SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Leading one of Texas’ largest universities through the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Bernard Arulanandam believes he is the right person for the task to lead Marshall University out of it and beyond.
Arulanandam, the vice president for research, economic development, and knowledge enterprise, and the Jane and Roland Blumberg Professor of Biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) spoke to Marshall faculty, staff and community members Thursday at the South Charleston campus. He is one of five finalists to replace outgoing President Jerome Gilbert in 2022.
His portfolio is highlighted by being an established immunologist and co-leading the Public Health Task Force for the COVID response and recovery efforts at UTSA, an institution with more than 34,000 students.
As an immunologist, Arulanandam is focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the induction of immune responses against infectious diseases, Marshall’s presidential search page stated. He has served as the director of the South Texas Center of Emerging Infectious Diseases and is currently an administrator for the Vaccine Development Center of San Antonio.
“I have led by coming up with protocols and strategies that we can implement to keep students safe,” Arulanandam said to MetroNews of COVID-19 response. “And then allow for research operations and other pieces of the institution to slowly open up again as safety became prominent with the rollout of vaccines.”
While speaking and answering questions from stakeholders on Thursday, Arulanandam highlighted the need for Marshall to strengthen both regional and international partnerships. He said he believes all institutions should have strategic partners abroad to diversify the brand of the university and bring visibility. He gave an example of UTSA working with an institution in Germany of similar size and programs, that has led to joint publications and research programs.
Regionally and locally, Arulanandam said he envisions Marshall becoming more engaged in K-12 education. He said it’s important for an institution of Marshall’s weight to engage students early in the developmental process.
“We need to get students to come and see what research labs are, see our music halls and all of those things we have on campus primarily for our students we need to push further down. Get our K-12 kids excited about being at Marshall,” he said.
Arulanandam admitted that COVID-19 has flipped higher education upside down, not only at Marshall but around the country with what is traditional learning. He said Marshall should embrace the art of the possibility and look ahead to the future for jobs that have even yet to be imagined.
“Our students need to be adaptive to a changing world, changing mindset,” Arulanandam said.
“West Virginia is going through a transformation in terms of industries, analytics, healthcare, IT, and the life sciences. Those are the portfolios that Marshall has. I see attraction in aligning those portfolios for economic development and job creation.”
Arulanandam serves as the councilor for the Oak Ridge Association of Universities, a member of the Board of Directors for Biomed SA, chairman of the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute Governance Board and advises on the National Commission on Innovation & Competitiveness Frontiers.
Honors and awards Dr. Arulanandam has received include: election as a fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2014; election as a fellow to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2017; and most recently, induction as a fellow to the National Academy of Inventors in 2019, Marshall’s presidential search page stated.
Arulanandam obtained a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology at the Medical College of Ohio and received a postdoctoral fellowship at the Albany Medical College in New York, and an executive M.B.A. at The University of Texas at San Antonio.
“At the end of the day, this institution serves the community. As a president, my first task would be to listen to a broad idea of stakeholders, to see what they need from the president in order to move the needle for Marshall,” he stated about his leadership style.
Arulanandam is scheduled to visit the Huntington campus Thursday afternoon and Friday. He’s the fourth of five finalists to visit the Mountain State.
Dr. Bret Danilowicz, the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Atlantic University is scheduled to visit on Monday and Tuesday.
The Board of Governors is expected to make its final selection at its regularly scheduled Oct. 28 meeting.