In what is considered a surprise announcement, the board of trustees of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities voted March 2, to name Indian-American Devinder Malhotra, a Delhi University graduate, as Chancellor for a three-year term, rejecting three other candidates for the second time.
Malhotra holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s from the University of Delhi and a doctorate from Kansas State University. He has also completed the Management Development Program of the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education.
According to a press release from the university, the board dismissed consideration of three other applicants, to put Malhotra back in the office that he has been serving in the capacity of interim chancellor while the search was on.
The board said the move comes after a search committee forwarded the names of three finalists for consideration, “and the board concluded that none of the three were the right individual to serve as chancellor for Minnesota State.” Malhotra is to be offered a three year contract to serve in the role of chancellor.
“Malhotra has accomplished much during his service as interim chancellor,” Michael Vekich, chair of the board of trustees is quoted saying in the press release. “He has deepened the relationship between Minnesota State and both the bargaining units and student associations. He has encouraged open communication between the Board and our presidents. He has brought a laser focus to student success, and he has reaffirmed our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by fostering a culture in which we can have difficult conversations about critical issues,” Vekich added.
Malhotra has been serving as interim chancellor since August, 2017 after the retirement of Steven Rosenstone, who served as chancellor from 2011 to 2017. Malhotra was appointed to this role in February, 2017 after the BOT concluded at that time that a nationwide search for a permanent chancellor had not identified the right individual to serve in this role.
The next phase of the search began in September, 2017, and culminated with the March 2, special meeting of the BOT to consider three additional finalists, and again it concluded that none of the finalists was the right individual to serve in the position.
“The Board has high aspirations for the work the chancellor must accomplish if we are to respond to an ever-changing higher education and workplace landscape,” said Vekich. “This includes maintaining a focus on student success, completing the priorities this board has set, most notably implementation of Charting the Future; and moving forward on ways to ensure the long term financial sustainability of our colleges and universities.”
Before he became interim chancellor, Malhotra had served in leadership positions at other Minnesota State universities including Metropolitan State University as interim president from 2014 to 2016, and at St. Cloud State University as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs from 2009 to 2014.
During his career, Malhotra also served as the dean of the college of Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern Maine from 2005 to 2009 and as associate dean of the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Akron. He also served as a tenured professor of economics on the faculty of the University of Southern Maine and the University of Akron.
The Minnesota Star Tribune called the BOT decision “a surprise move” noting it was the second year that it had bypassed suggestions of the search committee.
Malhotra, 70, said he was “humbled and honored” to accept the job, the Star Tribune reported. “Higher education is facing some strong headwinds, but at the same time, rethinking our profession is also a very exciting opportunity,” he is quoted saying.
Faculty leaders are quoted in the Star Tribune praising Malhotra for his leadership of the 375,000 strong student population and 54 campuses at Minnesota State. Jim Grabowska, president of the Inter Faculty Organization is quoted in the Star Tribune, saying “Devinder is who we need in that leadership role at this point,” and Kevin Lindstrom, president of the Minnesota State College Faculty, said the trustees “did the right thing,” and that, “Chancellor Malhotra has done wonders to build an environment of trust in the system.”
“I’m having a lot of fun. …I would frankly admit to you I failed retirement very badly. So I am a little bit hesitant in trying it again,” Malhotra quipped in a quote in the Star Tribune, referencing his 2016 retirement.