Two new faces are set to join Cal Poly’s deans this fall: Christine Theodoropoulos and Douglas Epperson will replace College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) dean Tom Jones and College of Liberal Arts (CLA) dean Linda Halisky, respectively.
Both Theodoropoulos and Epperson were selected after year-long searches following Jones and Halisky‘s announced retirements last year. Both candidates were selected due to their commitment to Cal Poly’s interdisciplinary vision, Theodoropoulos and Epperson both said.
Epperson, who currently serves as dean of Washington State’s College of Liberal Arts, said Cal Poly’s philosophy and reputation appealed to him.
“The primary draw was the quality of the students (and) the commitment of the institution to undergraduate education and the Learn By Doing model,” Epperson said.
Epperson is also committed to Cal Poly’s mission of giving students a comprehensive polytechnic education and incorporating multiple disciplines in every student’s instruction, he said. Epperson made his commitment to this vision clear during his interview process, he said.
“That commitment was critical to me because I believe the College of Liberal Arts is absolutely central to Cal Poly being a comprehensive polytechnic university,” Epperson said.
Halisky laid out this vision for the CLA in a master plan for the college during her time as dean. Epperson was selected in part because of his ability to continue this vision, Halisky said.
“I think he understands where our college is, and I think he’s prepared to step right in and keep moving us forward,” Halisky said.
The first part of moving that vision forward is to revise the strategic plan, Epperson said. Though the future CLA dean doesn’t have a “fixed game plan” for when he starts in August, Epperson’s first priority is re-examining the CLA’s goals and aligning them with those of the university.
Cal Poly itself recently revised its strategic plan, and it’s now up to the CLA to reexamine its own, Epperson said.
“We’ll be looking for ways to integrate ourselves more fully into the university community,” Epperson said.
Epperson’s experience in other university communities played a large part in his selection as well, said CLA Associate Dean Debra Valencia-Laver. Before his time as dean at Washington State Univ, Epperson was associate dean of Iowa State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“He’s had quite a bit of experience at a few institutions, and we see that as a good thing,” Valencia-Laver said.
Theodoropoulos, on the other hand, will be taking a dean’s position for the first time, leaving her position as head of the architecture department at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Although being a dean will be new to her, Theodoropoulos is confident her experience working with other deans and university administration as architecture department head, will help her, she said.
Like Epperson, Theodoropoulos was also drawn to Cal Poly not only because of its reputation for excellence but also because of the multidisciplinary education, she said.
“My own background is in engineering and architecture,” Theodoropoulos said. “Cal Poly’s mixture of disciplines is really quite unique.”
Theodoropoulos’ own diverse background was part of her appeal as a candidate, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong wrote in a press release.
“Christine’s blend of academic and professional experience as a teacher, university administrator, architect and civil engineer make her an excellent choice to lead our College of Architecture and Environmental Design,” Armstrong wrote. “Her career has embraced the kind of multidisciplinary approaches that will enrich our Learn By Doing programs.”
For Theodoropoulos, that multidisciplinary approach is evident in CAED’s different majors, she said.
Both architecture and architectural engineering are two halves of a whole system of designing buildings, while landscape architecture focuses on environmental concerns and construction management “takes the score and leads the orchestra,” Theodoropoulos said.
“That is really exciting for me because there’s so many interesting opportunities for the college to be highly integrated,” Theodoropoulos said.
And while Epperson’s priorities include revising the CLA’s strategic plan, Theodoropoulos said her first priority when she joins CAED will be to get to know the other people involved.
Her first few weeks on the job in September will be shaking hands and meeting people, Theodoropoulos said.
“Initially what a person has to do is get to know the people because a college is it’s people,” Theodoropoulos said.