On Day 25: Q&A with Mung Chiang, Purdue’s new president
Purdue’s 13th president talks about following Mitch Daniels, what he’s learned in a six-month transition, campus housing, record enrollments and being the first family in Westwood with school-age kids
Cardboard boxes were still unpacked and taped shut, stacked in front of Hovde Hall office shelves recently cleared by Mitch Daniels, on Day 20 for Mung Chiang, no longer Purdue’s president in waiting.
Chiang was prefacing his comments since Jan. 1, his first as Purdue’s 13th president, by calling out the day. Day 9 on the first day of spring semester 2023 classes. Day 19 during a town hall he and new Provost Patrick Wolfe hosted for undergraduate students. Day 23 for his first University Senate meeting with faculty.
On Day 20, Chiang said the empty shelves and bare walls of Daniels’ digs for the past decade hadn’t presented themselves as a priority.
“Only the person who knows what’s in the box knows where things go,” Chiang said. “That’s on me.”
And he’s been busy. At a time marked by days still in the double-digits, there’s still plenty to unpack about the new president and where he sees Purdue going, even after a six-month transition phase that started in June, when trustees surprised the campus by announcing Daniels’ retirement and Chiang’s in-house selection.
During the town hall last week, undergrads in Pao Hall’s Mallett Theatre tried to get a feel for Chiang, wanting to know whether they could count on a tuition freeze in place since 2013 to stay in place (upshot: his plan was to keep that going as long as fiscally possible); pressing him for details about the first-day announcement of an “action committee” on student housing and mental health; whether he’d be at the Purdue-IU game at Mackey Arena on Feb. 25 (yes, after hustling back from a Purdue Global commencement the same day in California); and why he declined a similar top position at the University of South Carolina months before getting the Purdue offer (“This place,” Chiang said, “is second to none.”)
A day later – Day 20 – Chiang begged pardon for the stack of boxes and talked about what he’d learned during what he called a six-month listening tour, spent in the shadows of farewells for Daniels, who was sprinting toward the finish.
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