SUNY Chairman and Chancellor Announce Appointment of Dr. Tod A. Laursen as Provost

May 7, 2018

Albany – State University of New York Chairman of the Board H. Carl McCall and SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson announced today the appointment of Dr. Tod A. Laursen as senior vice chancellor and provost, following an extensive international search.

"Dr. Laursen brings with him a worldly experience that will bode well as we work to build on SUNY’s academic mission," said Chairman McCall. "He believes strongly, as we all do, in the positive role public higher education plays in providing new thinking and spearheading discoveries that solve for society’s challenges, and fostering civic-minded students who earn a degree ready to work and contribute to the communities in which they live. I look forward to our work together."

"SUNY continues to draw exceptional candidates to our system with strong credentials, and Dr. Laursen is the kind of leader that understands the importance of individualized education in preparing our students to find their passion and lead rewarding and productive lives," said Chancellor Johnson. "On a personal note, I worked with Dr. Laursen for eight years at Duke University. I am pleased SUNY’s Board of Trustees sees the same attributes in Tod that I do – a thoughtful and talented educator that is committed to excellence and innovation and a strong supporter of faculty and shared governance with a focus on student success. 

"Our special thanks to Dr. Grace Wang, who served as interim provost since last September. She is diligent and resourceful, leading with such enthusiasm. We look forward to her continuing her work as senior vice chancellor for research and economic development," Chancellor Johnson added.

"I couldn’t be more thrilled to be named to this role and to be joining the team Chancellor Johnson is building. My own higher education journey began in a public institution, in the State of Oregon, and it shaped my life and future," said Dr. Laursen. "The vision SUNY has for serving the State of New York and our young people resonates with me deeply. For the past eight years I have led an emerging public institution in Abu Dhabi, and have always been attracted to roles in higher education, like this one, where there is important work to be done and the opportunity for creativity to make a real difference. I am very grateful to all those involved with the SUNY process who saw how I could contribute to this effort, and I am eager to get started."

Richard Brodhead, President emeritus, Duke University, said: "Tod Laursen is a classic servant leader. He is terrifically smart, but with Tod, it’s always about the mission, never about himself. With his wide knowledge of higher education, keen analytical powers, and sheer human decency, Tod will help SUNY make wise choices in a spirit of positiveness and common purpose."

Robert L. Clark, University of Rochester Provost and Senior Vice President for Research, former Senior Associate Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University: "In many ways Tod and I grew up together during our careers in higher education, so I know well his abilities as an administrator and as an engineering scholar. I was thrilled to learn he will be joining Kristina at SUNY. Their partnership will be a tremendous benefit to the university system as it builds on innovative academic curriculums, and broadens its reach in interdisciplinary and international programs."

Dr. Richard K. Miller, President and Professor, Olin College of Engineering, said: "Dr. Tod Laursen is a gifted senior academic leader with unusual vision and experience in building comprehensive new academic programs in challenging environments. His high standards for quality and global impact together with his extraordinary diplomatic skills and concern for students provide a solid foundation for this critical senior leadership role within SUNY. I had the experience of serving on his President’s Academic Advisory Council at Khalifa University for two years where I had the opportunity to closely observe his vision and leadership as he inspired the founding of an important new institution, with a style marked by professionalism, humility, and empathy."

Elias Zerhouni, President Global Research and Development at Sanofi, former Director of the National Institutes of Health (2002-2008), and executive vice-dean of John Hopkins School of Medicine, said: "He is an outstanding leader, which I quickly realized through his work as senior associate dean for education in the Pratt School of Engineering, and as I have witnessed most recently through his work to grow Khalifa University into a world-class, culturally diverse research institution. Tod sets rigorous standards for himself and others, yet he is also keenly attuned to the human side of academics, which makes him well liked and respected. I admire him greatly."

Chairman McCall and Chancellor Johnson commended the search committee and its chair, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, for bringing Dr. Laursen to the post.

Stony Brook President Stanley said: "It was essential in our search to find someone with a strong and varied background in developing internationally competitive educational programs, which comes from strategic planning, culturally diverse talent recruitment, as well as research and development expertise. Dr. Laursen's credentials address those needs, from his administrative experience, as well as through his ongoing role in the classroom and in his research."

SUNY Office of the Provost coordinates the system’s academic enterprise in close collaboration with its 64 college and university campuses. This includes a broad and diverse range of responsibilities such as academic program review, data collection, student mobility, and the implementation of technology across the system in order to build on SUNY’s academic standards and support to ensure more students earn a college degree.

Dr. Laursen’s appointment is effective on September 1, 2018.

About Dr. Laursen

Dr. Laursen joins SUNY from Khalifa University (KU) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where he was the founding president and has served as its leader since 2010. In February of 2017, KU as it exists today was formed by the merger of three Abu Dhabi higher education institutions: Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KUSTAR), the Masdar Institute, and the Petroleum Institute. Dr. Laursen had served as the president of KUSTAR for the first seven years of his tenure in Abu Dhabi, and was named leader of the merged institution subsequently. In just eleven years of its existence, KU has risen to be the top ranked university in the UAE, second in the MENA region, and 32nd in all of Asia by Times Higher Education.

Previously, Dr. Laursen was a member of the faculty of Duke University since 1992, during which time he had appointments in civil engineering, biomedical engineering, and mechanical engineering. He served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and served as senior associate dean for education in the Pratt School of Engineering, having oversight for all undergraduate and graduate engineering programs at Duke.

Dr. Laursen specializes in computational mechanics, a subfield of engineering mechanics concerned with the development of new computational algorithms and tools used by engineers to analyze mechanical and structural systems. He has published over 100 refereed articles, book chapters, and abstracts, and has authored or co-edited two books. His particular focus is development of methods to analyze contact, impact, and frictional phenomena, in highly nonlinear and complex systems.

He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the International Association of Computational Mechanics, and the United States Association for Computational Mechanics. He also holds memberships in the American Society for Engineering Education and Tau Beta Pi. He served as an at-large member of the Executive Committee for the United States Association for Computational Mechanics, and currently serves as a member of the Executive Council of the International Association for Computational Mechanics (until 2020). Additionally, he has served on the scientific advisory committees of several of the most important national and international congresses in computational mechanics.

Dr. Laursen earned his doctorate and masters degrees in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in the same subject from Oregon State University. His wife Jennifer is an arts administrator who since 2013 has been the cofounder and codirector of Chamber Music Abu Dhabi (CMAD), an organization to enrich local cultural offerings through concerts and outreach delivered by young chamber music ensembles. They have two sons who are professional violinists: Orin, who is studying for his artist diploma at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto, Canada; and Colin, who completes his masters degree this month at the Juilliard School in Manhattan.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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