Western selects next president

Chakma a professor 'first and foremost'

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Incoming president Amit Chakma and Curren Western President Paul Davenport

Courtesy of Heather Travis

HANDING OVER THE REIGNS OF WESTERN. Current Western President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport, shown right, welcomed incoming president Amit Chakma during an announcement on Dec. 22, 2008. Chakma, who currently is a vice-president at the University of Waterloo, will begin his term as Western’s president on July 1, 2009.

The search for Western’s next president has finally ended, with the Board of Governors naming Amit Chakma the successor to Paul Davenport when his contract expires June 30, 2009.

Chakma is set to serve a five-year term beginning July 1, 2009. He currently is vice-president academic and provost as well as a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo.

“[Chakma] really wants to take us international and make us comparable to Oxford or Harvard [and be] mentioned in the same breadth,” Chris Sinal, undergraduate representative on BOG, explained.

Among other positions, Chakma has served as professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Calgary and dean of engineering at the University of Regina.

His research has expanded over many scientific disciplines with a strong focus on environmental sustainability. He was named on the Caldwell Partners’ prestigious ‘Top 40 under 40’ list in1998 and despite all of his professional accomplishments, maintains he is always an educator first.

“I could have done anything [with a post-doctorate degree in engineering] but I love what I do,” Chakma explained. “I love and cherish the role of ... shaping tomorrow’s leaders. I’m always a professor first and foremost.”

Chakma said he plans to continue putting students first and helping them succeed by making the administration more accessible for students.

“My door is always open to any student who needs it,” he ensured.

Though Western claims to provide the best overall student experience, it has seen a drop in certain rankings put out by publications such as Maclean’s. Chakma said he believes the rankings are important and should not be ignored, but it will not be the driving force behind his actions.

Nevertheless, Chakma said he wants the administration to strive for Western to provide the best academics and have innovative faculties for students as well.

“The world has become too complex. I look at our curriculum and it’s not always adequately meeting the problems of the future.”

He added in some cases more focus is needed on interdisciplinary studies to better prepare students for an ever-changing world.

“Overall, Western has achieved remarkable success over the last decade. It fell as a leading academic institution in the country ... when [its] overall ranking is improved, I want to bring in more research dollars.”

“He wants to shift the focus of the administration to other areas that may not have received as much attention as before,” said Matt Reid, student representative on the Presidential Selection Committee.

“Right now that’s what we need for the university because funding is tight and we need to continue to expand our research capacity, which is better for the graduate students and better for the science faculty and really better for everybody.”

Chakma will begin his transition to Western with a series of preliminary meetings throughout the next few weeks.

“I feel excited ... each institution has a culture and I will have to learn and adapt to Western’s culture.”

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