Eminent Indian-American academician Sunil Kumar has been appointed the next president of Massachusetts-based Tufts University, the first person of colour to occupy the position.
Kumar — Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University — was named the next president of Tufts University by the Board of Trustees, and will succeed President Anthony Monaco as Tufts’ 14th president on July 1, 2023, a statement from the university said on Thursday.
Kumar will be the first person of colour to occupy the position, the statement said.
Chair of the Board of Trustees and chair of the presidential search committee Peter Dolan said that Kumar brings to Tufts a "lifelong commitment to excellence in higher education and an exceptionally strong record as a leader, teacher, and colleague".
An “outstanding successor” to Monaco, Kumar’s commitment to research and learning, along with civic engagement and innovation, will help bolster Tufts’ mission to improve the world, Dolan said in the statement.
Indian-born Kumar, who is the son of a police officer, was previously dean of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Mangalore University and a master’s degree in computer science and automation from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
He received his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1996.
Kumar’s academic career commenced at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he taught for about 12 years and was later the Fred H Merrill Professor of Operations, Information and Technology.
Among Kumar’s priorities as president will be to develop ways “to ensure that we have even more resources to make Tufts as affordable as we possibly can", he said in the statement.
In a video posted on the Tufts website, Kumar said he would not have achieved this position in life if it were not for the full financial support he received when he was a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
"It would not have been possible for me as a son of a police officer to do anything else. Therefore, affordability is not a theoretical concept for me. I hope I represent an example of somebody who benefited from an institution opening its doors wide.
“And I would like even more people to have the same opportunity. Diversity and inclusion are indispensable values. It is not enough to talk the talk,” Kumar said, adding that it must be ensured that “we operationalise our values, sufficiently resource them so that we can execute on those values, and make sure that Tufts is indeed as inclusive as it can be.”
While interviewing with the presidential search committee, Kumar noticed that they “had a quiet confidence about them. They wanted Tufts to genuinely be the light on the hill, and somehow it felt like a perfect fit.”
The statement added that as president, Kumar said he will be focused on “how to make the Tufts experience available to more people, and how to make sure the experience is even better.”
It said he also wants to "increase the impact of research done at the university and ensure that it helps society even more 'in the here and now'. "
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