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Second round of candidates for Cal Poly president selected

A second search for the next president of Cal Poly has yielded three finalists with backgrounds that match some of the local university’s high-profile departments — two men with science backgrounds and a third with extensive experience in agriculture.

They are:

Robert E. Palazzo, provost and chief academic officer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York.

Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research and professor of biomedical engineering, University of Virginia.

Jeffrey D. Armstrong, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and professor of animal science, Michigan State University.

The candidates will speak and answer questions among Cal Poly campus groups over the next three days — including students, faculty and staff. Palazzo will visit today, Skalak on Wednesday and Armstrong on Thursday.

Each will appear in a forum open to the public starting at 4:30 p.m. in Cal Poly’s Advanced Technology Laboratories each day of their respective schedules.

The new president will succeed interim President Robert Glidden, who took over for retiring president Warren Baker in August. Baker had served as president since 1979.

This week marks the second time Cal State University officials have finalized a list of candidates to three and hosted a candidates’ visit at Cal Poly.

Capping a four-month quest, CSU’s board of trustees determined in June that two finalists weren’t the right fit. A third had withdrawn after visiting the campus.

The salary of the next president must be negotiated. Glidden earns a $328,200 annual salary, which is about what Baker earned.

Robert E. Palazzo

Palazzo has been provost of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute since 2007 and before that he was chairman of the university’s Department of Biology.

He also is the New York university’s founding director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Palazzo received his bachelor’s degree in biology and doctorate in biological sciences from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1979 and 1984 respectively.

He has authored numerous journal and conference research papers, organized conferences and edited books, in areas such as cellular organization, cell motility and cell replication, according to CSU officials.

Palazzo also has a long history in public policy, including heading up the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, which represents 22 societies and more than 80,000 scientists in Washington, D.C.

Thomas C. Skalak

Skalak was named vice president for research at the University of Virginia in 2008 and has been a member of the university’s Biomedical Engineering faculty since 1986. He was chairman of the department from 2001 to 2008.

He received a bachelor’s in bioengineering from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland in 1979 and a doctorate in bioengineering from UC San Diego in 1984.

Skalak is president of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, which represents more than 50,000 professionals.

He has been responsible for bringing in billions of dollars in venture capital money to the university, a science and art project bringing 300 faculty and community members together, and an interactive computer simulation game that predicts behaviors of the nation’s largest estuary and watershed in relation to human influences.

Skalak is a recognized expert in biomechanics and blood vessel growth, has used innovative multicellular computer modeling and has served as a consultant to major device and pharmaceutical firms.

Jeffrey D. Armstrong

Armstrong has been dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State since 2001. He previously was head of the Department of Animal Sciences at Purdue University from 1997 to 2001. And before that he served at various positions at North Carolina State University from 1986 through 1997.

Armstrong received both a master’s (1984) and doctorate (1986) in physiology and endocrinology from North Carolina State.

His research has focused on nutrition and reproduction in female pigs and cows; more recent work has been in social responsibility in the food chain.

Armstrong has been a key participant in more than $9 million in grants and cooperative agreements. He has written or contributed to more than 45 scientific journal articles.

He also has helped to grow his department’s faculty general fund by 44 percent and raised more than $200 million during his time at Michigan State.

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