Mustang Daily Staff Report
With Cal Poly Vice President of Administration and Finance Larry Kelley’s retirement announcement in May, he became the latest in a string of top administrators to leave the university in the past two-and-a-half years.
University President Jeffrey Armstrong’s chief of staff, provost, vice president of student affairs, vice president of university advancement and athletic director have all changed since he was chosen for the position in late 2010. Five of six college deans have also left their posts since 2010 or are planning to leave after this academic year.
Armstrong said each administrator’s decision to leave involved different factors, and it is not uncommon for a university to see change at its highest levels when a new president is hired.
“I think it’s more of a matter of time than anything else,” he said. “People get to various situations, they get to a point where there’s time for a change where they’re ready to retire.”
National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education administrator Linda Ryan echoed Armstrong, saying university presidents across the country often work with a fresh leadership staff when they come to a new university.
“I think it’s very common, probably more so from the vice president standpoint, to be looking for other jobs when they know a new president is coming in,” Ryan said.
When Armstrong looks to replace administrators, he allows search committees to do initial screenings of candidates. He said he relies on them to judge the technical side of applicants — for the president, it’s a question of who has the right “fit.”
“Regardless of the position that we’re interviewing for, I look for fit,” Armstrong said. “I look for a particular individual, and I want to know and to think to myself, ‘How will this person interact with our students, faculty and staff? How will they fit in as a Cal Poly family member?’”
The president said he is grateful for the honest discussions he has with other leaders at Cal Poly and enjoys working with those who have different opinions than him. At a meeting Thursday with the Cal Poly Public Relations Student Society of America, Armstrong said it’s “even better” when people applying for top jobs at Cal Poly disagree with him. As long as they believe in his four Cal Poly fundamentals — student success, Learn By Doing, continuous improvement and the idea of a comprehensive polytechnic university — they are welcome on his team.
In mid-May, the president announced he will create two additional top-level positions for Cal Poly following spring quarter: a vice president for strategic initiatives and a presidential faculty fellow.
College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean David Wehner will take the new vice president job for no more than one-and-a-half years, Armstrong said. The president’s chief of staff Betsy Kinsley also announced Armstrong’s choice to name philosophy professor Rachel Fernflores as the first presidential faculty fellow at an Academic Senate executive meeting.
Both Wehner and Fernflores will begin during summer.
Sean McMinn contributed to this staff report.