On Jan. 5, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted Dr. Teik C. Lim as NJIT’s ninth president. This decision comes almost a year after a national presidential search process was officially announced on March 2, 2021. As Lim’s son, famous vlogger Steven Lim proudly noted in a tweet, “Dr. Lim will be the first person of color to serve as NJIT’s president.”
President-elect Lim currently serves as the interim president of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he has served since 2017 as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, stepping up in 2020 to guide the university through the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership, the university has had increased graduation rates, been recognized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board with a Star Award for its outstanding response to COVID-19 and achieved the prestigious Texas Tier One designation for its research and academic prowess. Prior to that, Lim served the University of Cincinnati for 13 years, working his way up from Professor of Mechanical Engineering to Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. However, Lim’s story as a leader starts even earlier.
“I’m the first generation [of] my family to go to college, which mimics many of our students here,” said Lim, who immigrated from Malaysia. “I grew up with very limited means, and then I pursued a STEM degree that enabled me to move up in the socioeconomic ladder and build a better life for my family and children. Many of the students here at NJIT have stories that closely match mine.” The diverse student body was one of the many reasons that drew Lim to NJIT.
“NJIT is in a very vibrant, urban environment, and the quality of faculty and students, as well as the impact of the research and the creative work is just phenomenal. And then we also have the New Jersey Innovation Institute, so this campus is very innovative and entrepreneurial. All of these drew me to NIJT. When the Board of Trustees contacted me to be the finalist, I was ecstatic! This is great because in terms of the background, the features of the institution and then the geographical location, it’s a perfect match for me and my wife Gina.”
Some of Lim’s goals and priorities as president include helping students become the best version of themselves through holistic education, engaging external stakeholders like alumni and civic leaders and developing a sustainable business model so that tuition can remain affordable. Intercollegiate athletics are also very important to Lim because it bolsters school spirit and will help bring more publicity to NJIT. Finally, Lim wants to put even more emphasis on equity, inclusion and belonging to expand on the diversity that already exists at NJIT.
“I’m a strong believer that diversity is the hallmark of a successful institution,” said Lim. “I just look at how my wife and I are so different. We’re so diverse in terms of our process, but that brings richness to our relationship and how we tackle problems, especially when we were raising three kids.”
Having already met with Mayor Ras Baraka, Lim wants to continue to strengthen NJIT’s existing partnership with the city of Newark. His goal is to blur the boundary between the university and the city and develop mutually beneficial private public partnerships with local businesses.
“[Lim] wants to use the term ‘continuity’ to continue what’s been started here into the future. He’s very focused on students, student life and the faculty,” said Dr. Joel Bloom, who has served as NJIT’s president for the past 11 years and will step down on June 30, 2022. He was first introduced to Lim when the Board of Trustees asked Bloom to meet with the finalists in Newark, before any final decisions were made. “The first time I met him, I was very impressed. He’s very outgoing, uplifting and positive.”
Looking back, Bloom is proud of how NJIT grew and expanded over his tenure, both in terms of faculty quality and quantity and in terms of sheer campus size and facilities. “My priority was to grow the faculty, to expand the faculty and to do that in two ways: in absolute numbers and to make sure we were hiring faculty who had a lot of fingertip new knowledge to help us prepare students,” said Bloom. “I’m very happy to say we achieved that.” Under his leadership, NJIT also renovated and added new buildings, such as the Central King Building and the Wellness and Events Center. “For our students’ satisfaction in coming to campus here and for our faculty’s willingness to come here, staff too, we needed to improve the physical plant of this university.”
Additionally, even after Bloom’s term as president ends, he hopes to stay involved with some ongoing NJIT projects, notably the Build Back Better Regional Challenge and the Cairo branch campus. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge, which is a regional partnership focused on transforming the Port of New York and New Jersey, “may be one of the biggest things that NJIT has done in modern times” according to Bloom, while expanding to Egypt would open up new educational and cultural opportunities to NJIT. “If I’m going to stay involved in anything … those are things I would love to stay involved with.” He looks forward to seeing how the university will continue to grow under Lim’s leadership.
“I’m extremely optimistic about President-elect Lim’s tenure here at the university,” said Bloom. “I’m very happy that he is joining us as our president.” NJIT students and staff alike are excited to welcome Dr. Lim to the Highlander family!
Voice your opinions