President Cheng one of five higher education leaders appointed as commissioners for WICHE regional compact

Jan. 24, 2019Rita Cheng

Northern Arizona University President Rita Hartung Cheng was one of five new commissioners recently appointed to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a federal interstate compact of 16 western states and territories that work collaboratively to expand educational access and excellence for all citizens of the West.

Cheng serves as the 16th president of NAU, which enrolls more than 31,000 students at the Flagstaff mountain campus, online and at more than 20 locations throughout the state of Arizona. Under her leadership, research and public service expenditures have grown by 45 percent, and undergraduate and graduate enrollment numbers have grown by 12 percent. Previously, she was chancellor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and she spent more than 20 years on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, serving in various administrative roles including provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“NAU and our students have greatly benefitted from membership in WICHE and the opportunities for regional collaboration it has provided,” Cheng said. “I am pleased to be a commissioner and play a greater role in this important work.”

Appointed to four-year terms by the governors of their respective states, commissioners serve on a 48-member commission that provides strategic direction for WICHE and oversees its robust and diverse portfolio of higher education programs, research and policy work. The other new WICHE commission appointees are:

  • Kathleen H. Goeppinger, president of Midwestern University
  • State Rep. Laurie Bishop, member of the Montana State House of Representatives
  • Sheila M. Stearns, former president of the University of Montana
  • Paul B. Beran, executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Board of Regents

“All five of these individuals bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to our board that will be valuable as we build upon and advance the many ways in which WICHE serves students in the region,” WICHE president Demaree Michelau said. “I look forward to working closely with each of them to promote successful student outcomes, vibrant economies and strong leadership throughout the West.”


Established by Congress in 1953, WICHE is one of four U.S. higher education regional compacts. WICHE’s programs and efforts help students pursue higher education affordably and conveniently, accelerate regionwide sharing of ideas and resources, provide expert research and policy guidance and help higher education stakeholders thrive amidst rapid change. WICHE is funded by its members—who reap strong returns on investment from WICHE programs—and by grantmakers and others who share our desire to overcome the education and workforce challenges of tomorrow. Learn more at


NAU Communications