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UNM provost a finalist for Georgia Tech post

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chaouki Abdallah has a long history at the University of New Mexico – a 30-year career that led him to the institution’s highest ranks.

Chaouki Abdallah

But the UNM provost and erstwhile president also has some significant history at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is competing for a high-level administrative position.

Abdallah earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, and his wife, Catherine Cooper, is an alumna. The couple’s sons are now Georgia Tech-bound, and the Abdallahs have family in the area.

Those connections are some of the reasons Abdallah said he’s pursuing the job of executive vice president for research at the Atlanta university. He is one of four finalists for the job.

But he said his interest goes beyond that.

“Equally important … it is one of the best engineering universities in the world,” Abdallah said in an emailed response to Journal questions. “And the EVPR position is a great match for my passion towards education/research and skills as academic administrator.”

U.S. News and World Report placed Georgia Tech seventh in its 2018 rankings of the country’s top public universities. Its engineering program, meanwhile, is tied for fourth among all public and private institutions.

Abdallah came to UNM in 1988 as an assistant professor. He chaired the electrical and computer engineering department from 2005 until 2011, when he took over as UNM’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

In 2017, regents installed him as president on an interim basis, a position he held for 14 months. Though lauded by regents, faculty members and others for his leadership, Abdallah consistently maintained he did not want the position permanently, and he moved back to the provost’s office with the March 1 arrival of new President Garnett Stokes.

Abdallah said he applied for the Georgia Tech position after being nominated.

The university last week identified him as one of four finalists for the job. According to its website, the position is part of the president’s Cabinet and “provides overall leadership for the research, economic development and related support units within the Institute,” including the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the Enterprise Innovation Institute and the Georgia Tech Research Corp.