University’s prestige pulls Katehi

Travis Austin

Travis Austin

By Dan Petrella

The Board of Trustees will vote at its meeting in Chicago on Thursday whether to approve the appointment of Linda Katehi, dean of Engineering at Purdue University, as the University’s new provost. If approved, she will take office on April 1, making her the first woman to hold the position.

The provost is the University’s main budgetary and academic officer and the second highest leadership position.

Katehi said the search committee in charge of selecting the new provost contacted her and she told them she was interested.

“The University is a very well known institution for the quality of people and programs and it has a strong legacy of excellence,” she said.

Robin Kaler, University spokesperson, said Katehi is a wonderful leader.

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“She has experience with strategic planning and the Urbana campus is currently undergoing a strategic planning effort,” Kaler said. “We’re looking forward to working with her on the direction of the campus.”

Billy Joe Mills, Daily Illini columnist and chair of the Illinois Student Senate’s Committee on Appointments, was elected by the Student Senate to serve as the undergraduate representative on the selection committee.

“(Katehi) came very highly recommended by everyone who looked at her r‚sum‚,” said Mills, senior in LAS. “She has a very strong personality and obviously when you’re looking for someone for a leadership position that’s something you look for.”

Mills said the emphasis she placed on values and morals, both in her personal and professional lives, made her stand out from the rest of the candidates.

He also noted that the committee was impressed by the way Purdue’s College of Engineering prospered under Katehi’s leadership. Research activity within the college has increased 15 percent annually since she became dean in 2002.

Katehi has spent her entire academic and professional career at public universities. Mills noted her firm commitment to public institutions of higher education.

“She’s pretty familiar with the public university,” he said. “She has a lot of respect for them and she understands their role in society and in the state.”

This familiarity with public universities has also led her to understand their unique problems.

“All public institutions worry about their financial status,” she said. “They worry about funding from the state.”

She noted the challenge that faces these institutions is accomplishing their goals while operating within budget constraints.

“I will have to help the institution and the academic community accomplish their goals in a way that will help the University maintain its tradition of excellence,” she said.

She said her personal goal would be to help develop a specific plan for the future by meeting with faculty and learning about the culture of the University. She emphasized the importance of comparing individual departmental and college goals with the goals of the University as a whole.

Although her prior academic and administrative experience has all been engineering-related, Katehi said she feels prepared to take on a position that involves colleges and departments across the University.

Katehi earned a diploma in mechanical and electrical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens in her native Greece in 1977. She then immigrated to the United States and earned a master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering at UCLA.

She has been the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering at Purdue since 2002. From 1984 to 2002, she was a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan. She said as engineering dean she was asked to make decisions that affected other departments.

“I feel I can take my experiences as a dean and scale them up,” she said.