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Arizona Board of Regents announces candidates for 17th president of Northern Arizona University

Following a nationwide search, the Arizona Board of Regents has invited two candidates to interview for the position of 17th president of Northern Arizona University:

José Luis Cruz, Ph.D.

  • Current position - executive vice chancellor and university provost at The City University of New York

Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D.

  • Current position – provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Atlantic University

“Our candidates for the position of NAU president are both stellar leaders in higher education,” said Regent Fred DuVal, co-chair of the Arizona Board of Regents NAU Search Advisory Committee. “We are extremely pleased with the caliber of these candidates and are confident both have the vision, talent and leadership skills necessary to lead this extraordinary university into the future.”

“Northern Arizona University is singular among institutions of higher education, known for its dedication to the success of all students and excellence in degree programs,” said Regent Lyndel Manson, co-chair of the board’s NAU Search Advisory Committee. “We appreciate the many hours devoted to this search by the search advisory committee members and look forward to conducting interviews with the candidates before announcing a finalist for the position.”

“The possibility to become the next president of NAU is very exciting, and I am honored to be considered a candidate for this position,” Dr. Danilowicz said. “NAU is an outstanding university surrounded by the stunning beauty of Northern Arizona within one of the highest-ranked college towns in the country. I would be honored to become part of the Lumberjack family, embrace the culture, diversity and opportunity in Northern Arizona, and continue to build on NAU’s legacy of student success and commitment to equity and underserved populations. This truly is a wonderful opportunity.”

"I am honored that ABOR is considering me to serve as NAU's 17th president," Dr. Cruz said. "Northern Arizona University has a 120-year legacy of expanding opportunities, broadening knowledge and serving — in partnership with the region's Indigenous peoples and sovereign Native Nations — as a proud steward of a most majestic place. Propelled by a commitment to educational equity and inclusive excellence, and commitment to underserved populations, I would be privileged to lead the great, indefatigable Lumberjack community into the bold and boundless future that lies ahead."

Additional details about this search process and next steps in the search is available on the board’s website.

About the candidates:

José Luis Cruz, Ph.D.

José Luis Cruz began his tenure at The City University of New York in 2016 as the third president of Lehman College, the only senior college in the Bronx, and was later elevated by the Board of Trustees to the role of executive vice chancellor and university provost for the 25-campus system in 2019. During his tenure at CUNY, Lehman enhanced its national reputation as an engine of social mobility and the Central Office of Academic Affairs has registered important accomplishments on behalf of the university’s more than 20,000 faculty members, 26,000 professional staff and 500,000 students and learners.

A leading national advocate for policies to expand opportunities and improve educational outcomes for all students — especially those who have historically been underserved — Cruz is a frequent keynote speaker and writer on higher education issues. He has testified several times before the U.S. Congress, and his work has been covered by many media outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Univision.

Previously, Cruz 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, D.C. 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 chairs the board of directors of The Education Trust and serves on the boards of the Data Quality Campaign and the Institute for Higher Education Policy. He is also a member of the advisory board of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Committee on Academic Innovation and Transformation, the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Anchor Institutions Task Force, and the Community Advisory Group of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and serves on the steering committee of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and is a commissioner on the Postsecondary Value Commission. Previously, he served on the board of directors of the New York Botanical Garden, the Regional Plan Association and the Association of Chief Academic Officers.

Cruz is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a patented inventor and a National Science Foundation Career Award recipient. His work as a faculty member on optical interconnections for massively parallel processing systems was published in scientific journals and presented at international conferences. 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. He is an alumnus of the Harvard Institute of Educational Management.

Curriculum vitae for Dr. Cruz

Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D.

Dr. Danilowicz has been provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Atlantic University since July 1, 2018.

Previously, Dr. Danilowicz served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma State University from 2012-2018, and as dean of the College of Science and Technology at Georgia Southern University from 2006-2012. He also has held administrative and faculty positions at University College Dublin in Ireland.

During his tenure at OSU, Dr. Danilowicz conducted research to assess the educational needs of Native American Nations, which led to the formation of the Center for Sovereign Nations, a focal point for engagement and student support of these critically important yet underserved communities.

As leader of FAU’s Division of Academic Affairs, Dr. Danilowicz oversees FAU’s 10 colleges and more than 180 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels for more than 30,000 students. Related areas, such as the Office of Undergraduate Studies, the University Registrar, the University Libraries, the Office of Information Technology and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, also come under the division’s umbrella.

During his tenure at FSU, Dr. Danilowicz supported a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant-funded effort, Strategies and Tactics to Improve Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE), to train search committee members and academic leaders in best practices for hiring a diverse and excellent faculty. He also recently worked with FAU’s Faculty Senate to establish a standing committee to review university policies and practices as they pertain to an inclusive and equitable institutional climate for all faculty members. Further, he commissioned a review of the undergraduate curriculum to assess and enhance student exposure to issues of diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Danilowicz earned his doctoral degree in zoology from Duke University; a master’s degree from Georgia Southern University; a master’s degree in education: leadership and management from The Open University in the United Kingdom; and a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in computer science from Utica College of Syracuse University.  

Curriculum vitae for Dr. Danilowicz


Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 |