The Cal Poly Consultative Search Committee wrapped up its provost candidate forum Friday morning when it introduced its fourth and final candidate for the position: Kathleen Finken, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.
Finken spoke to an audience made up of approximately 50 students, faculty, administrators and others from 9:15 to 10:30 a.m. in the Advanced Technology Lab on campus.
She spent the first 12 minutes introducing herself and talking about what she has accomplished since growing up on a small farm in New Jersey. Finken then spent the next 45 minutes fielding a variety of questions to convince the room she is the right person for the job.
“When it comes to administrative roles, I just can’t help myself,” Finken said. “Things need to get done and problems need to be solved. I’ve been unable to sit back and enjoy being a faculty member and doing the teaching, the learning and the instruction without getting involved on campus.”
If chosen to become Cal Poly’s new provost, she said there will be no shortage of things to be done and problems to be solved. During the questioning portion of the forum, Finken was asked what issues she thought were most pressing and would require the new provost’s immediate attention.
“We have to figure out what the priorities are going to be because we can’t figure it all out at once,” Finken said. “The inclusive excellence piece — diversity — that is important for the campus. ‘Learn By Doing’ — how are we going to continue to do that and do it well with the expense that it may entail? The ever-looming possibility of more budget cuts — what are we doing to prepare for that?”
Some of the deans and faculty members in the room had been to one, if not all, of the previous three provost candidate forums. Those in attendance were either part of the committee responsible for recommending a candidate to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong or simply chose to come because it is an important decision for the university.
Dean of the college of liberal arts Linda Halisky said she and others she spoke with at Cal Poly want someone who is experienced, wise and can help with the “nut-and-bolt” issues facing this campus.
“We are at an important moment in the university’s history,” Halisky said. “As we move ahead with our comprehensive polytechnic mission, all sorts of new potential can open up for us. I’m hoping for a new provost who truly sees and understands that potential and can help us make it happen.”
After the forum concluded, Finken chatted briefly with some of the audience members and made her way out of the Advanced Technology Lab, leaving audience members huddled together discussing what they had just heard.
Accounting professor Tad Miller said Finken certainly made a good impression on him.
“Today, I believe I found true love,” Miller said. “I think she has a perspective on who we are, and with that, comes who we’re not.”
Trying to make everybody happy is part of a provost’s job, but Miller said making decisions not to do something can be as important as going through with it.
Now that all four provost candidates have come to Cal Poly for an extensive interviewing process, chair of the consultative search committee Rachel Fernflores said she is proud to have been part of the process of showcasing four great candidates.
The information has been provided and the decision now lies with the committee and Armstrong.
“The committee is made up of faculty, staff (and) administrators, and we’re all conduits for feedback,” Fernflores said. “It will probably be very similar from different constituencies and then we’re going to agree on a recommendation to the president.”
Members of the committee have until the end of Monday to provide their feedback, but no timetable is set for a final decision, Fernflores said.