First Cal Poly president finalist pays a visit to campus

The first of three finalists in the search for Cal Poly’s next president visited the campus Monday and stated her interest in leading the university because of what she described as its forward thinking and continual goal to rethink itself.

Sona K. Andrews, the provost of Boise State University in Idaho, answered a broad range of questions from students, faculty, staff and alumni during an afternoon open forum as part of a daylong meeting with university groups.

In the forum, Andrews said she has worked closely with legislators in Idaho because the college campus is within a mile of the state’s Capitol building.

She also stressed her fundraising experience, which included helping to garner millions of dollars from Idaho hospitals for donations toward nursing programs.

Andrews also said that the focus of the university’s mission needs to be the benefit to students, including research-based and hands-on learning.

In response to one question at the forum, Andrews acknowledged that Cal Poly is the third university at which she has applied to become president. The others are Missouri State University and the University of Rhode Island.

Some of her responses on topics raised at the forum include the following:

• On the question of the value of senior projects — a university-wide graduation requirement — given their demands on faculty time and attention:

Andrews said that the effectiveness of senior projects should be determined by how valuable they are to students.

She said that most importantly, students should gain learning experiences that will help them in their educational, personal and professional lives.

Andrews said that at Boise State, mentoring relationships have been effective between students and people in the local, national and international communities, and those are relationships that need to be taken advantage of.

• On the role of president as a fundraiser:

Andrews said that the president does play an important role in seeking private money for a university. But she added that the president also needs to recognize that other members of the staff can play vital roles as well.

She stressed the importance of knowing when and where to develop and build relationships that can help build the endowment.

Andrews cited an example of making sure that hospitals were asked “what they wanted” when pitched for donations for nursing-related dollars on campus.

She said they negotiated donations and made agreements based on mutually beneficial goals.

• On the importance of “sustainability”:

Andrews said that she believes sustainability needs to be incorporated into every student’s curriculum in a variety of ways so they leave college with a better understanding of how they can make it part of their lives.

According to the United Nations, sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

She said that reducing the “carbon footprint” is one way, but sustainability in areas such as the economy and transportation is key as well. A carbon footprint is generally considered to mean the amount of carbon dioxide emissions associated with an individual’s day-to-day activities.

Andrews said she didn’t know the answer to whether lessons in sustainability should be incorporated into general education, but lessons throughout the campus need to take place, she said.

• On diversity:

Andrews said she has worked at Boise State to recruit and retain minority faculty and students — including holding monthly lunches for “underrepresented” students to gauge their comfort level on campus.

She has also tried to recruit women and minority students by researching databases of undergraduates who may be good candidates for graduate degrees.

Andrews said that statistics are important in creating a diverse campus, but also important is making sure those in a minority are retained and that flexibility in approaches to education is encouraged.