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Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong presented his vision for the university in 2022 in a keynote speech at the Performing Arts Center this past Friday.
Armstrong delivered a wide vision of the university’s future, emphasizing increased public-private partnerships, greater diversity, retaining and developing faculty and having more students living on campus.
Armstrong began by explaining four principles he feels are vital to the university’s continued success: Learn By Doing, student success, excellence through continuous improvement and the polytechnic nature of the school. He broke down his vision for the university’s future into parts; his first objective is making the university a “vibrant residential campus.”
The university could grow by as many as 5,000 students by 2022, at which point the university hopes to have all first- and second-year students living on campus, Armstrong said.
Armstrong also said he would like to have businesses open offices on campus. He used an example of an engineer going to a class in the morning and then an internship in the afternoon — all on campus. However, Armstrong said the university would “err on the side of excellence and degree completion.”
The university will seek to increase four-year graduation rates to 75 percent and five-year graduation rates to 90 percent, Armstrong said. Increasing graduation rates was part of Armstrong’s second objective, “enhancing student success.”
Armstrong brought up the importance of faculty and staff while speaking about student success, saying the university needs to raise salaries and benefits for faculty to retain and attract talented faculty. Armstrong also spoke about public-private partnerships as a way to enhance student success. He would like to see companies paying for practical research that students and faculty can work on together.
Armstrong’s third objective is to create a “culture of diversity and inclusivity.”
The university will increase the number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, Armstrong said. Increasing opportunities for Cal Poly students to travel abroad and the number of international students at Cal Poly is another goal for creating more campus diversity, Armstrong said. Working to recruit more students from high schools with public lunch programs will also increase diversity, Armstrong said.
Fiscal responsibility will continue to be important going forward, Armstrong said.
“Public-private partnerships are critical,” Armstrong said. The university will seek funds through these partnerships.
Armstrong cited Cal Poly’s cybersecurity program, created in collaboration with Raytheon and other corporations, as an example. Armstrong also highlighted Cal Poly’s current campaign to raise $500 million in donations. Armstrong said he was confident the goal would be met and likely exceeded.
During the speech, Armstrong announced an $8 million gift from the James G. Boswell Foundation. The money will be used to build an agriculture facility on the building 52 site, a location where more buildings will likely be constructed in the future, Armstrong said.
Armstrong also wants to see the university collaborating more with the surrounding community. Armstrong pledged the university would meet with the city more often.
After wrapping up his address, Armstrong took questions from the those in attendance.
He was asked how Cal Poly would balance increasing the overall number of students while still keeping class sizes low.
Focusing on increasing graduation rates will alleviate this problem, Armstrong said, and mining data from PolyPlanner, a recently implemented scheduling software for students, will also keep classes manageable.
David Mason, a Cal Poly alumnus who works in Academic Affairs, asked how the university would handle its relationship with the California State University (CSU) system.
Armstrong said Chancellor Timothy White doesn’t believe one size should fit all in the CSU system. There are many benefits to being in the CSU system, but Cal Poly is a unique university, Armstrong said.
“It’s my goal that we stay on quarters,” Armstrong said.