Renee Reigo Pera MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

Cal Poly’s Research and Economic Development Vice President Renee Reijo Pera will step down from her role in April, according to a campus-wide email.

Pera is returning to Montana, where she worked before Cal Poly, to become the new director of the nonprofit McLaughlin Research Institute.

“What I will miss is the central coast,” Pera said. “The way the air feels in the morning and at night; the kindness of the people and the vastness of the ocean. I will miss it a lot.”

She started her position at Cal Poly in August 2019. Before coming to Cal Poly, she held the same position at Montana State University where she worked for five years, according to a Cal Poly news release

Pera said she hopes to build multiple centers for science and technology in Montana to increase access to educational opportunities and jobs for the next generation. Her new role at the McLaughlin Institute is focused on neurodegeneration, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, along with prion-disorders

“This is an amazing area of focus,” Pera said. “I am excited to build new partnerships including with Cal Poly and Cal Poly students. We have much work to do.” 

Pera said she plans to stay connected to the university by serving on the University President’s Council of Advisors and taking trips back to San Luis Obispo with her husband.

“It was a hard decision to leave,” Pera said. “It was so hard that I hope to remain in some capacity.” 

While at Cal Poly, Pera’s role included fostering a creative and innovative environment where both students and faculty could be recognized and rewarded for their work, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. 

She said she believes her strategic research initiative was “without a doubt” the most successful initiative she instituted while at Cal Poly. 

“We have made great progress with these [initiatives], in particular in Data Science and Analytics,” Pera said.

Pera also oversaw the Cal Poly Technology Park and grant-affiliated associations such as the Grants Development and Sponsored Programs Office and the Institutional Review Board.

Pera earned several awards throughout the years for her research. In 2006. she was listed as one of 20 Influential Women in America by Newsweek magazine. In 2010, Time magazine praised her research in imaging algorithms as one of the top 10 breakthroughs in biomedicine.

Prior to working at Cal Poly and Montana State, Pera worked at Stanford University, which is steadily ranked as one of America’s top 10 research universities. 

“I am sorry that she wasn’t able to stay at Cal Poly longer,” President Armstrong said in a campus-wide email. “Dr. Pera’s tenure at Cal Poly has been transformative, and I expect that the programs she has focused on will remain priorities under new leadership.”

Cal Poly is beginning the process of finding a candidate to fill the open vice president position. 

Armstrong said that the University anticipates finding interim leadership in the very near future for the position to continue the work that Pera has been doing, according to the email.

“I wish her well in her future pursuits and know that she is seeking ways to continue to remain affiliated with Cal Poly,” Armstrong said in the campus-wide email.

Lazier echoed Armstrong’s remarks about the future of the position and explained that the details of the interim leadership of the program can not be shared at this time and will be made public soon.

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