Interim President Robert Glidden, who has been at Cal Poly since Aug. 1, said that even though Cal Poly is in “excellent shape,” the university may face challenges such as funding and updating its programs.
Glidden does not feel that Cal Poly generally faces any significant, pressing issues because funding isn’t just a problem for public education in California, but also for public higher education in America, he said.
“The biggest concern will be sustaining the kind of quality of programs that we have as we face the future of funding,” Glidden said. “What that means is the university is going to have to work really hard to find other sources of revenue.”
In order to gain more revenue, “part … will be from private sources,” Glidden said. He also said he hoped that alumni would give more to the university.
“I hope part of that would come from alumni because our rate of alumni giving for an institution of this prestige and for an institution that has as much alumni loyalty as we have, I think we have no more than 10 percent of our alumni who give anything to the university on an annual basis,” Glidden said. “And for an institution like ours, that number should be over 20 percent.”
It is not about “how big the gifts are, but just by what percentage of alumni are showing they care,” Glidden said. In addition, Glidden said that many “young companies” are doing research at Cal Poly and it would be beneficial to use that research to make a commercial product. However, making revenue will “not (be) an easy process,” he said.
“It takes money, it takes patience, it takes the right kind of expertise,” Glidden said. “But frankly, I think we could find all of those if there’s the will there to do it. Over time that can provide … an additional source of revenue.”
Beyond just revenue, Cal Poly also faces a need to keep on “the cutting edge” in order to remain such a respected college, Glidden said. He said there is a need for programs to help make sure students are learning what they should be.
One of the ways Glidden said Cal Poly could do this is by “assessing student learning outcomes.”
“I mean, students are brighter and they know more stuff and they have more capabilities than ever before,” Glidden said. “And you want to be sure that as an institution, you’re ahead of that. That you continue to challenge them and sometimes take them out of their comfort zone and push them to limits that they didn’t even think were possible.”
In order to assess the progress of students effectively, there must be “learning objectives within each discipline (and) within each major,” Glidden said.
However, there is some work that could be done in consistency across the campus, he said.
“I have to be honest with you, I don’t think we’re very consistent across the university,” Glidden said. “The faculty (should sit) down and talk together about these students today and the future that they face: do they have all the skills they need? Do they have the kind of knowledge and working skills that they need to succeed in (their) particular profession?”
This type of progress would indicate whether students are getting the education they need, and if not, improvements can be made, he said.
Another way Cal Poly could make the necessary improvements is by designating a fund so faculty could “experiment” with more innovative teaching practices. Glidden has experience with this from his time at Ohio University, he said.
“(If) you have some money to try out some things and develop some things, (you can make some innovative changes),” Glidden said. “Maybe everything won’t work and you might abandon it, but then if it does work, you want to make that part of the program.”
Though Glidden would like to implement a program like this, it would take a large sum of money, and since funding problems are an issue, the money would have to be raised by the foundation through private sources or endowments, he said.
The college should be focused on getting students to graduate on time by providing them the courses they need, Glidden said. By allowing students to over-extend their education, the school is taking away the opportunity for other students wishing to receive education. Students should be taking enough units in order to graduate on time and should not be spending their time “coasting,” he said.
“The average (course load) should be 15 to 16 (units),” Glidden said. “And that’s another little pet peeve of mine: some places recommend that students in their first year take only 12 hours or something; very bad idea because bright students today are not fully occupied and they need to get into a work habit that stretches them a little bit. And, so, 12 credits for most students, particularly for how bright our students are, gives them too much free time, too much time to get into trouble, too much time to get into bad habits.”
Although Glidden is currently at Cal Poly, there still is the need for a permanent Cal Poly president, and the search is ongoing. Daniel Howard-Greene, the chief of staff for the president’s office, said a new president is to be announced mid-December.
“The search is continuing and the committee, the Trustees Committee and the College Advisory Committee (are) to meet again, and we can anticipate that their work should be completed by the end of this quarter,” Howard-Green said.
Yet, even though the university is searching for a new president, Glidden has proven himself among his peers. Larry Kelley, vice president of administration and finance, praised Glidden’s work this year.
“Cal Poly, its students, faculty and staff are fortunate that Bob Glidden has joined us,” Kelley said. “He brings experience as a president, a zeal for Cal Poly’s mission and a true concern for the well being of the students. He knows the job and is doing it well.”
Robert Koob, provost and vice president of academic affairs, also said he appreciated Glidden’s services and his “sacrifice” to join Cal Poly.
“His values are congruent with Cal Poly, so we can count on his decisions being supportive of our goal of promoting student success,” Koob said. “Personally, it has been a privilege for me to have had the opportunity to have made his acquaintance.”