Northern Arizona University’s 17th president
José Luis Cruz Rivera began his tenure as the 17th President of Northern Arizona University (NAU) on June 14, 2021.
During his first year of service, President Cruz Rivera collaborated with university stakeholders in the development of the NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence strategic roadmap. The roadmap, which articulates a bold vision for a New NAU, has inspired several impactful initiatives that are delivering equitable postsecondary value to the students and communities of Arizona and beyond, as highlighted in NAU’s 2023 State of the University address.
Prior to joining NAU, Dr. Cruz Rivera served as President of The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Herbert H. Lehman College (Bronx, NY) and as Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost of the 25-campus, 500,000-student CUNY system—the world’s largest urban university.
Previously, Cruz Rivera served as provost of California State University, Fullerton. He is a former vice president of Higher Education Policy and Practice at The Education Trust in Washington, DC and a former Chief Student Affairs Officer for the University of Puerto Rico system. He began his career as a faculty member in engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, rising through the ranks and serving as chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and dean of Academic Affairs.
A leading national advocate for equitable educational policies, Cruz Rivera is a frequent keynote speaker and writer on higher education issues. He has testified several times before the US Congress, and his work has been funded by federal, state, and philanthropic organizations including the National Science Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the US Department of Education, among others. His work in higher ed has been covered by many media outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Univision.
Cruz Rivera chairs the board of directors of The Education Trust and serves on the National Advisory Committee for Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), the Arizona Commerce Authority, the steering committee of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, and several other boards, commissions, and advisory groups. In the past, he has served on the board of directors of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Data Quality Campaign (DQC), New York Botanical Garden, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and as a member of the Community Advisory Group of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and as a commissioner on the Postsecondary Value Commission, among others.
Cruz Rivera is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a patented inventor, published scholar, and a National Science Foundation Career Award recipient. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (magna cum laude) from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology, specializing in optical interconnections for ultracompact massively parallel processing systems.
President Cruz Rivera is the oldest of four, father of five, and grandfather to two. He shares his life with Dr. Rima Brusi from whom he has learned much and with whom he forever will live in love.