Viewpoint

Departing Dave Christy has set a lofty example

June 12, 2013 

Dave Christy, dean of Cal Poly's Orfalea College of Business, has been named provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Baruch College in New York City.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The recent news out of Cal Poly that Dave Christy is heading to New York to be Baruch College’s chief academic officer is great news for Dave and Baruch College, but a loss for our community.

We both have had the pleasure of working with Dave in our capacities as board members and chairs of two different civic boards, the Central Coast Economic Forecast Project and the Economic Vitality Corporation.

Both boards benefited greatly from Dave’s ideas and his ability to stay focused on smart, relevant projects that have provided useful insights for many of us in the business community. For example, Dave initiated two in-depth studies while serving on the EVC that focused on the wine industry and the tourism industry. They have been immensely helpful to both understand and leverage the region’s assets to nurture a healthier economy. Thanks to Dave’s vision and his willingness to bring Cal Poly resources to the table, the Central Coast Economic Forecast program continues to deliver useful data about local economic trends.

But what really has distinguished Dave is the way he connected the campus to the town. Passionate about collaboration, Dave believed fervently in the importance of connecting Cal Poly students, faculty and staff with the business community. Dave invested huge amounts of personal time and effort, and the returns on those investments over the last nine years have been substantial. Among them:

• Dave helped make the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic a reality. In the spirit of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto, the clinic gives students — and faculty! — great real-world experience as well as provides a valuable public service to local residents.

• Dave helped launch the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which gives students opportunities to test ideas and skills and provides local entrepreneurs with opportunities to work with some of Cal Poly’s best and brightest in creating new products and innovative companies.

• This past year, Dave worked to marshal university resources in partnership with the city of SLO and the business community to develop a sustainable longterm plan for the SLO HotHouse, a small-business start-up incubator to help innovators and entrepreneurs. Dave would give all HotHouse credit to the local community. But Clint Pearce of Madonna Enterprises, one of the driving forces behind the Hot-House, asserts that Dave’s behind-the-scenes efforts were critical to establishing a strategic plan that forged a genuine partnership between the university and business community. And in a novel twist, Dave insisted that the HotHouse be located in the heart of downtown SLO rather than on campus.

• Performance numbers tell the story of his fierce dedication to academic excellence. The four-year graduation rates for Orfalea students have steadily increased, rising more than 10 percent since 2004.

• During Dave’s tenure, Cal Poly’s Orfalea College gained national recognition as an up-and-coming business school and has been ranked in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine’s list of the nation’s top undergraduate business colleges five years in a row.

This year, Cal Poly ranked 64th and was one of only three public universities in California to make the list. UC Berkeley came in at 11, and UC Riverside was ranked No. 124.

There undoubtedly are more statistics to cite, but we want to close by saying this: Dave Christy understood what the community craves from Cal Poly. He wasn’t merely present at meetings; time and again he proved that he was genuinely interested in helping the community, and he did so with a lot of heart and soul.

We hope Cal Poly finds a worthy successor, one who shares Dave’s respect and love for the community and his laser-like focus on enhancing Cal Poly’s academic reputation.

Dave Christy set the bar high, and we will miss him.

Maggie Cox is president of Barnett Cox & Associates; Tom Jones is director of corporate affairs for PG&E.

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