Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong selected Kathleen Finken, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, as Cal Poly’s new provost. She is scheduled to start in January.
Finken is a “natural fit” for Cal Poly, said Rachel Fernflores, chair of the committee that recommended Finken to Armstrong.
“When we brought her to campus, people thought that she’s the right person to approach the types of issues we have right now,” Fernflores said.
Those issues include balancing the increasing budget cuts that Cal Poly is facing with a commitment to continuing Cal Poly’s “Learn By Doing” tradition, Fernflores said.
“We’re going to need to be industrious to do that, and we’re going to need a problem solver,” Fernflores said.
Finken expressed her eagerness to tackle these difficult problems when she spoke at a forum on Oct. 7. Students, faculty and staff present at the forum all responded positively, Fernflores said.
She also said Finken was an attractive candidate because of the diversity of her experience.
As a former art history professor, Finken can further unify the polytechnic and liberal arts disciplines at Cal Poly, Fernflores said.
“She speaks to people on all sides of the campus in a way that makes us feel like she could really bring us together,” Fernflores said.
Finken’s background in liberal arts also makes her the ideal balance to Armstrong’s agriculture background, said Linda Halisky, dean of the college of liberal arts.
“Since we do have a new president from the polytechnic side, to have a provost, the second-in-command, from the liberal arts, it really moves our comprehensive, polytechnic vision forward,” Halisky said.
Finken’s previous experience as provost in Wisconsin, as well as her liberal arts background, made her recommendation a unanimous decision by all the deans at Cal Poly, which is rare, Halisky said.
Halisky said she couldn’t be happier with the decision.
“I am ecstatic that we have leadership that is willing to embrace the potential of this (comprehensive polytechnic) vision,” Halisky said.
Victoria Billings contributed to this article.