Oregon State provost makes case for chancellor vacancy

Oregon State provost makes case for chancellor vacancy

By Luke Nozicka, @lukenozicka

The second of four candidates for the chancellor opening came to the university Monday representing high retention rates of his home campus and calling for more recruitment of international students.

Sabah U. Randhawa, provost and executive vice president of Oregon State University since 2005, answered questions from five people representing different SIU constituent groups.  He said he sees similarities between the programs offered at Oregon State and SIU.

An administrator focused on global diversity and retention


Asked about enrollment and retention, Randhawa said he was surprised the campus’ enrollment has declined during the past decade. He said students quit school because they have difficulty adjusting to a new social environment and are not involved in campus activities. 

“The tenure-track faculty that really is the core of an educational institution — I truly believe need to really contribute to… teaching and creative activity,” Randhawa said. “We really focus on bringing in people that to them, student success is a priority.”

Oregon State had a retention rate of 84 percent in 2012.  SIU’s freshman retention rate was 68 percent last year.

Randhawa said SIU needs a well-thought out enrollment management strategy that would include recruiting more international students and marketing professional master’s programs.

“Do we have the quality to sell the program at market value?” he asked. “It needs to carefully consider what role technology and online education plays, both in terms of students who are on campus but even more importantly, are there targeted programs where SIU really has the niche to market those programs nationally and globally?”

Randhawa, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan in 1976, said the demand for higher education globally will increase tremendously in the next 20 to 30 years.

“My life experiences really are a product of living in two very diverse cultures,” he told the crowd in Guyon Auditorium. “And perhaps it is because of these that I’m really passionate both about education and about global diversity.” 


The New York Times reported last year that Oregon State has doubled its number of international students since the beginning of a program called Into Oregon State. The program fits international students — most from China who study engineering — “into a fast-growing and lucrative niche in higher education.” 

Randhawa said today’s students have high expectations regarding technology use, and the university needs to consider how programs will change over time by advancing technology.

“I think there’s a general consensus among experts… that 10 years from today, at the minimum one third of the jobs that we do in person today are going to be done by intelligent machines,” said Randhawa, who mentioned that Facebook was created nearly decade ago. “Think about the type of programs we would like to have in place so that we can put our universities in a different position over the long haul.”

During the forum, Randhawa said the university should not solely rely on state funding.

“I am sure at this stage, unless something drastically changes here in the states, that state support is not an answer to building the margin of excellence that we want to build in our institutions,” he said. “That really needs to come from something else and it needs to be a strategy that needs to be all encompassing. It needs to be a strategy that includes private fundraising.” 

Husband, father and avid reader

“Who am I? Who am I for you? And, who are you for me?” Randhawa asked during his opening statements before questions, as he began telling the crowd about his personal life. 

Randhawa, who is the first person in his family to attend college, said his wife of nearly 29 years is a clinical psychologist and counselor who works with families dealing with trauma. His daughter is a junior at Oregon State studying digital communications.

“And if I was not in here… yesterday, we would have been watching a ball game with her,” he told the crowd. “We really like to go when Oregon State is playing at home.”

Randhawa said he reads everything from literature to biographies to keep himself grounded “in terms of making me think how little I know about what’s out there.” He said some of his favorite books include psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir, “Man’s Search for Meaning” and Margaret Wheatley’s “Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe.”

Luke Nozicka can be reached at [email protected]