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College of Education and Professional Studies

Global Experience Distinguishes CWU’s New Aviation Chair

From India, to Singapore, to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, to the United Arab Emirates, Sundaram Nataraja’s career has spanned the globe. Selected as the new chair of the Department of Aviation, Nataraja brings an impressive international background and academic experience to Central Washington University.

“We are pleased that our program attracted someone of his caliber,” said Paul Ballard, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies.  “With his exceptional knowledge, skills, and abilities, the aviation program will be able to meet the demands of a changing aviation industry. We are looking forward to working with him.”

A strategic thinker and an accomplished administrator, Nataraja will relocate to Ellensburg after concluding his tenure as associate dean for quality and institutional development and professor in aviation management in the College of Business Administration at King Saud University, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Under his leadership, he led a successful strategic planning process, attained accreditation for four undergraduate programs for the National Commission for Academic Accreditation and Assessment, reviewed 17 academic programs, conducted 28 faculty development programs, enriched student learning from bachelor’s to doctoral programs, enhanced philanthropy, and ensured faculty research funding to the tune of  $12 million annually.

“’Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself,’ said Nataraja, quoting American philosopher John Dewey. “I have passion for academic excellence, high performance, and effective decision-making. And I endeavor to build a workplace that thrives in an atmosphere of trust, compassion, and professional integrity. I see a great opportunity here at Central and I am eager to use all of my skills and knowledge to take the department to the next level.”

He has more than three decades of academic and administrative experience, and an outstanding record of scholarship, research, and teaching. Nataraja’s 15 years of airline and aviation industry experience includes his employment with international corporations including Emirates Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines.

Nataraja has earned degrees from institutions all over the world, including the University of Oxford, England, International Air Transportation Association (IATA) Switzerland and Canada, and University of Madras in India. He has also pursued higher education in the United States and has earned a master’s of science in aviation safety from the University of Central Missouri, and a master’s in educational administration and a doctorate in adult and higher education administration from the University of South Dakota.

His wife, Vasanthi Nataraja, and children are looking forward to the move to Ellensburg.  Nataraja will begin his position at CWU on September 1. Amy Hoover will complete her tenure as chair June 30. Jason Underhill will assume duties as the summer chair of the department until Nataraja arrives.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,