Last week, Cal Poly announced College of Architecture and Environmental Design dean R. Thomas Jones will step down from his position, after nine years with the university, to teach in the architecture department and expand the college’s Metro Programs throughout the state.
The Metro Programs are a part of the school’s “Learn by Doing” philosophy: Students and faculty are connected with real-world professionals to aid in teaching specific topics, as well as to help establish internships. Currently, the school has implemented the programs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, according to a Cal Poly press release.
Jones will spend the majority of his time teaching and working with interns in San Francisco, but will not officially step down until a committee picks his successor. He said the committee will be made up of alumni, representatives of the college and Cal Poly officials appointed by the university’s new provost, Kathleen Finken.
The selection process could be completed as soon as July or August, but could also last up to one or two years, Jones said.
As to why he chose to relinquish his position at this time, Jones said he thought it was the right time, given the stability of all five departments in the college, and given the stage he is at in his career.
Jones cited three general reasons for his departure:
“I had been brought to Cal Poly, as a nonacademic, to help further some aspirations of the college — which I feel I have completed,” Jones said.
Since he became dean in 2003, Jones has helped the college become nationally recognized for leadership in interdisciplinary education, expanding off-campus programs and civic engagement, as well as continuing to bring in an average of $1.5 million a year in fundraising, despite the recession, Jones said.
The second reason Jones gave for stepping down was the retirement of professor emeritus Sandy Miller.
“I saw, increasingly, a roll I could play as a faculty member running the valuable San Francisco program for our college at a time when the large-standing faculty member running it suddenly retired,” Jones said.
Finally, Jones said he still had an opportunity to contribute to the university because of his credentials and prior work experience.
“I’ve been here nine years, and I see a great way I could continue to contribute to Cal Poly by capitalizing on my extensive professional and community network, particularly in California’s largest cities,” Jones said. “I always saw — when I became an academic — that I would love to implement as a teacher and researcher what I strove to achieve as an administrator.”
Jones will continue to work with the college by helping elitists continue to implement a set of political aspirations that he helped to instill in the five departments he oversaw.
“Those aspirations are to increase our visibility and engagement with the large cities of California, to collaborate more strongly with practitioners, to provide off-campus urban experiences for our students and to become more visibly engaged in the future of the great state of California,” Jones said.
The entire faculty and staff in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design will be responsible in assisting the transition between deans.
City and regional planning department head Hemalata Dandekar has been working with Jones since she became the department head three-and-a-half years ago. Although she is the most recently hired department head of the five, she said she has always felt supported by the college’s dean.
“Tom has understood planning, he has valued planning (and) he understands how it goes together with the other disciplines in the college,” Dandekar said. “We’ve appreciated that.”
Throughout their time working together, Dandekar did not only appreciate the support she got from the dean, but also took notice of his many accomplishments during his tenure.
She said she is confident he will have continued success working with Cal Poly.
“I know (Jones) is very committed to the Metro Programs, and his connections in San Francisco are really excellent because he spent so many years there,” Dandekar said. “For him to want to build that — I could see how that would be very compelling for him.”
Architectural engineering graduate Tylor Middlestadt, who served as Associated Students, Inc., president from 2005-06, worked with Jones while he attended Cal Poly and continues to stay in contact with him today.
“I definitely think it’s a loss for Cal Poly and the college,” Middlestadt said. “At the same time, it’s also a huge opportunity because his leadership in creating the Metro internship program has been monumental.”
Middlestadt said he is sad to see Jones leave, but it could turn out to be a benefit for the college in the long run because of what Jones can do to enhance the Metro Program.
“It truly is a huge passion of his — to work on expanding the college of architecture’s exposure to the professional world, and exposing those professional firms to the quality and caliber of our graduates,” Middlestadt said. “I think he is going to be able to do just as great from leadership in the Metro Program.”