The eighth chancellor of the University of Michigan-Flint is an engineering educator and longtime academic administrator. Debasish Dutta served in senior administrative positions at several Big Ten institutions including Michigan, Illinois, Purdue and Rutgers, where he served as chancellor. He now lives in Flint with his wife, Fataneh Taghaboni-Dutta, Ph.D., who was a faculty member at UM-Flint for nearly 20 years. Chancellor Duttta is thrilled to return home to Michigan and seeks to make a positive contribution to the revitalization of Flint and Genesee County.
Tell us about your background and education.
I come from a very modest family background in India, close to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Our family finances were always tight. But education was a high priority for my parents and they went the extra mile to provide me and my siblings the best opportunities they could afford. I am an engineer by training, but have a strong appreciation and affinity for the arts and humanities. I got my undergraduate degree in India and my doctorate from Purdue University.
Tell us about your family and your ties to Flint.
I met my to-be wife when she was a doctoral student at Purdue University. I got a faculty position at UM-Ann Arbor and she wanted to be close so she accepted a faculty position at Ohio State. We married a year later and she left OSU and moved to Ann Arbor. The next year, she got a faculty position at UM-Flint. Since we had just settled in Ann Arbor, she declined my offer to live in Flint (and I would do the driving) and said she would give the daily commute a try. She liked UM-Flint and didn’t mind the commute (against traffic) and did that for 19 years. We had, and still have, many friends in Flint and consider Flint and Ann Arbor our hometowns. It’s great to return home and now live in Flint.
What are your responsibilities as Chancellor?
As chancellor, I am the chief executive officer of the campus and also serve as an executive officer of the University of Michigan.
“I am most interested in making UM-Flint a perpetual engine for economic growth and social well-being in the region.”
What is your vision for University of Michigan-Flint?
I want the UM-Flint to be known for excellent undergraduate education and high-quality graduate and professional programs in selected areas. I want us to collaborate with Mott Community College, Kettering and the business community to build entrepreneurship opportunities for our students and incentivize them to stay in the region after graduation.
What is your No. 1 priority?
I hope to turn around the enrollment decline and improve graduation rates across the board.
What are your thoughts about Flint’s future?
My wife and I were walking in the Downtown area recently and it was amazing to see how the place has picked up – new shops, restaurants and so much activity. It’s not the Flint we knew years ago. I think an exciting future lies ahead. And for UM-Flint to be located here gives us the opportunity to partner with the city and business community to drive innovation and growth.
How will UM-Flint continue its role as a community leader?
We will work to find stakeholder synergies to exploit for the good of the community. Limited resources and past events require us to be innovative and collaborative in our approach. Sometimes, we will have the opportunity to lead and other times, we will be a team player.
What are you looking forward to most about your new position?
I have spent my entire academic career (30 years) in public higher education and believe that American public universities set the goal standard across the world. I am most interested in making UM-Flint a perpetual engine for economic growth and social well-being in the region. I am excited and humbled to have the opportunity to play a role in the revitalization of this great American city.
Photos Provided by University of Michigan-Flint