Dozens of Purdue’s new president’s boxes are stacked in his second-floor, corner office in Hovde Hall.

Mung Chiang said the first thing he plans to hang on the walls, which were still bare on Friday, his sixth day, are his daughter’s paintings.

The only decoration he has so far is a scale-model LEGO Statue of Liberty, which he built with his son.

Chiang is especially proud of that. He is a U.S. citizen who was born in Tianjin, China, and had his permanent residence by the time he arrived at Stanford for his freshman year.

He said his 7-year-old daughter is the youngest to have lived in Westwood, the Purdue presidents’ home on the west edge of campus, where the family is settling in.

All three Chiang children attend West Lafayette schools, and he drops the first-grader, fourth-grader and ninth-grader off at a different building every morning.

Dr. Ying-Kei Hui, an internal medicine doctor and Chiang’s wife, will also be making the move from Indianapolis.

Both Hui and Chiang, who received his doctorate from Stanford in electrical engineering, go by Dr. Chiang.

“Our kids actually have discovered that I’m not a real doctor,” he said. “So anytime they got a paper cut or something, they say, ‘I want to talk to Mom, I don’t want to talk to you. You’re not a real doctor. Actually, what kind of doctor are you?’”

Hui has worked at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis for five years and will continue her professional career from West Lafayette, Chiang said. Right now, she’s a physician adviser for multiple hospitals, reviewing other physicians remotely, but the plan is to work part time in a nearby hospital.

“She’s going to be a fantastic first lady, but also, that’s a volunteer job,” he said. “She’s going to take that very, very seriously and do a great job. But at the same time, she’s a working professional, so she’s not going to give up on her own career, either.”

Several days into his new job, Chiang isn’t entirely moved in yet, but to be fair, he’s been busy.

So far, it’s been lots of engagement. He started the new year making calls to the university leadership team and said he had calls to make with alumni on Thursday.

Friday was the first day of a three-day resident assistant training session, and Chiang went in the morning to hear what advice the RAs had for him.

On Monday, he’s going to sit in on an 8:30 a.m. School of Business class “if he can wake up early enough” and later host dinner for distinguished professors at his new pad. The following Monday, he’s eating lunch in one of the dining courts.

Ford Dining Court is his favorite, but he doesn’t want to bias anyone.

“I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, the president of Purdue University doesn’t like the other four.’ No, I like all of them. It depends on which day, and I went on that particular day, and there’s a particular food there for me.”

He plans on visiting the remaining 52 counties in the state before the end of the fiscal year, fulfilling the pledge he made last year to visit all of Indiana’s 92.

He’s also been to a few sporting events already, including the Jan. 2 Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

“Well, some people characterized that as a very good tailgate,” he said.

The day before that, he was at the women’s basketball game against Wisconsin. That Purdue game wasn’t a nail-biter either, but this time in favor of the Boilermakers.

He talked with Athletic Director Mike Bobinski and is going to try to be there at least once for every Purdue team. His hope is that more fans go to “more types” of games.

But being Purdue president isn’t all eating lunch and going to games, Chiang said. There have also been conversations about the Purdue Moves 2.0 initiatives, the new School of Business and the transition from IUPUI to Purdue University in Indianapolis.

His biggest challenge will be to keep recruiting and retaining “humble, dedicated talents” despite resource limits, stiff competition and an uncertain macro economy.

“So despite all of those things,” he asked, “how can we remain true to and strong to what makes Purdue truly the best in the country?”

Purdue’s educational offerings need to be well-rounded for those students, he said.

“Education must be comprehensive. We are not only teaching knowledge and skills, we are truly developing characters.

“But more than that, even if you say: ‘I just want to be a nerdy engineer or scientist,’ still, you want to go into the workplace and leadership positions understanding humanities and social sciences.”

There are a lot of things for a university president to worry about, but he said if he had to pick something that keeps him up at night it’s the safety, well-being and growth of Purdue’s students.

He has helped create the Action Council for Student Housing and Well-being to address student housing and Counseling and Psychological Services issues. Part of its discussions will be how to make sure CAPS has enough staff so no student seeking help has to wait, he said.

The task force will have input from undergraduate and graduate students and parents to answer questions such as where, when and how much new housing to build and how to allocate existing housing. Chiang said that although national trends of an aging population plays a role in long-term housing plans, Purdue has so far been an exception to that, with ever-larger incoming freshman classes.

The topic of ice cream comes up often when talking to Chiang. That will be one of the big shifts from Daniels’ tenure.

“From Harley Davidson to Haagen-Dazs,” he quipped. “I don’t know how to ride a Harley Davidson.”

He clarified he doesn’t just eat Haagen-Dazs ice cream; he just used it for alliteration purposes. His taste for ice cream doesn’t discriminate; he eats all kinds and combinations.

Chiang didn’t rule out the possibility of a “Where’s Mung?” segment at sporting events, but he said he’s brainstorming his own schtick.

“I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism,” he said, chuckling. “I’m thinking of selling ice cream. It might be slightly overpriced, because the proceeds will go to a student organization as a fundraiser.”

To keep off weight from all the ice cream, Chiang said he just does “boring” stuff, like running on a treadmill and using an elliptical.

“Mitch’s got this persistence, every lunchtime at the Co-Rec, at least pre-COVID,” he said. “I’m not that consistent.”

He’s going to continue his Purdue Day of Giving tradition of running a relay with students, faculty and alumni to raise money.

What won’t change with his administration is the momentum from the “Daniels Decade,” he said.

There is “comprehensive and intensive conversation” with SkyWater Technology, an American semiconductor company, about its semiconductor manufacturing facility that will be built in West Lafayette, Chiang said.

He doesn’t have an exact timetable on the construction, but he said the growth of Discovery Park further evidences the “hard-tech corridor,” hard-tech being the technology you can touch, forming between West Lafayette and Indianapolis.

“If you believe in Google Maps’ counting, that is almost 63 miles from downtown Indianapolis to Lafayette with Lebanon almost exactly in the middle,” he said.

“We have outstanding opportunities in this state, in particular, along this hard-tech corridor that’s going to be driving this next generation of growth for not only Indiana, but the entire Midwest.”

Additional reporting contributed by Sports Editor Andy Craig.

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