March 7, 2011
Since 2007, Mrinalini (Meena) C. Rao has served the University of Illinois with great distinction as Vice President for Academic Affairs, the chief academic officer of the University. She has been instrumental in fostering cross campus dialog among the three campuses in a number of ventures. These range from diversity to setting academic policies for research integrity and conflict of commitment and interest. A scholar of physiology and biophysics, Dr. Rao maintained an active research program in epithelial cell and molecular physiology over the last dozen years while serving in senior administrative roles, first on the Chicago campus and then in University Administration.
Dr. Rao has decided to focus her efforts fully on research and teaching in her role as a Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and Department of Medicine, and a Fellow of the Honors College at UIC. Meena will continue to serve as VP-Academic Affairs until a successor is in place, which I expect will be in August. A search committee will be formed soon.
The Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs is multi-faceted, and Meena’s experience, professionalism, and personal dedication have helped the office and the University respond to the many challenges we have faced in recent years. Reporting to the president and working with campus chancellors and provosts, Meena and her staff have helped define and shape strategic academic and budgetary priorities and policies for the University. They have supported academic initiatives that help to differentiate the University of Illinois, including the University of Illinois Press, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA), University-Wide Student Programs, University Outreach and Public Services. She has been a key University liaison to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, a member of the Diversifying of Faculty of Illinois Board, and as VPAA has provided critical support for the work of the Board of Trustees Committee on Academic and Student Affairs.
In addition to her support of faculty issues and University operations, a notable contribution of Meena’s tenure as VPAA has been her dedication to actualize diversity as a fundamental strength of the University of Illinois and initiate a continuing inter-campus dialog with key scholars and practitioners. These efforts have led to the establishment of a biannual inter-campus diversity summit series, a biannual President’s Travel Award for Research in Diversity, and an improved contextualization of diversity issues for the Board of Trustees through regular presentations and briefing documents.
Prior to joining the University Administration, Dr. Rao served the UIC campus as Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs from 2002 to 2007 and as Associate Dean of the Graduate College from 1999 to 2002. A mentor to students, faculty, and administrative colleagues, Meena’s successful collaborations across our three campuses has been a hallmark of her administrative service to the University of Illinois, and she has been an important and valued colleague to me.
In another administrative change announced previously, after three years of distinguished service as Vice President of the Office for Technology and Economic Development (now the Office of the Vice President for Research), Avijit Ghosh has moved into the role of Special Assistant to the President effective March 1.
Reporting directly to the president and working closely with senior administrators and other stakeholders, Dr. Ghosh will help to develop and implement strategies for reducing costs and improving the effectiveness of University-wide administrative services. In particular, Avijit will continue to serve as the coordinator of implementation efforts on behalf of the Administrative Review and Restructuring (ARR) steering committee, a role he has filled since last July. He will work closely with the implementation teams appointed by the steering committee, as well as campus-based groups, in order to provide a single point of coordination for the overall implementation effort. With more than $5 million in savings realized through ARR reforms already this year and another $5 million anticipated by the end of this fiscal year, Avijit has demonstrated exceptional leadership in improving and streamlining our business processes.
This is an important role that President Emeritus Stan Ikenberry temporarily performed at my request until he returned to the faculty. As a member of the president’s cabinet and policy council, Avijit will contribute to the discussions of ARR implementation groups and lead other projects, especially initiatives facilitating the creation of appropriate consultative processes to prioritize projects, budgets and investments for administrative functions.
Prior to serving as VP-Technology and Economic Development, Avijit was the Dean and a Professor in the College of Business on the Urbana campus from 2001 to 2008. I am pleased that Dr. Ghosh will continue to be a part of our senior leadership team. He will serve full-time as special assistant until next August 15, after which he will divide his time equally between this role and as a faculty member in the College of Business at Urbana.
Please join me in thanking Meena Rao and Avijit Ghosh for their exceptional service to the University administration and in wishing them future success.
Michael J. Hogan