Rutgers University

Rutgers Taps Longtime Engineer and Administrator to Lead New Brunswick Campus

Debasish “Deba” Dutta is scheduled to head Rutgers University's New Brunswick campus come July. Credits: Rutgers University

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Academic excellence, diversity and accessibility.

Those three values will guide the incoming chancellor of Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus, Debasish “Deba” Dutta, he said today, April 6.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi announced the appointment of Dutta—an engineer and college administrator who most recently worked for Purdue University—during the Board of Governors meeting in Winants Hall.

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“He is, in my opinion, the right leader to build and help us grow in the progress we’re making,” Barchi said of Dutta. “He is an inspiring and collaborative leader. I think he’s going to be a phenomenal addition to our leadership team here.”

Dutta’s first day of work at Rutgers is scheduled for July 1. He will be in charge of three “major” campuses comprising more than 50,000 students, 4,000 faculty members, 12 schools, nine research centers, four administrative departments, the Honors College, the Douglass Residential College and the Zimmerli Art Museum, according to the university.

He’ll take the reins from Richard Edwards, who has served as New Brunswick’s chancellor since 2014. Edwards plans to rejoin the faculty upon stepping down.

After being introduced to applause by Barchi, Dutta took to the podium to establish a rough vision of his priorities in his new role.

“The values of Rutgers align very well with my personal values,” he said, citing academic excellence, diversity and the school’s status as a land-grant university.

The latter is a designation given to colleges that receive public land and, consequently, run various agricultural and science-based programs, aiming to make classes affordable and open to a wide array of people. Dutta praised that aspect of Rutgers, adding that affordability and accessibility are among the most important subjects going forward.

With the rise of science, technology, engineering and math, Dutta pledged his support for the arts and the humanities in New Brunswick.

Dutta said he plans to help professors, especially younger ones who are in line to shape Rutgers in the future, improve their skills. He also intends to focus on providing students with the best opportunities to succeed.

One of his most passionately made points centered on the need to increase diversity in higher education.

“The country and its global competitiveness is going to be significantly hinging on the participation of the population that today, I believe, is not engaged in higher education,” Dutta said. “This is deeply personal to me.”

He highlighted “the good work that already has been done” in promoting diversity at Rutgers. But he also vowed to take that even further.

Dutta has had a long and celebrated career, with credentials that Barchi described as “impeccable.” The president also touted Dutta’s experience at three Big Ten schools.

Dutta is currently Purdue’s chief academic and diversity officer. He has helped raise the four-year graduation rate, launch new liberal arts programs, recruit the school’s “most diverse and academically strong” freshman class and boost funding for research, among other things.

Previously, he has served as associate provost and dean of the graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the acting director of a division at the National Science Foundation and a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan.

He has worked in the field since 1989, according to Rutgers.

Dutta also belongs to prestigious science and engineering associations.

Rutgers officials vetted roughly 100 candidates for the position before narrowing the list down to 10, Barchi said. Eventually, they conducted intensive interviews with three blue-chip contenders, ultimately choosing Dutta.

For his part, Dutta said he is excited to leave Indiana for New Jersey.

“I’ve been in the cornfields too long,” he said, eliciting laughter from the Board of Governors.

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