Getting to know acting President Abraham

Marc Ramirez, News editor

Thursday afternoon, Western Illinois University’s Acting President Martin Abraham visited the Western Courier office to meet with editors and answer questions and get to know the student production staff.

Abraham attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he received his Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1982 and the University of Delaware where we earned his Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering. Before being hired at Western, he has worked at Youngstown State University where he was a Founding Dean for the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost and Academic Vice President; and Professor of Civil/Environmental and Chemical Engineering with tenure. He was employed at Youngstown for 12 years between 2007 and 2019. He also worked for the University of Toledo as a Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering with tenure, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies and the College of Engineering and Dean of the Graduate School. He served at the University of Toledo for eight years from 1996-2004.

Abraham kicked off his career in education at the University of Tulsa as an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1987 and became an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering with tenure in 1992. He left Tulsa for Toledo in 1996 after nine years at the institution.

At the beginning of this academic year, Abraham was hired at Western as a Professor of Engineering and Provost and Academic Vice President through the Provost Search Committee, which took place in the spring semester of 2019. However, with the resignation of past President Jack Thomas, Abraham was selected Acting President by the Board of Trustees. When asked why he chose to pursue a career at Western he responded that his background at past institutions that were Regional Comprehensive Universities.

“I saw a university that was similar to the universities that I had experience at and at least when I first looked at the position, one of the things that I thought I knew about Western was a history of excellence,” Abraham said. “As I researched it, that history clearly came out, it has been a well thought of institution for a long time and it still is in terms of ranking and in terms of reputation.”

He explains that one of the attractions of moving to Western was the chance to move up in terms of equality of the students that he’d be working with and the opportunity to look and new issues and challenges and continue to be at a regional comprehensive university. “It created a level of excitement for me,” he added.

After looking at some of the challenges the institution was facing, he found that they were challenges that he had potential answers and solutions for.

When asked if becoming the President of Western was something he was comfortable doing and ready for, Abraham answered that it entirely a decision up to the Board of Trustees.

“I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been doing for the last two months,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to meet the students, being able to participate with faculty and staff, being out and engaged and representing the university within the community. I would be happy to listen if the board were to come forward and offer me the opportunity.”

When asked what he can bring to the table to help overcome challenges that we still face as students and an institution, he said that he would start by bringing the things he’s learned from previous institutions like Youngstown State and try to implement and examine those factors here at Western.

“That background and that experience, fixing an enrollment problems something I bring to the table,” he said. “Doesn’t mean we can do what we did in Youngstown. But I have experience looking at some of these problems, and I can look at the challenges we have here and take some of the solutions that worked there and try and see if they can work here.”

In addition to this Acting President Abraham has had experience working with retention issues at his past institution. An issue that he was able to help improve by increasing the retention rate from 69 percent to 74 percent over his time in that leadership role.

He also added that in order for us as students to flourish we should be open, communicate, voice concerns and voice appraisals.

“Those are really the critical pieces,” he added. “You really need to be present and vocal so that we know when we are succeeding and so that we know when we are failing. If we know those two things, we can continue to do more of the things that are creating success and correct in places where we’re failing, and that will make us better.”