Halisky said, the time seemed right to retire, Halisky said, because it coincides with the end of a five-year goal set by the CLA in 2007 to make the liberal arts college “embraced as integral to Cal Poly’s mission in the 21st century.”
Throughout the past five years of her career, Halisky has been focused on improving the programs offered by CLA and creating new programs that incorporate liberal arts and engineering.
“During these five years, my job has really been to keep that conversation going across the university,” Halisky said.
This included starting a new undergraduate degree program in liberal arts and engineering studies. More than 50 students graduated from the program as of last spring.
Halisky also worked with the CLA by hiring more tenure-track professors and replacing lecturing positions with tenure positions. She said she wanted to see at least some of the newer professors get tenure before she retired and she has now seen that goal achieved.
After seven years, Halisky said it was time to step back and let someone new take the helm of the CLA, and see how a new dean can continue to help the college grow.
“It feels like we’ve created this wonderful basket that we can just hand to this new dean that’s full of all these goodies and say, ‘Here, here is this gift. Run with it,’” Halisky said.
Chair of the graphic communication department Harvey Levenson said he was not surprised when he first heard that Halisky was considering stepping down because Halisky had spent such a lengthy time at the job.
“Eight years for a dean is a long time,” Levenson said. “It’s a very demanding position — it’s a 24/7 position.”
Levenson was on the committee that selected Halisky more than eight years ago. Halisky stood out from the other candidates because she was not only an internal candidate, but a popular choice, Levenson said.
“She was by far the candidate of choice during that selection period,” Levenson said.
Halisky continued to stand out in the college even after she was chosen as dean.
Chair of the music department, Terry Spiller said Halisky’s commitment to furthering the interests of liberal arts at Cal Poly helped her stay in the position for so long. Halisky has helped Cal Poly recognize that the arts are an important part of the college environment in a school historically focused on sciences, engineering and architecture, Spiller said.
“Dean Halisky has made sure that people realize that not only is the CLA outstanding in its own right, but that what the CLA offers is integral to the polytechnic environment,” Spiller said.
President Jeffrey Armstrong said Halisky’s lasting mark on Cal Poly will be her advocacy for the arts.
Cal Poly focused on “STEM”-or science, technology, engineering and mathematics-prior to Halisky’s term as dean, Armstrong said.
“Linda Halisky put the STEAM in STEM,” he said. “She added the arts.”
The search for a new dean has not yet begun but the school will be looking for a candidate with the same qualities that helped Halisky serve for so long, Armstrong said. He attributed Halisky’s long tenure to the same principles that Armstrong said have made Cal Poly great: a focus on student success, “Learning By Doing”, excellence and cooperation.
Above all, a new dean must be committed to “helping people understand what it means to be a completely polytechnic university,” Armstrong said.
After the end of the year, Halisky said she hopes to return to the English department where she started teaching as an assistant professor approximately 30 years ago.