Chaouki Abdallah, the current provost at the University of New Mexico, has recently been selected as a finalist for the position of Vice President of Research at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Abdallah has held the provost position over the past 7 years, taking a brief break to be interim president of UNM.
“The Provost is responsible for everything academic on the Main Campus and the branches, and in some ways collaborating with the Health Sciences, especially at the undergraduate level,” Abdallah said. “All the colleges, student services and faculty ultimately go through the provost to the president.”
Abdallah says he has several reasons for applying for the Vice President of Research position at Georgia Tech.
“My wife is from Atlanta, and her family is there,” Abdallah said. “My kids are going to school there right now, so those are personal reasons. She would rather be close to her family and our kids.”
However, Abdallah’s reasons also have educational roots as well.
“I graduated from there and so did my wife,” he said. “It’s a great engineering school and a great opportunity. It’s an opportunity that’s not (going to) come often, so I feel like I can contribute to the research mission there… and with my background in academic administration I feel like this is a good match.”
Although Abdallah has educational roots at Georgia Tech, family in Atlanta and his sons are attending school at Georgia Tech, he has had a long and successful career at UNM. Abdallah started out as a faculty member in 1988, then became a chair of electrical and computer engineering from 2005 until 2011.
Then, when Abdallah decided to step down as chair and go back to being part of the regular faculty, he was nominated for the opening position as interim provost.
“I was nominated on Friday…on Monday I applied, on Wednesday I was a finalist, and on Friday I was offered the job,” Abdallah said. “Once I got the interim position I connected with provosts at other places. I immersed myself (in) reading and going to conferences and workshops trying to get this figured out.”
After serving as interim provost at UNM for one year, Abdallah was offered the official position of provost.
Abdallah has served as the provost at UNM for six years and served as the interim president of UNM from the beginning of 2017 until March 1, 2018 when Garnett Stokes took over as the current UNM president.
Abdallah has accomplished a lot during his time serving as provost, but he said his proudest accomplishment was the student success rate increase at UNM. Since he started as provost, the success rate for students graduating in four years has increased from 14 percent to 31 percent.
Abdallah said he is unsure of who might take his position of provost if he goes to Georgia Tech.
“I don’t know, that would be up to the president at that point,” Abdallah said. “Our office includes the provost, senior vice provost, and two associate provosts. So in the short term, any one of them could serve as interim provost, but it’s up to the president.”
Abdallah said there is many things he will miss at UNM if he does get the position Georgia Tech.
“I’m going to miss a lot of the friends and colleagues I’ve met over 30 years,” he said. “I have people who I’ve started with on the same day who are still my friends.”
Abdallah said he will also miss the location, as well as how great UNM has been to him, despite the challenges he has faced as Provost.
“Everybody has similar challenges,” Abdallah said. “What I try to do is try to explain to people that we need to highlight the positives.”
Isaiah Garcia is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo.