Cal Poly meets second finalist for president


The second of three finalists for the Cal Poly president position visited the campus Tuesday and, in remarks during a public forum, touched on his senior management experience with the U.S. Navy, his success in university fundraising in Ohio and the importance of staying up to speed technologically.

Carlo Montemagno, the University of Cincinnati engineering department dean and a professor of engineering education, spoke in front of Cal Poly students, faculty, alumni and staff in the second of three afternoon open forums the university is hosting for the presidential candidates. The third will be held today when Steven R. Angle, provost of Wright State University in Ohio, comes to Cal Poly.

Montemagno said that Cal Poly’s long-standing tradition of requiring senior projects should continue.

He also said that a president needs to be the face of capital fundraising campaigns and he’d take an active role in cultivating relationships with potential donors.

He also pledged flexibility in how Cal Poly requires applicants to declare their major before entering the university and discourages students from changing majors.

“Most 17-year-olds don’t know what they want,” Montemagno said.

Montemagno said his 10-year career in the Navy expedited his career experience and included high-ranking leadership positions operating a petroleum production plant in Bakersfield — a partnership between the Navy and Chevron.

He left his position with the Navy at age 33, he said, to pursue research, which in recent years has included inquiry into micro-scale medical devices.

Answers on some of the topics he addressed Tuesday included the following:

Broad-based education

Montemagno said his background is in the sciences and that he would need to ensure the prosperity of disciplines with which he’s not as familiar.

He said he recognizes the value of a liberal arts education and said students of all disciplines can benefit from a broad education, as well as interacting with students unlike themselves.

On fundraising

Montemagno said that it would be vital for him to maintain the relationships with private donors that retiring President Warren Baker has cultivated during his 31 years as Cal Poly’s leader.

Montemagno said he has raised nearly $23 million at the University of Cincinnati over the past few years.

He said an important aspect of the job is making sure donors feel connected and have input in university decisions and operations.

Alcohol-related deaths

Montemagno said that a culture of responsible behavior is the most important aspect of preventing alcohol-related student deaths.

He said establishing pressure to avoid binge drinking is vital to success.

Montemagno said he would encourage a sense of propriety among Cal Poly students and that the quality and rigor of a Cal Poly education would play a role in influencing their behavior.

Cal Poly’s reputation

While acknowledging Cal Poly’s strong reputation throughout the state and nation, Montemagno said important decisions will need to be made that could help determine whether the university becomes a national powerhouse.

Those include how to “brand” the university, which he describes as areas of focus that people associate with Cal Poly. Montemagno mentioned that “sustainability” could possibly be one of them.

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.

Whether to “scale back” the university’s athletic program to boost its academic programs could also be a hard choice as well, he said.