in Business honorees.

“I am truly honored to be recognized by the Phoenix Business Journal and humbled by the fact that previous honorees made the selection.” Dr. Cheng said. “I believe this is a direct reflection of NAU’s partnerships in the Valley and throughout the state as well as the work of our exceptional faculty and staff who work hard every day to ensure Arizona’s students have access to and complete the degrees needed to enhance the economy of the state of Arizona.”

While raising her family, Dr. Cheng earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bishop’s University in Quebec, commuting across the Canadian border to attend classes, an MBA from the University of Rhode Island and a Ph.D. from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management. She is internationally recognized for research in government and nonprofit accounting.

During her tenure, NAU created the Honors College and the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences; expanded or created several new international partnerships, including with China, Japan, Israel and Mexico; increased outreach to Native American and Indigenous communities in Arizona and the rest of the Southwest; created the Teachers Academy in response to the request of Gov. Doug Ducey; increased diversity among students and faculty; improved its research ranking, breaking into the top 100 of universities without a medical school; and taken part in nationwide collaborations to increase access to college and success in college and improving pedagogy and assessment.

She also was influential in securing key financial support and partnerships, such as with TGen in developing patents in disease research, and between the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Health Equity Research on the NAU campus, addressing health disparities among diverse populations of the Southwest.

She recently was one of five higher education leaders appointed as a commissioner to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. She also works closely with the American Council on Education to provide shadowing and mentoring opportunities to other educators and leaders.

“Everything we do at NAU is designed to better the lives of those we serve, empower them for a lifetime of success and share that success within the wonderful communities throughout Arizona,” Cheng said of the relationship between NAU and Arizona business. “We may have our main campus in Flagstaff, but with 24 sites statewide and 67 percent of our students being Arizona residents, we are truly Arizona’s university.”

Cheng will be profiled in the April 5 issue of the Phoenix Business Journal and recognized at a banquet in Phoenix on April 4.