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 this first year as president, he has worked with university stakeholders to articulate a bold vision for a New NAU focused on the delivery of equitable postsecondary value to the students and communities of Arizona and beyond, as articulated in the university’s strategic roadmap, NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence. Furthermore, several signature initiatives in support of Elevating Excellence have already launched, including Access2Excellence, New NAU Workplace, Faculty Senate Constitution, Commitment to Sustainability, Becoming the Leading Engine of Opportunity.
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.
A leading national advocate for policies to broaden participation and deliver equitable educational outcomes for all students, 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, the US Department of Education, among others. Furthermore, 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.
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.
Cruz Rivera chairs the board of directors of The Education Trust and serves on the board of the Data Quality Campaign, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), and the steering committee of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. In the past, he has served on the board of directors of the 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, the advisory board of AASCU’s Committee on Academic Innovation and Transformation, 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. He is an alumnus of the Harvard Institute of Educational Management.