(2009-2019) A graduate of chemical engineering from UBC and an expert in petroleum waste management, Dr. Chakma became Western's 10th President & Vice-Chancellor in July 2009 after serving eight years at the University of Waterloo as Vice-President, Academic & Provost. Under Chakma's leadership, Western aspired to raise its expectations beyond its brand as "Canada's best student experience at a research-intensive university" to becoming a more global university with higher recognition for its research and teaching on the world stage.
For example, upon Chakma's arrival at Western less than 3 per cent of the University’s incoming undergraduate class came from outside Canada, and a similarly small percentage came from provinces other than Ontario. By the 2018-19 academic year, 15 per cent of Western’s first-year students were arriving on campus from more than 120 countries, and 1-in-10 hailed from Canadian locales outside Ontario. During the same period, the University witnessed an ever-increasing number of domestic students choosing to enrich their education by enrolling at Western and by participating in some of the 170 study-abroad programs offered through institutional partnerships in 40 countries.
Beyond his leadership role at Western, Chakma served as Chair of the Council of the Association of Commonwealth Universities as well as a member of the Science, Technology & Innovation Council of Canada. He also served as Chair of the World University Service of Canada and was the inaugural Chair of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. In 2011, he was asked by federal ministers Jim Flaherty, Ed Fast and Ted Menzies to Chair an Expert Advisory Panel to study the challenges and opportunities facing Canada in the realm of international education, which ultimately led to the development of Canada’s successful international education strategy.
Among other achievements, in 2014 Chakma became the first Canadian university president to receive the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2016, he played an instrumental role in securing a $66-million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund – Western’s largest-ever research grant – strengthening the University’s position among the world’s top centres for neuroscience. And in October 2018, he joined hundreds of alumni, faculty, staff, students, friends and volunteers in Conron Hall to celebrate the more than $805 million raised during the course of his presidency through the Be Extraordinary campaign. Leveraging the generosity of more than 49,000 donors, the Campaign generated $118 million for student awards, more than $102 million for campus infrastructure, and grew Western’s endowment from $265 million in 2009 to more than $785 million by 2019.