Mission, Purpose, Vision & History


At NAU, our mission—and commitment—start and end with you.

Our Purpose

We create opportunities. We empower people. We transform lives.

Our Vision

An innovative university transforming your future.

Our Mission

National American University provides innovative learning experiences in a caring and supportive environment for individuals of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and abilities, preparing them for success in competitive technical and professional fields.
A Brief History of NAU

Our History

National American University’s remarkable journey through time, a legacy marked by evolution, innovation, and empowerment. From its modest beginnings in 1941 as the National School of Business to becoming a pioneer in online education, NAU has continually adapted to meet the changing needs of students and the education landscape. Join us as we explore the milestones that have defined this enduring legacy.

1941 – The Journey Begins: The Founding of National School of Business

In 1941, National American University’s journey began with the founding of National School of Business in Rapid City, South Dakota, by Clarence and Katherine Jacobson, who sowed the seeds of NAU’s commitment to academic excellence. Before an actual site for the school was located, the Jacobsons instructed the inaugural class of four students around a kitchen table in their home.  By the early 1960s, enrollment had grown to nearly 300 students attending classes in a new building.

1962 – New Leadership and Growth: The Harold D. Buckingham Era

In 1962, Harold D. Buckingham acquired National School of Business, introducing a new era of growth and opportunity. Mr. Buckingham, an advocate for accessible, quality education, played a pivotal role in NAU’s development. His dedication laid the foundation for what was to come, with the continued involvement of the Buckingham family.

1998 – Innovation in Education: The Online Pioneer

NAU, a trailblazer in online education, offered its first online course in 1998. Today, NAU offers  a wide range of online programs, including certificate, diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs.,  Online course, learning resources, and support services are readily available via mobile technology, giving students the flexibility they need to excel in their studies.

Commitment to Institutional Excellence

National American University’s commitment to excellence is demonstrated through its institutional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a gatekeeper agency. In addition, several NAU programs are separately accredited or approved by national educational and professional associations, including the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) and the American Bar Association (ABA).

A Dedication to Individual Excellence

Over the years, one cornerstone of NAU’s mission has remained steadfast: our dedication to nurturing and supporting your journey towards individual excellence. We believe in the warmth of personal connection and the power of education to empower individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and abilities, preparing them for success in the dynamic world of technical and professional fields.

The Journey Continues . . .

National American University’s path has been one of constant evolution, guided by a commitment to innovation and the profound impact education can have on each person’s life. As we look ahead, our dedication to transforming lives through education remains unshakeable. We treasure the pivotal role you play in our history and eagerly anticipate a future filled with more exciting milestones and opportunities.

“The success of our past greatly inspires us toward success in the future.” ~ Harold D. Buckingham