Sabah Randhawa would follow in Husker football coach Mike Riley’s footsteps on his recent path from Oregon State to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln if named UNL chancellor.

As the provost and executive vice president at OSU since 2005, Randhawa is second in command at the school. He oversees the university’s budget as the chief operating officer and works with faculty and students as chief academic officer.

Randhawa, 62, was born in Pakistan and received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering there. He moved to Corvallis, Oregon, in 1978 to pursue a master’s in industrial engineering at OSU. Later he completed a doctorate in industrial engineering at Arizona State University.

His rise to teaching, and later administration, occurred when he learned to try new opportunities. He conquered his phobia of public speaking by practicing lectures in front of empty classrooms at night at ASU, Randhawa told the OSU alumni magazine in 2011.

[Read also: UNL administrator among 4 finalists for chancellor job]

In the last two years at OSU, Randhawa has helped more than double the number of international students and introduced OSU’s first massive open online course. His yearly salary is $399,660, according to an OSU Human Resources document.

A major strength of Randhawa is making himself available to students, said Cassie Huber, student association president.

When she was elected last April, Randhawa was one of the first administrators to reach out and set up a meeting.

“He’s a great people person,” said Huber, a senior. “He seems to be extremely in the loop and knowledgeable about what’s happening on our campus.”

Mike Bailey, a former OSU Faculty Senate president and current professor of computer science, said Randhawa continued the university’s long tradition of shared governance — the faculty and administration working together to make critical decisions.

Bailey said he met with Randhawa monthly as Faculty Senate president and talked about issues at the university.

“Those meetings have been tremendously constructive,” Bailey said.

He said Randhawa often attended Faculty Senate meetings and weekly executive committee meetings to hear their concerns.

“He goes out of his way to do that for us,” Bailey said.

In recent years Randhawa has sought top positions at universities across the country. In 2012, he applied to be president at University of Nevada-Reno and University of Vermont. He ultimately withdrew his name from consideration at Nevada but was one of five finalists for the Vermont job.

Last year he was one of four finalists for chancellor of Southern Illinois.

Randhawa’s secretary said he was unavailable for an interview Tuesday.

He will visit UNL from Feb. 21 through 23, with an open forum Feb. 23 at 10:30 a.m. at the Nebraska Union.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1068, alia.conley@owh.com

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