On the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), there is continuous movement in all forms of the word: students scurrying to class, researchers' work taking the university to new heights and Nasser Paydar, the university's new chancellor, moving on his ideas for the university.
"Nasser is an outstanding academic and an energetic, able leader who has a deep understanding of IU's goals and mission," said Michael McRobbie, president of Indiana University. "As executive vice chancellor for the past three years, Nasser has shown a tremendous ability to bring disparate groups together to create a strategic vision for the IUPUI campus that will allow for a seamless transition."
In an interview with the Recorder, Paydar said his vision for IUPUI is just that: focus on the students and their collegiate experience, and reach back into the community.
His first priority as a chancellor is student success. For Paydar, that means affordability, students graduating from their respective programs and a diverse mix of learners on campus.
"You can say we have been successful at educating people born to wealth. The chances of you getting a degree are 90 percent. Educating that bottom part is what we need to get this country prosperous again," said Paydar. "Unfortunately, (the bottom) is where minorities are. I want to increase the number of Black students significantly in the next five years."
Faculty and staff support is important to Paydar as well. He wants to ensure the proper resources to continue cutting-edge advancements in all areas of study on campus.
Paydar wants to focus on community engagement, too. He wants to capture youth's attention early by planting seeds of collegiate aspirations. Given the university's dwelling in the heart of Indianapolis, he wants to maximize collaborations with businesses and organizations and help Hoosier job woes by providing well-educated students prepared for the workforce.
Paydar also wants to create a welcoming environment for all.
"When you come to work, you need to feel like your organization values your work," said Paydar. "That also means we want to have the community come to campus more. For talks, events and activities here. There's actually a title for that now — vice chancellor for community engagement."
As IUPUI's chancellor for the past five months, Paydar has hit the ground running on his self-proclaimed "three-bucket plan." You can see his commitment by his presence on Twitter and regular, casual lunch meetings with campus organizations.
IUPUI is at a special time in its history and development, Paydar said, citing the growth of the campus, accolades it's received for innovative academic and community engagement programs, and its profile as a leading urban campus.
When Paydar came to IUPUI in 1985, he said the university served as the area's community college. The majority of students were established adults. In that same period, legislation deemed Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana the state's community college. IUPUI then began raising its standards and catering to an overlooked demographic of students.
"This fall, 98 percent of our incoming freshmen students are teenagers," said Paydar. "We have a spectrum of disciplines I'm really proud of. People are conscious of the need for more education."
IUPUI serves more than 30,000 students, each studying in one or more of the school's 17 academic programs. The majority of students are born and raised Hoosiers, and a large number stay in Indiana once they graduate.
Paydar has had a front-row seat to IUPUI's growth and has plans to expand the university even further. For example, he can see a new 700-bed residence hall being constructed from his office located in a brand new building.
Paydar, IUPUI's fifth chancellor, has been an IU faculty member for nearly 30 years and has held various administrative and executive leadership positions since he joined IUPUI in 1985 as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He had been executive vice chancellor since 2012; he served as vice chancellor and dean of Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus from 2004 to 2007 and as chancellor at IU East in Richmond from 2007 to 2012. He then came back to IUPUI as the executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer before being named chancellor in June 2015.
"Chancellor Paydar is a very solid individual. He's a talented and energetic person — he's a creative person. I always think energy and creativity are essential qualities for a position like his. You either bring them with you or you don't, and he has both in abundance," said John Applegate, executive vice president for university academic affairs at Indiana University. "He's absolutely dedicated to IUPUI."
Paydar received his undergraduate degree, master's and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Syracuse University in 1979, 1981 and 1985, respectively.
"My father told me, 'you've got to go to the U.S. to get an education. Even though I may not see you again in my life, you've got to do that,"' said Paydar. "So I came to this country from Iran in 1975 to get an education."
Paydar is using his experiences and deep belief in the power of education to take IUPUI to new heights.
For more information, visit IUPUI.edu.
"When you come to work, you need to feel like your organization values your work."
Nasser Paydar, chancellor Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis