Photo courtesy of Orfalea College of Business

After two years of being head of the Orfalea College of Business, Orfalea Dean Scott Dawson will be stepping down at the end of October.

In an open letter to his colleagues and the administration, Dawson said he will be moving back to Portland, OR. The decision was based on the death of his wife, Bridget Dawson, who died while riding her bike along California State Route 227.

“I feel this move is best for my family and me. My departure date is likely to be the end of October,” Dawson said in his letter. “President Armstrong and Provost Enz Finken will select an interim dean to lead the Orfalea College of Business after my departure.”

In an attached e-mail to Dawson’s letter, Armstrong also expressed his condolences for Dawson’s departure.

“I know you join me in thanking Scott for all he has done for Cal Poly, and in wishing him and his family all the best as they move forward with their lives,” Armstrong wrote.

Though he was dean for a short time at Cal Poly, Dawson made an impact on Orfalea. 

“I think the college was fairly internal-facing before,” Dawson said in an interview with Mustang News. “I have caused the college to be more external-facing in terms of reconnecting with alumni and getting them re-engaged with the college.”

This past academic year, Dawson made over 15 trips to the Bay Area to reconnect alumni with Cal Poly. Every time he went up, he said he found a minimum of five people who wanted to get involved but were never contacted before his efforts. He also found partners at Goldman Sachs. This new outreach momentum impressed faculty, so much so that finances lecturer Sharon Dobson took note of its success in the classroom.

“We’ve had significant industry partners come in and teach in our classrooms,” Dobson said. “They’re called executives-in-residence. They come and spend the day with us. The connection between the theory that we are teaching in the classroom and the practical implication of it in the industry has been enormous under his leadership.”

Dawson’s impact on Orfalea also extends to how the faculty interacts with each other. Accounting professor, Tad Miller said he and his colleagues have been doing just that. Dobson echoed the same observation and said this change in the college will be his lasting impact.

“The legacy of Dean Dawson is that he has made us better communicators,” Dobson said. “He has opened communication channels at all levels. From students to faculty, from faculty to alumni, from faculty to faculty.”

Dawson bridged the gap between boss and employee by having lunches with faculty members as well.

A lot of us had no idea what other faculty members are doing and we would sit together for an hour and a half and then found that we had commonalities in our research and in our teaching,” Dobson said.  “So it strengthens the college of business and in return strengthens the university community.” 

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