Amit Chakma (born c. 1959) is the 10th president of the University of Western Ontario.
Early life and education
Amit Chakma was born in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh where he had two brothers and two sisters from his mother, the second wife of his father. He had two half sisters from his fathers first wife. The Chakma people are an ethnic minority from the south east region of Bangladesh He received a scholarship from the Algerian government, along with nine other Bangladeshi students, to study natural gas processing engineering at Algerian Petroleum Institute in Algeria. In 1982, he graduated at the top of his class. He then moved to Canada and earned a Master of Applied Science and PhD in chemical engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1984 and 1987 respectively.
From 1988 until 1996, he taught chemical engineering at the University of Calgary. In 1996, he moved to the University of Regina as dean of engineering. He then served as Regina's vice president research from 1999 to 2001. During his time at the University of Regina, Chakma was named to Canada's Top 40 Under 40 list. He became vice president academic and provost at the University of Waterloo in 2001. His research interests are natural gas engineering and petroleum waste management.
On July 1, 2009, Chakma succeeded Paul Davenport as the University of Western Ontario's president. Having left the University of Waterloo, he has been noted for his service to both the university and the academic and business community of Kitchener-Waterloo.
While he was dean of engineering at the University of Regina in 1998, Chakma disregarded the recommendations of two search committees and hired Lana Nguyen as a professor of systems software engineering. Chakma said in his recommendation that "Nguyen's candidacy has been the fruit of our relentless proactive efforts in identifying potential women faculty members." Nguyen taught at Regina for two years before students and faculty, suspicious on account of Nguyen's apparent lack of knowledge, discovered that she had defrauded the University by claiming her ex-husband's doctoral degree as her own.
On March 27, 2015, Chakma came under criticism after reportedly earning $967,000 in salary and benefits in 2014, a year in which class sizes grew as Western administrators squeezed faculty, shrunk staffing and left empty vacated positions. Chakma's pay was a result of "double-dipping," allowing him to collect a second full salary for choosing to work during his paid administrative leave.
On March 30, 2015, Member of Provincial Parliament for London-West, Peggy Sattler asked in the Provincial Parliament question period whether the government would prohibit university boards of governors from negotiating similar double payouts to university presidents. Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi replied that a bill was passed last year allowing public sector executive compensation to be capped, but that Chakma's contract was signed before this legislation came into force.
On March 31, 2015, The London Free Press reported that Chakma had similarly cashed in an unused sabbatical in 2009 when he had left the University of Waterloo to become president of Western. A retired Waterloo faculty member told The Free Press that "There was quite a bit of alarm expressed by UW faculty over this, since if (a regular) faculty (member) resigns, they never receive anything for any unused sabbatical credit." Chakma had been paid more than $741,000 by Waterloo in 2009 and another $229,000 in pay and benefits after he had moved to Western that July.
Awards and recognition
On June 19, 2010 Chakma received an honorary doctor of engineering degree from the University of Waterloo. Chakma was recognized for playing a leading role in the establishment of a new health sciences campus in Kitchener and the relocation of the school of architecture to Cambridge during his tenure as vice-president at Waterloo.
In 2012, Chakma received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to Canadian post-secondary education.
In 2014 Chakma was awarded a Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award. The award citation described how Chakma used education as the basis for his remarkable journey as a young boy from a tribe in the hills of southeastern Bangladesh to becoming a university president in Canada.
In 2014 Chakma was the recipient of the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award. The award is meant to provide national recognition for a career of outstanding contributions to further international education at state and land-grant institutions. The award is named after Michael P. Malone, an American historian and 10th president of Montana State University.
In 2015 Chakma received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Engineering Alumni group at the University of British Columbia.