By Matt Halvorson
Western Washington University has approved the contract for a new president. Sabah Randhawa becomes the first person of color to assume the highest office at Western, succeeding a long line of white men (and one white woman).
Currently provost at Oregon State University, Randhawa was chosen by the school’s trustees earlier this year to replace Bruce Shepard, who is retiring.
According to Western Today, Randhawa, who was born in Pakistan and came to the U.S. as a graduate student at OSU in 1970, will bring a focus on diversity, equity and inclusiveness, and is discussing closing the opportunity gap for students even in the early going:
“The first thing I would like you to know,” Randhawa said in the public forum attended by over 250 people, “I am passionate about education, about educational institutions, and really about enhancing educational institutions. As a first-generation student, I owe my career to education. One of the commitments I made when I switched careers into education from working in industry was to provide those same opportunities for others across the globe.”
Trustees have said that Randhawa impressed them with his commitment to diversity and inclusion, shared governance, strengthening students’ academic experience and closing the achievement gap.
Randhawa said that he was struck by how passionate Western students, faculty and staff are about the university. And he praised the leadership of Bruce and Cyndie Shepard and the many achievements during Bruce Shepard’s tenure as president.
“I would like to thank and congratulate him and his wife for really setting the tone at the top in terms of moving the institution forward with a very intentional focus on students and student success.”
Shepard said that Randhawa is a very strong choice to succeed him as president: “Dr. Randhawa has a well-deserved reputation as a higher education leader who cares about student success and academic excellence.”
The appointment is subject to final agreement on a contract. The trustees authorized Trustee Chase Franklin, working with Lee, to negotiate the terms, including salary and start date, for approval at a later trustees’ meeting.
“Trudi and I welcome Sabah Randhawa to Washington state and the beautiful city of Bellingham,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a statement. “I am pleased that Western Washington University has found a proven leader who is committed to closing the achievement gap, promoting diversity and inclusion for all students.”