Board: Presidential search to kick off in New Year

Western will soon begin the process of finding the university’s 11th President and Vice-Chancellor after President Amit Chakma announced last week he will not seek a third term. Given roughly 19 months remaining in the top post, however, Chakma stressed there is still much to be accomplished during his tenure.

“I have long believed all great institutions benefit from periodic renewal and rejuvenation at the leadership level,” Chakma said, as he announced his plans at the Board of Governors meeting Nov. 23. “It is a healthy and time-honoured practice. It has always been my intention to serve two terms as president.”

The Board will establish a committee in January to conduct an international search for Chakma’s successor, announced Hanny Hassan, Board Chair. In accordance with Western’s appointment procedures, the committee will be comprised of five members of the Board and five members of Senate, including one student.

Throughout the process, there will be opportunities for both internal and external stakeholders to comment on what skills they believe need to be a priority in determining who should be Western’s next president.

Chakma is looking ahead at possibilities after his term is up, but has not made any firm decisions, he noted.

“Between now and June 2019, I will continue to focus on moving forward with my strategic priorities. I look forward to working together with the Western community as we continue to improve the Western Experience for our students, and advance the university’s standing on the world stage,” he said.

Chakma arrived at Western in July 2009 as the university’s 10th President and Vice-Chancellor after serving the University of Waterloo as Vice-President, Academic & Provost, and as a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Prior to that, he served as Dean of Engineering and then Vice-President (Research) and International Liaison Officer at the University of Regina. He began his academic career as a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Calgary.

On Nov. 22, 2012, Western’s Board re-appointed Chakma to a second term as President, extending to June 30, 2019.

Chakma’s commitment to research has been vital to much of the progress Western has seen in recent years, Hassan added. That has included the creation of two Associate Vice-Presidents of Research positions, raising the profile of research done in both the STEM and humanities disciplines, and the recruitment of several top international faculty and researchers, including neuroscientist Adrian Owen, global women’s issues researcher Bipasha Baruah and communication sciences and disorders researcher Ingrid Johnsrude.

Chakma’s priorities of creating a world-class research and scholarship culture, seeking educational excellence and a renewed emphasis on internationalization and fund development, have strengthened Western’s profile, he explained.

“Western is now home to more than 4,300 (international) students from 127 countries, and has established exchange partnerships with institutions in 60 countries, providing 2,000 Western students the opportunity to gain international experience each year,” Hassan noted.

The Western community as a whole contributed to its success, Chakma added, noting his work is not finished.