Chemists often work with formulas in the lab, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Indiana University Northwest invited IUPUI Professor of Chemistry David J. Malik, Ph.D., to help the campus devise its own formula for even greater success.
As the new Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at IU Northwest, Malik, who previously served as Associate Executive Vice President for Indiana University, becomes the second consecutive chemistry professor to take charge of the academic division at IU’s Northwest Indiana regional campus.
“I would say, if there was a connection to chemistry, it would be that in chemistry you solve problems. You deal with quantitative problem solving. But that would apply to physicists and others, as well,” said Malik, who took over as VCAA at the start of the spring semester. He succeeded Kwesi Aggrey, who departed the university in December to accept the position of provost at North Carolina Central University.
Malik joined IUPUI’s Department of Chemistry faculty in 1980 and served as department chair from 1990 until 2000. In many respects, he said, the VCAA role mirrors the challenges and responsibilities he encountered as department head, albeit on a much larger scale. Malik was appointed to serve in the EVP Office by IU Executive Vice President Charles R. Bantz in 2006.
“As a chair, you do a lot of problem solving, because you have to think about budgets,” Malik said. “You have to think about enrollment trends and the cost of new, innovative programs. In this (VCAA) job, it’s back to that again. You deal with budgets, new program development, faculty-affairs issues, and coursework issues.”
Malik said his work as associate executive vice president also prepared him for his IU Northwest post by giving him a broader understanding of IU’s regional campuses, and of the bureaucratic processes by which new academic programs are approved by the university and by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE).
“I was dealing with statewide faculty-affairs issues, primarily in promotion and tenure, and interactions with ICHE and the Board of Trustees,” he said. “Our (EVP) office is responsible for organizing proposals to the board and to the commission that emanate from the faculty. Whether they’re new degree programs or new departments, or changes in structure, they all came through the executive vice president’s office.”
Malik said he enjoyed his work in the EVP Office and wasn’t looking to make a change when he learned of Aggrey’s intent to step down as VCAA at IU Northwest. After being approached about the position by a Northwest faculty member, the California State University (B.S. Chemistry ’68, M.S. Applied Mathematics ’69, Hayward campus) and University of California (Ph.D. Physical Chemistry ’76, San Diego campus) alumnus submitted his CV for consideration. Malik is also the director of the Faculty Colloquium for Excellence in Teaching (FACET), which has many Northwest faculty as members, so he was already familiar with some of the outstanding work being done at IU’s Gary campus.
“I was really impressed with all of the enthusiasm and excitement for what the future holds here,” Malik said. “Interviewing here was really a positive, stirring experience. It seemed that everybody was highly motivated.
“It’s interesting to see that a lot of the practices, the history, and the ways of doing things here are all on the table for re-evaluation, with people saying ‘Can we do things better?’” the vice chancellor continued. “Some things here are really great and don’t need to be changed. But this is an opportunity to change some other things. A lot of faculty members have told me that they’re looking for an opportunity to sort of redefine the campus.”
Malik and his family continue to reside in Indianapolis, and he divides his time between Lake and Marion Counties, commuting on some days and staying in Northwest Indiana on others. Malik continues to lead FACET, an organization that now consists of approximately 500 award-winning faculty, an elite group for which outstanding members are selected annually from the nearly 5,000 faculty members in the IU system.
Like most university administrators these days, Malik finds himself coping with budget concerns amidst a troubling recession, and he conceded that funding is a significant factor when contemplating new programs or other initiatives. But he noted that hard economic times tend to buff up the luster of higher education. One of his goals as VCAA, Malik said, is to help position IU Northwest to take maximum advantage of the expected upswing in college enrollment, evidence of which has already been seen in IU Northwest’s most recent fall and spring enrollments.
“Education is usually counter-cyclical in an economic sense,” he explained. “When times get hard, people think about going back for more training, or staying in school to get a degree, or maybe even changing fields.
“When people apply to more than one campus, they often, under states of financial stress, choose the one that is close to home, where they feel more secure about making ends meet,” he continued. “What you need to do is make that decision easier for them.”
Malik praised the many excellent academic programs IU Northwest offers in its College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health and Human Services, School of Education, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, School of Business and Economics, Division of Labor Studies, and Division of Continuing Studies. One of his stated goals is to help facilitate more interdisciplinary offerings between academic units and programs, something Malik believes will give the university an edge with prospective students.
“It’s often the interdisciplinary areas that are the most interesting for students, because they position you (in fields) where there aren’t a lot of people,” Malik explained. “What IU Northwest needs is a distinctiveness that makes this the place to go. With three quarters of a million people in the vicinity, that’s a large pool to draw from.”
Ultimately, Malik said, what is good for IU Northwest will be good for the Northwest Indiana region, because the local economy’s strength will rise along with the education level of its workforce.
“We know that when people come to the regional campuses, the likelihood of them staying and making the economic base of the region stronger is great,” he said. “Even though there are probably opportunities to go elsewhere, a lot of times people like being near their families and they feel comfortable about it. What we can do is make it easy for them to contribute to the economic foundation of the region.”
Malik, who did his post-doctoral work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has enjoyed an exceptional academic career. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Chemical Society Service Award, P.A. Mack Charter Fellow, Indiana University President's Award, Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and a Teaching Excellence Award from the University of California at San Diego, where he held a Visiting Assistant Professorship after earning his Ph.D. Malik was also a Founding Faculty member of IUPUI’s University College in 1997.