Chaouki T. Abdallah, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at The University of New Mexico, has accepted the position of executive vice president for research at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga.
Abdallah, who is a Georgia Tech alumnus with master’s and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering, will direct Georgia Tech’s $824 million research program and be a part of the Institute’s four-member executive leadership team in his new position.
“My family has many personal and professional connections to Georgia Tech and Atlanta. This is one of the few positions for which I would leave UNM for. For the past 30 years UNM, Albuquerque and New Mexico have been my home, and leaving home is never easy,” said Abdallah. “I will work with the president and academic affairs team to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. I want to thank everyone who crossed my path at UNM during my tenure as faculty, chair and provost. You have all made my life better, and while I transform back into a yellow jacket, I will always be a Lobo at heart.”
Abdallah has served many roles at UNM during his 30-year career including acting president, followed by interim president and finally as the 22nd president of the state’s largest institution of higher education over a 14-month period from Jan. 2017 through Feb. 2018.
During that time, he guided UNM through several issues including free speech, campus safety and a tightening financial environment that was a catalyst for “Redesigning the University,” an initiative Abdallah started looking into more than six years ago in response to demographic trends and shifts, socioeconomic forces, the changing nature of students and their educational needs, and advances in the science of learning and teaching.
At UNM, Abdallah’s focus has always been on improving the academic mission, a task he’s been dedicated to since 2011 when he was tapped to serve as provost. UNM, and more importantly, students have benefitted from his academic leadership including an increase in the graduation rates due to a variety of student success initiatives and recruitment, as well as faculty initiatives that have been an example of his dedication to the academic mission. The increased graduation rates nearly doubled during a five-year period and were among the highest increases among all institutional peers regionally and nationally in 2017.
In 2005 Abdallah was appointed chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department in the UNM School of Engineering (SOE), a position he held prior to becoming the provost and executive vice president of academic affairs in July 2011. In December 2016 he was appointed acting president by the UNM Board of Regents. He returned to his position as provost and executive vice president of academic affairs on March 1, 2018 upon the appointment of President Garnett S. Stokes.
“In the short time I have had the privilege to work with Provost Abdallah, I have found him to be a valuable and deeply insightful colleague with a deep appreciation for the important role of a public research institution,” said Stokes. “He is a talented educator, researcher and administrator, who has built a well-deserved reputation for an unwavering commitment to student success. His innovative contributions to the academic mission of UNM have created a long-lasting impact that will be felt for years to come. I wish him, and his family, the very best.”
Abdallah, who still conducts research and teaches courses in the general area of systems theory with a focus on control and communications systems, began his career at UNM in 1988 as an assistant professor in the ECE department at the UNM SOE. He was promoted to associate professor in 1994 but left that position in 2000 for a similar position at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He returned to UNM as associate chair in the ECE department and director of ECE graduate programs in 2001.
Abdallah has received several awards during his UNM tenure including the SOE’s Senior Research Excellence Award (2004) and was the first recipient of the ECE department’s Lawton-Ellis Award for combined excellence in teaching, research and student/community involvement. He is a senior member of IEEE and a recipient of the IEEE Millennium Medal. He has published eight books as co-editor and or co-author, has more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and has generated more than $8 million in external funding.
“Dr. Abdallah has a proven track record as an administrator, scholar and researcher, along with experience collaborating with industry, government and community partners,” said Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson. “As a Tech alumnus who has remained engaged with the Institute, he brings a unique perspective. We’re looking forward to working with him to enhance Georgia Tech’s basic and applied research and maximize economic impact.”
Abdallah’s connections to his alma mater are many including his wife, Catherine Cooper, who is a logistics expert with a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech. Additionally, their twin sons, Carter and Calvin, are incoming first-year Georgia Tech students. Abdallah also serves on Georgia Tech’s ECE Advisory Board.
Abdallah will begin his work at Georgia Tech later this summer.