Sabah Randhawa was named Western’s 14th president by the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, April 5, after an executive session. He will retire as Oregon State University’s provost and vice president.
“Dr. Randhawa has a well-deserved reputation as a higher education leader who cares about student success and academic excellence. He is a very strong choice for preferred candidate to succeed me as president of Western,” Shepard said.
Randhawa met with students, faculty and staff prior to being selected as President Bruce Shepard’s successor.
Randhawa was introduced in the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room by Karen Lee, the chair of Western’s Board of Trustees. He began with opening remarks about the importance of student success and Western’s future.
“There are really quite a few things that have been started over the past few years that can be further nurtured,” Randhawa said.
Later, there was a question and answer portion of the forum. Junior Caleb Galbreath, a journalism student, began the conversation asking Randhawa about diversity on campus.
“What would you personally bring to the university and what plans might you have to try and increase diversity?” Galbreath said.
Randhawa agreed the issue of diversity on university campuses is a topic of nationwide concern. It will be important to make sure the incoming student body is diverse and also successful once they arrive at Western, he said.
Some of it is university responsibility to ensure we provide intervention in a real-time manner. A lot of time we, as universities, wait until someone has gotten a D or an F and by that time you’ve lost that individual.
Sabah Randhawa, 14th Western President
Rosa Rice-Pelepko, an environmental studies major, referenced the recent signing of the Real Food Challenge by President Shepard and asked Randhawa for his thoughts on food justice.
“The past is a good predictor of the future,” Randhawa responded.
Randhawa briefly touched on the complexity of sustainability, ecosystems and ocean acidification. He congratulated Western’s commitment to the environment and moved onto the next question.
There were many good questions asked and Randhawa appeared to have a positive attitude about approaching various issues as the future president, Galbreath said. He said he was glad to see students get involved and attending the forum.
“Now that he is president maybe he will answer the questions more concretely,” Galbreath said. “I’m excited to see what direction he takes the university in.”
Rice-Pelepko said she felt Randhawa didn’t fully answer her question and only focused on ecological sustainability. However, she said she is excited for the change of pace.
After asked about his plans to combat the struggles of first-generation students by primary education major Bethany Padgett, Randhawa reiterated the “importance of ensuring student success” once students reach Western.
“Some of it is university responsibility to ensure we provide intervention in a real-time manner,” Randhawa said. “A lot of time we, as universities, wait until someone has gotten a D or an F and by that time you’ve lost that individual.”
Randhawa said Western must obtain and retain high achieving students, create a diverse student body and ensure students have high-impact experiences. High-impact experiences include community service, studying abroad and getting involved with faculty, he said.
Now that he is president maybe he will answer the questions more concretely. I’m excited to see what direction he takes the university in.
Caleb Galbreath, Journalism Student
Katie Harrison, an employee in University Advancement, asked Randhawa about his perspective on climate change and our divestment in fossil fuels.
The Western Stands for Washington campaign has held an investment in fossil fuels and supporting companies which has been criticized by some students and faculty. At a campaign celebration in February, The Students for Renewable Energy held a banner outlining the names of those on campus who supported the divestment of fossil fuels.
Randhawa referenced Oregon State University’s large amount of faculty who are researching climate change. He said there are about 60 or 70 staff members who work in the environmental field.
“These things take time; for a community to have a conversation and find a balance between fiscal and social impacts,” Randhawa said.
Lee thanked the audience for their questions and reminded the audience that students and faculty could send in comments to firstname.lastname@example.org until 2:30 p.m. on the same afternoon.
*Editor’s note: Caleb Galbreath is a former photographer for The Western Front.
*Additional reporting by Vanessa Thomas