NAU President Rita Hartung Cheng recently announced that the university not only will continue but also will enhance its commitment to Prescott Valley’s Strategic Economic Development plan focusing on business development, education and workforce development.
Cheng said that NAU would expand its outreach, recruitment and market research in Yavapai County. “Efforts will include market research in partnership with the City of Prescott Valley to review current area job openings, employer needs and expansion opportunities,” she explained. She also mentioned developing more public-private partnerships.
The guaranteed tuition rate of $5,842 this coming year is especially appealing to degree-seeking students. That is considered the best university tuition in Arizona for full-time students, according to Jeri Dennis, the regional campus program coordinator.
In contrast, at the main campus of the three state universities, tuition for fall 2016 will be as follows for new students: Arizona State University, Tempe $10,640; Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff $10,764; University of Arizona, Tucson $11,769.
Tuition for out-of-state or international students is significantly higher.
Dennis said a major benefit for NAU-Yavapai students is that they can finish a complete bachelor’s degree in just three years because of the carefully structured, flexible degree plans. She has been with NAU for 16 years.
Another example of expansion and more visibility for NAU will be the NAU Visitor’s Center. It officially opened July 1. It is located in the heart of the Entertainment District, just across from Harkins Theatre.
The Visitor’s Center is open Monday through Saturday, with NAU staff providing programmatic and curricular advice about the university programs not just in Yavapai County but also the entire university system.
In addition, it contains a contracted bookstore, merchandise and learning resource marketplace, which is open to the general public.
Students who transfer into the NAU program from Yavapai College have the benefit of having their college academic credits transferred without penalty.
Cheng says that the university values its ongoing partnership with Yavapai College and is excited about expanding opportunities in Prescott Valley and Yavapai County.
In mid-June, at an Arizona Board of Regents meeting in Flagstaff, Cheng told ABOR members, “We know that the opportunity we provide in smaller communities around the state has a big impact. Our graduates in these communities provide vital economic stability and service, and serve as champions for other seeking expanding learning opportunities.”
Recently, she emphasized that enrollment growth, increased research funds and the meeting of a $100 million fundraising campaign goal had attracted positive attention throughout Arizona.
Cheng Praises Past NAU Regional Leadership, Seeking Applicants For New Executive Director
Cheng praised the leadership efforts of Dr. Susan Johnstad, who since 2010 has guided what was once a fledgling program with only 12 students into a major player in higher education in the Quad Cities and central Arizona communities.
Johnstad, an NAU administrator since 2003, was charged with developing the regional campus in Prescott Valley beginning six years ago.
“Seeing the transformation from a start-up program to what we have now has been challenging, yet gratifying,” said Johnstad. “And it is going to keep expanding, given the visionary leadership President Cheng is providing.”
Johnstad, who earned her doctorate at the University of Indiana, recalls when just a handful of faculty taught a slightly larger handful of students a few years ago. Now, the regional campus has 10 full-time and 20 part-time and adjunct faculty. More than 150 students have received degrees and are now finding good jobs or attending graduate school.
“We’re enrolling quite a few military vets, too – highly motivated people who want to earn their degrees and get going without being deeply in debt,” she said.
Degree Programs Are Innovative, Challenging
In the past six years, the NAU Regional Campus has expanded to offer “…innovative degrees which focus on developing real world skill for the current job market,” Johnstad said.
She explained the bachelor of arts degrees offered included the following:
- Applied Human Behavior—exploring human development, relationships and communities;
- Community Development and Sustainability—focusing upon addressing dynamic social, economic and environmental issues while at the same time protecting community resources;
- Entrepreneurship—developing management and economic skills to innovate, plan, launch and grow both new and established organizations;
- Service Management and Leadership—learning what it takes for leadership roles in service economics such as sales and marketing, hospitality and tourism, and technology and consulting.
Program coordinator Dennis explained she especially liked the creative and entrepreneurial spirit that characterize the campus and the students. “The faculty and staff are definitely student-oriented. We enjoy our work and the students daily. We’re going to miss Susan, but we know we’ll be entering a new era of expansion.”
Johnstad, who is the assistant vice president and campus executive officer, is accepting a new administrative role at NAU. She will relocate to the NAU North Valley campus in Phoenix, where she will be the associate vice president for online and statewide programs for Extended Campuses.
Cheng indicated a national search is currently underway to fill the executive director position in Prescott Valley. She indicated the community would be included in selecting a leader for the vacancy. QCBN
By Ray Newton, QCBN
More information about Northern Arizona University-Yavapai is available by visiting the campus office at 7351 E. Civic Circle, Prescott Valley; or by calling 928-775-4567 or online at yavapai.nau.edu.
Photo by Ray Newton