Western Washington University has hired Sabah Randhawa, the provost of Oregon State University, to be its next president.

Share story

Oregon State University Provost Sabah Randhawa was chosen unanimously to become the next president of Western Washington University by the school’s board of trustees Tuesday night.

Randhawa, 62, will begin his new job at the Bellingham university this summer, when current president Bruce Shepard retires.

Randhawa was one of three finalists for the job, but last week the school’s trustees unanimously voted to nominate only him for the post. The other two finalists were not named.

A chemical engineer by training, Randhawa has spent the last several days in Bellingham, touring the campus and meeting with students and faculty.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

During a town hall forum in Bellingham Tuesday, he talked about the importance of boosting student success, including aiming for a freshman retention rate of 90 percent and a graduation rate of at least 75 percent. Western’s six-year graduation rate is just below 70 percent, according to state figures.

Randhawa also said he’d like to see the university expand its footprint in the region, and build new partnerships — particularly with industry. He also said he’d like to see the university offer more courses online because that could make it possible for working adults who never finished college to complete a degree.

Randhawa has been provost at OSU since 2005, and also holds the title of executive vice president. He’s been a candidate for several other university jobs, but has said none of them seemed like the right fit.

Trustees have praised him for his work attracting and retaining students and faculty of color at OSU.

Kate Halischak, president of OSU’s Faculty Senate, described Randhawa in an email as “very student-centered, inclusive, and forward-thinking.” She said she had only positive things to say about him and his leadership style.

He’s also been credited with increasing the number of international students who attend OSU. International enrollment has grown from 904 students in 2006 to 3,328 in 2015, and now makes up 11 percent of campus enrollment.

Randhawa received his chemical-engineering degree at the University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan in 1976. He moved to Oregon in 1978 to pursue a master’s in industrial engineering at OSU, then received a doctorate in industrial engineering at Arizona State University.