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If you haven’t heard about Arcadia’s new president, Dr. Ajay Nair, just open your email— I guarantee you’ll find his name among the Canvas notifications. Okay, I’m exaggerating (kind of), but seriously— Dr. Nair, a new president, and an inauguration— it’s a big deal. Last week, I found out why.
President Nair took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a couple of questions I had about the inauguration, how he was feeling about his new position, and the changes the Arcadia community can expect to see in the next few years. I also wanted to gain deeper understanding of his commitment to activism, civility, and student voice.
Dr. Nair explained why this inauguration is so much more than a ceremony. For him, it’s a way for community members, both local and global, to celebrate Arcadia while addressing the feats we as a community hope to take on. According to President Nair, the theme of the event— “Reimagining Our Higher Education Community: From Inclusion to Justice”— provides a way to “...expose key issues facing higher education and talk about how we as a community plan to lead in higher education.”
Not long into our discussion, I brought up a question that I had been itching to ask since I received word that I’d be conducting the interview. As most of us remember, President Nair had a pretty eventful first day— meeting faculty, becoming acquainted with campus, and, oh, witnessing a student-led rally to protest faculty dismissals and advocate for transparency.
President Nair stood among the crowd of students, faculty, and community members, listening. Many students recognized him and were moved by his decision to be a part of the conversation— so much so, numerous protesters embraced Dr. Nair and thanked him for participating. When I asked President Nair what he was thinking that day, he recalled the memory with pride:
It made me proud to know that this is a community that cares about substantive issues. A community that is capable of and willing to organize around issues that it cares about. I think this is a lost art in higher education in some ways, and I was particularly pleased to see the number of students engaged. That level of activism is what positively transforms communities. I went into that space to learn and understand, thinking that there may be some animosity against me as an administrator— but that wasn’t the case at all. This was a community with a healthy level of anger that could also be loving, simultaneously. That’s really unusual. It almost brought tears to my eyes.”
I don’t want to overstate how impressed I was by his ideas because I don’t have to. I am confident that we will all watch them come to fruition and they will speak for themselves. All I can say is, having a conversation with him made me feel equally proud and hopeful. President Nair is the real deal. I’m proud to attend a university that sees the need for a leader of this caliber of forward thinking.
Hearing his personal ideals and vision for Arcadia reminded me of why I came here and made me want to get involved in the future of this institution. According to President Nair, it will be nothing short of extraordinary.