x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ex-US Air Force veterans take the helm at Zayed University

Zayed University has appointed two new campus chiefs, and both men have spent more than 30 years in the US Air Force.

DUBAI // As Zayed University enters its 15th year its Abu Dhabi and Dubai campuses have new people at the top.

But they are not academics. Instead, the university has appointed campus chiefs with a more logistical background.

Mark Baker will head the Dubai campus, while in the capital Bob Beckel has taken over from retiring Zayed University veteran, Tom Cochran. Both have spent more than 30 years in the US Air Force.

Dr Larry Wilson, the provost, is convinced that "coming from careers focused on organisational leadership" means the new employees will have unique skills and a fresh eye. "Having people look at things from different ways is always good," he said.

Mr Baker, who headed air education and training in the US, said he has three key challenges in Dubai, where the campus is at capacity.

"First is utilising the space, we have to make better use of it." He will also try to foster better community relations, partly to raise funds for expansion, and help the university's effort to turn out more employable graduates.

"We must also focus more on the student environment and their well-being," he said.

"We take very young students and our charge is to help develop them in ways not only intellectual but social."

His predecessor, Dr Kenneth Wilson, remains at the university, focusing on institutional planning. "We haven't had someone doing this for many years and it's important for the institution and our accreditation," said Dr Wilson.

Mr Beckel, Mr Baker's Abu Dhabi counterpart, is not new to the UAE, having worked at UAE University in Al Ain in 2004 and in an advisory role at Zayed University in 2007. His campus, however, is still in its infancy, having opened just a year ago.

It, too, has capacity concerns, albeit less pressing than in Dubai. The 6,000-capacity campus already has 4,600 undergraduates. "In two more years, we will [also] be at capacity," said Mr Beckel.

For now he is focused on the remaining wrinkles at the new site, including IT issues and basic procedures such as booking out rooms.

"With more students and more faculty members, there are more people to manage and who want these spaces. It's taking up a considerable amount of my time right now."

mswan@thenational.ae