Poly’s new leader has first day on the job

Cal Poly’s new president completed his first day on the job Tuesday — and vowed to continue the university’s learn-by-doing mission while seeking to increase revenues through fundraising and by boosting out-of-state student enrollment.

Jeffrey Armstrong began his day by meeting with the presidents of student council groups and Cal Poly’s student body president before answering questions from the media and attending an Academic Senate meeting.

Armstrong repeatedly talked about the importance of the students and the quality of their education as paramount in the decision-making on campus.

He also noted that Cal Poly’s polytechnic, hands-on learning is expensive to operate compared with the other Cal State University campuses.

Given that, he envisions building strong relations with alumni and other donors and growing the university’s endowment to help make up for shortfalls from state funding gaps.

In addition, Armstrong said that Cal Poly will look to enroll more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition to help make up for state allocations that once paid for 90 percent of university operating expenses and now cover about 50 percent.

Armstrong noted that he met a Cal Poly student from Oregon recently who came to the school because of an internship he had where he met a Cal Poly graduate. That kind of positive influence from alumni is what will help the university thrive, the new president said.

While acknowledging the need to bring in revenues, Armstrong said he doesn’t anticipate an increase in campus fees that students supported as former President Warren Baker neared the end of his term.

Baker sought to adopt the campus fees, which would have increased them to $562 per quarter for students by this year, but Chancellor Charles Reed opposed the move as tuition costs for all CSUs have risen over the past few years.

As Armstrong transitions into his new role, he will be filling key positions on campus, including the athletic director, provost, dean of engineering and vice president of advancement.

He said he expects candidates to interview for those positions before graduation in June — but he’s not sure precisely when each of the jobs will be filled.

The president of Cal Poly’s Associated Students Inc. said that she has been pleased with the attention Armstrong has paid students so far — including at their Tuesday morning meeting.

“It’s been a pleasure getting to know him,” Sarah Storelli said. “He’s been really engaged with us and willing to listen and learn.”

Armstrong stressed that shared governance on campus with students, faculty and staff will be critical.

He also said he didn’t know when the next raise for faculty may come, but noted that faculty compensation is a critical issue and that he wants the university to attract the best teachers it can to maintain its competitive edge.