In the next decade, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can be a national leader in student success while continuing to expand its research initiative and spreading its land-grant mission farther across the globe, the first of four finalists vying to be the university’s next chancellor said during open forums with staff and faculty on Feb. 22.
Sabah Randhawa, provost and chief operating officer at Oregon State University, said the university’s momentum, level of in-state support and research progress attracted him to the position. Referring to UNL as the flagship of the NU system, he noted its increasingly comprehensive research portfolio as well as its emphasis on the arts and humanities.
“The university’s commitment to, and its deliverance on, its mission of … providing affordable educations to the citizens of Nebraska is admirable,” he said. “At the same time, the university has been engaged in the economic development of the state and has been a catalyst (there), particularly in the agriculture sector.”
The question, he later said, is “how do we leverage that innovation and expertise in order to make a stronger impact on the state as a whole?”
It is possible for the university to double its research enterprise – and improving its global impact at the same time – while also focusing on finding new ways to collaborate with other research institutions, said Randhawa, the chief academic officer at the Corvallis campus.
He said membership in the Big Ten will continue to provide opportunities for faculty, staff and students in the next decade. While acknowledging that in terms of raw numbers the university will likely remain one of the smallest in the conference, Randhawa said Nebraska should not strive to match its conference sister institutions purely in the realm of resources. Instead, it can be a Big Ten and national leader in student achievement – areas such as student success rates, closing achievement gaps and improving campus diversity, both from a faculty and student standpoint.
“When I think about the next ten years, I think about UNL in terms of impact, in terms of innovation, and in terms of service,” he said.
In addition to the back-to-back sessions with staff and faculty Feb. 22, Randhawa also met with students and the media. On Feb. 23, he will host sessions with research faculty at 9:45 am and will welcome the public to an open forum at 10:30 am.
As Oregon State’s second-ranking administrator, Randhawa is chief operating officer and chief academic officer, reporting to the president. He provides intellectual leadership to the entire university, including oversight of faculty and student services, information and technology services, research and graduate program administration, the university’s global diversity and internationalization agenda, statewide public service programs, and activities related to distance and continuing education.
At OSU, Randhawa works with the vice president for research to advance the university’s research agenda and bring a research experience to undergraduate and graduate education. Drawing on his experiences at Oregon State, Randhawa said it would be a priority for Nebraska to expand its presence globally, not only because research universities will inevitably help solve problems around the world, but because today’s students must be prepared to thrive in a global workplace.
At the same time, Randhawa advocated for a student-centered administrative approach that, as at Oregon State, he said lessened the administrative divide between the divisions of academic affairs and student affairs – doing so not only makes the institution more efficient and responsive but keeps the focus on one of its main priorities of student success.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the students who we are trying to serve,” he said.
University of Nebraska system officials are encouraging the university community to attend the forums and share its feedback on the finalists. Click here to submit thoughts on Randhawa’s visit.
The second finalist, April Mason of Kansas State University, will participate in an identical forum schedule Feb. 24. The final two candidates – Daniel Reed of the University of Iowa and Ronnie Green of UNL – will then host forums next week.
For all four finalists’ campus visit schedules, click here.