To some, the past few decades seem to have brought a significant amount of change, but to mechanical engineering professor James Locascio, the one thing that has remained the same are his students.

“Students have not really changed in 40 years,” Locascio said as he reflected on his career. “What’s changed is the type of distraction. So now it’s cell phones. In the beginning it was television, and then it was Pac Man, you know there was always a distraction. But the students themselves —they’re really pretty much the same.”

After four decades of teaching at Cal Poly, Locascio did not expect his final year would be taught amidst a pandemic. As a result, he has had to shift his retirement plans.

Locascio is just one of the Cal Poly faculty members who are planning on leaving this year. Staff are leaving at an increased rate than in years passed due to COVID-19.

“The big monkey wrench has been the pandemic,” Locascio said. 

Locascio said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family and designing a home with his wife after retirement, but has had to put those plans on hold during the pandemic. 

Cal Poly has recently implemented the Early Exit Program (EEP), which gives faculty retiring this December sixth months pay without work. 

According to the Cal Poly website, the program is “Intended to encourage employees to voluntarily separate through a severance package.” 

Lewis Call, a history professor and president of the faculty union said in an email that a higher average of Cal Poly employees are leaving due to the EEP. According to Call, 12 faculty, 14 administrators and 69 staff have applied for EEP and the university is estimating a 40% rehire rate.

“So quite a few of those positions will remain vacant,” Call wrote in an email.

For Eileen Amaral, executive director of donor relations at Cal Poly, the EEP made retiring easier.  

“I have kind of been considering retirement anyhow, but then after having been home, at that time for about six, seven months when I made the decision,” Amaral said. “It was kind of leaning in that direction and feeling like it was the right decision for me.”

Amaral said that it has been a positive and a smooth transition for her and her team, with the majority of the donor relations department working virtually.

Amaral plans on remaining in San Luis Obispo during retirement and looks forward to spending more time hiking, mountain biking and spending time with family. 

She was promoted ten years ago to the position she is in currently, so she said she will struggle with the adjustment.

“The last 10 years or so of my career have been pretty full throttle so this is a huge transition for me,” Amaral said. “It’s gonna be interesting to decide, when you get up in the morning, what your purpose is. It’s so different when it’s yourself, versus, you know your job, but I’m getting there and I’m adjusting to it.”

Though Amaral is leaving, she said she believes the department that she helped build will be left in good hands.

“It has been really busy and super rewarding and fulfilling,” Amaral said. “We’ve left a great team. They’ll continue the good work.”

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