Welcome Letter From
President Cheng

We are pleased to report that Northern Arizona University exceeded its ABOR Enterprise Plan goals for research activity and invention disclosures in FY2016. In this annual summary, we detail NAU’s accomplishments in research, innovation, and academic scholarship.

Over the past several years, Northern Arizona University has implemented a number of strategic approaches to strengthen and diversify our research enterprise, efforts that are now resulting in consistent, measurable growth. Between FY2015 and FY2016, funding requested in proposal submissions to external agencies by NAU faculty has increased by 41%. The total amount of funding awarded has increased by 10% over the same period, and award dollars received from the federal government has increased by 15%. This report will provide associated data demonstrating increases in overall research activity, research expenditures from federal sources, and activities associated with innovation and technology transfer.

As part of our strategic plan, NAU continues to invest in the personnel and physical infrastructure needed to advance our research mission. In FY2016, we recruited a number of highly productive, research-intensive faculty in the fields of Biological Sciences, Bioengineering, Ecosystem Science, Astronomy, Computer Science, and Civil and Environmental Engineering. In addition, efficiencies created by consolidating administrative functions allowed us to repurpose and renovate a building for the new School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems, increasing the campus’ available research space. We anticipate that these investments will lead to increased externally funded research and higher rates of indirect cost recovery from federal agencies, as well as private funders. These returns will further enable us to continue to attract the “best and brightest” faculty members who have established national and international reputations in areas aligned with NAU’s research focus.

Recent investments in strategic research areas also support the university’s commitment to the expansion of academic offerings. In FY2016, NAU developed a bold plan for an innovative, research-intensive School of Informatics, Computing Systems, and Cyber Systems. This school meets the need for advanced interdisciplinary computational and data sciences capacity and enables NAU to compete with top-tier research universities in informatics, systems development, and cybersecurity. We also leveraged investments in new faculty to develop new doctoral programs in Astronomy, Bioengineering, and Informatics and Computing, consistent with NAU’s commitment to combining research and high quality educational programs for a comprehensive academic experience. These programs, which were approved in FY2016, began enrolling students in fall 2016.

A strong research agenda is critical to NAU’s success, and we must continue to be agile and innovative in our approach. A key part of NAU’s research enterprise mission is to generate economic impact, both for the Northern Arizona region and throughout Arizona. By strategically increasing the university’s research capacity, we continue to spur knowledge creation and innovation that will contribute to the economic development of the state and beyond.


Rita Hartung Cheng
President