Rita Hartung Cheng became the 16th President of Northern Arizona University on August 15, 2014. President Cheng was previously chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale and served as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her previous roles at UWM included interim dean of the School of Continuing Education, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and associate dean of the business school.
In taking the position, Cheng spoke of the importance of Northern Arizona University’s mission of providing the next generation with the skills necessary to succeed in the world’s changing economy and building NAU’s position as an institution of innovation and impactful research.
During her tenure as chancellor of SIU, Dr. Cheng led a transformation of the campus, enhancing recruitment and admission of new students, increasing student success, developing innovative programs to enhance the teaching, learning and research environment, expanding technology, improving community engagement, and enhancing regional economic development initiatives. The 2013 freshman class at SIU was the largest in 20 years and double digit percentage increases were attained in undergraduate international enrollment. Dr. Cheng implemented the “Mobile Dawg” initiative, which provides pre-loaded computer tablets to all new on-campus freshmen, and she established an Extended Campus program that powered a 36 percent increase in online course enrollments.
President, Northern Arizona University
Dr. Cheng stabilized the university’s financial condition during a period of declining public support, developed a strong university fund-raising team and strengthened partnerships with the university’s foundation and alumni association. She oversaw the development of a new strategic plan for the university, and $350M in improvements to academic, research, and athletic facilities, including significant new construction of the transportation education center, student services building, and football stadium.
Dr. Cheng serves on a variety of local and national boards and in organizations that have a direct impact on NAU, including the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors. While chancellor of SIU she served on the Complete College American Illinois Team and the Illinois Board of Higher Education Performance Funding Steering Committee.
Dr. Cheng also holds an appointment as Professor of Accounting in the W. A. Franke College of Business at NAU. A certified public accountant and certified government financial manager (inactive status),
Dr. Cheng is internationally recognized for her research in governmental and nonprofit accounting. She earned her Ph.D. in management from the Fox School of Business and Management at Temple University, her MBA from the University of Rhode Island and bachelor of business administration degree with honors from Bishop’s University in Quebec, Canada.