Karen Velie

Cal Poly President Warren Baker announced earlier this month the appointment of William Harris as the university’s new provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“I am probably as excited as the Cal Poly freshmen who arrived this week,” Harris said. “Cal Poly is a unique institution and being part of it is very special to me. I look forward to meeting the students and faculty when I visit this year and working closely with them in the years ahead.”

Harris is the director general of the Science Foundation in Ireland. He has been responsible for the overall leadership of the new organization for the past four years.

“I have been the person in Ireland responsible for building a partnership with China,” Harris said. “The ambitions of China are huge and the governments focus on engineering, mathematics and science education is very impressive.

“I will encourage Cal Poly students and faculty to visit and understand other countries so they can appreciate the opportunities and challenges we face as a nation. Another form of ‘learn by doing.’”

Harris will begin his duties no later than July, 2006 after he concludes his service to the Science Foundation. He succeeds Paul Zingg, who became the president of California State University Chico in 2004. Robert Detweiler is serving as interim provost.

Harris’ resume includes teaching, research and administrative positions.

He served in various administrative positions with the National Science Foundation from 1978 through 1996. Harris established a focus on new research, and took a leading role in the foundation’s “Attracting Minorities to Careers in Science and Engineering.”

In 1996, Harris begin serving as the founding president and executive director at the Biosphere 2 Center at Columbia University where he engineered the Biosphere 2 apparatus, expanded public understanding of climate change and established academic partnerships with nearly 30 colleges and universities.

Harris earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Science from the College of William and Mary. Along with his wife Connie, Harris keeps a residence in Reston, Va. They have two grown children.

The recruitment process started last fall and over 60 candidates were under consideration. Four finalists were brought in for interviews before students and faculty let out for summer break.

“Harris has outstanding experience and an expectation for excellence that will translate into support for the university,” Detweiler said. “He really understands the importance of a polytechnic education in the California workforce.”

The university’s provost is the chief academic officer, acting president when the president is away, senior vice president and is responsible for overseeing the university’s educational programs. As the vice president for academic affairs he heads up scholastic affairs for the university.

“I look forward to helping President Baker continue to build excellence at Cal Poly and to ensure that the quality of the education experience ” learn by doing ” prepares students fully for the 21st century,” Harris said.

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