During the forum, provost candidate Brenda Case Scheer addressed diversity, interdisciplinary programs and strengthening liberal arts at Cal Poly. Nha Ha-Mustang Daily

Provost candidate Brenda Case Scheer addressed Cal Poly faculty and staff at the third of four provost forums held by the Cal Poly Consultative Search Committee on Tuesday morning.  Once again, diversity and interdisciplinary programs were among the issues addressed.

Scheer began the discussion by highlighting some of her accomplishments as dean of the college of architecture and planning at the University of Utah. One of her major undertakings as dean was integrating various cultural and disciplinary perspectives into the core curriculum of every major — a step that Scheer said promotes a more well-rounded education and fosters an awareness of diversity.

As an example, Scheer spoke about a program she initiated, which takes architecture students to a Navajo reservation. There the students are tasked with building a house from start to finish, while staying on the reservation with a Navajo family. The house is off-the-grid, so students have to tackle the challenge of equipping it with solar panels and a way to collect rain water.

“This is something that is quite dear to my heart from a long time back,” Scheer said.  “We think of architecture as a technical thing. A lot of people think of it as knowing how to build a building, but it’s really knowing how to understand a culture, knowing how to interpret a culture, knowing how to work artistically, knowing how to compose, knowing what public policies you are working with and need to do.”

She said if she were chosen as provost, she would “strengthen the liberal arts here” and establish a reward system for faculty members who co-teach classes with professors from different departments.

On the subject of diversity, Scheer spoke about socioeconomic and gender equity. Scheer was a first-generation college student, and is one of two female deans on a campus that has 13 deans total. In her role as dean, she helped to establish a more open application process for campus authority roles which took gender into account.

“I don’t think that having a woman provost solves your diversity problem,” she said. “It doesn’t.”

However, she said it is a good first step in making sure that all perspectives are represented.

Graphic communication chair Harvey Levenson said he liked Scheer’s ideas, though he would have liked her to outline them in greater detail.

“What pleased me most was what she said about her present university with each of the colleges having courses dealing with the issue of diversity. I think that’s a good thing, and it would be a good thing probably at Cal Poly,” Levenson said. “As far as answering my direct questions about enhancing the student population and being more diverse, she answered them in a general way, but then again she hasn’t had time to really consider it. She might have been more specific if she had time to consider the questions that I had beforehand.”

Mechanical engineering chair Andrew Davol said he would have liked to hear more about her corporate positions.

“She’s very dynamic, which I liked, but the provost position, at least traditionally, is more business oriented,” Davol said. “I would have liked to see a little more of her experience in kind of running the business of her college.”

The final provost candidate, Kathleen Finkin, current University of Wisconsin, La Crosse provost and vice president for academic affairs, will hold a forum on Oct. 7.

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