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Kaabouch, Tan named Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors

UND president, provost present professors with UND’s highest faculty honor

Naima Kaabouch and Chih Ming Tan.

Naima Kaabouch and Chih Ming Tan were in for a surprise when UND President Andrew Armacost and Provost Eric Link entered their respective dean’s offices on Thursday morning.

The pair were named Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors — UND’s highest academic honor — joining an exclusive club of faculty lauded for their excellence in teaching, research and service. Recipients are selected via a panel of nine UND professors, who consider letters of nomination from deans and fellow professors, among other factors, in rendering a decision.

UND Provost Eric Link (left) and President Andrew Armacost inform Naima Kaabouch of her selection as a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor. Photo by Mike Hess/UND.

“This is to honor you — you were nominated as a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor!” Armacost said to Kaabouch, professor in the School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science within UND’s College of Engineering & Mines, as well as director of UND’s Artificial Intelligence Research Initiative.

Thrilled and humbled by the announcement, Kaabouch thanked her colleagues and UND administrators for creating such a positive work environment.

“I really appreciate the recognition, and the support of UND, Brian (Tande) and the College (of Engineering & Mines),” she said. “That’s why I am happy to work here, and I am still here after 18 years. I cannot think about moving from here, just because of all the support and collaboration I am receiving.”

A leading authority on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, Kaabouch has published many award-winning academic publications, and according to Link, has secured more than $35 million in research funding during her 18-year tenure at UND.

Brian Tande, dean of the College of Engineering & Mines, added that Kaabouch is the first female professor from the college to receive the honor.

The level of admiration felt by Kaabouch’s colleagues toward her is reciprocal.

Numerous faculty members within the College of Engineering & Mines, and UND’s National Security Initiative, authored letters of nomination for her award. Among them was Mark Askelson, associate vice president for Research-National Security.

“I have experienced numerous blessings in my life, and Dr. Kaabouch is one of them,” wrote Askelson in his letter of nomination. “Dr. Kaabouch is one of the key talented and wonderful people to whom I owe a great debt. Through our collaborations on projects, Dr. Kaabouch has performed outstanding and brilliant work, deepening the respect stakeholders have for UND.”

UND Provost Eric Link (left) and President Andrew Armacost (right), present Chih Ming Tan with the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor award. Photo by Mike Hess/UND.

Tan, professor of Economics & Finance and associate dean for research in the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, appeared terrifically surprised when informed of his award. He said he takes his role as an educator and its attendant responsibilities very seriously.

“I am extremely humbled and grateful to be recognized in this way,” he said. “In my view, honors like this are a call to arms by the University. It’s about investing in us as trustees, particularly responsibilities that we need to carry out — in this case to be a leader, to work tirelessly to advance the research agenda of the University and create an inclusive, supportive environment for all of our colleagues. That’s what I intend to do to the best of my ability.”

Tan’s academic interests center on econometrics, and the discipline’s applications in fields such as global health, economic growth and inequality. Since arriving at UND in 2013, Tan also has co-authored academic papers on workforce issues in North Dakota, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s labor force.

Prodosh Simlai, department chair and professor of Economics & Finance, stated in his nomination letter that Tan’s scholarship is respected worldwide — with his work appearing in publications such as the European Economic Review and the International Review of Economics and Finance.

“Chih Ming is a spectacular researcher and one of the jewels of UND in terms of impactful and high-quality publications,” Simlai said. “He built a world-class reputation as a very dedicated and prolific scholar. His work is full of technical brilliance, well-cited and very influential. As an example, Ben Bernanke (former Federal Reserve chair) has cited Chih Ming’s co-authored article in Economic Journal.”

Provost Link added that Tan is equally dedicated to his students — often going above and beyond to mentor them and provide career counseling.

Kaabouch and Tan will be honored officially at UND’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11.


Photos available: Naima Kaabouch and Chih Ming Tan