Cal Poly's new engineering dean comes from Arizona university

A civil engineering professor and academic affairs administrator from Northern Arizona University is the new dean of Cal Poly’s College of Engineering, according to Cal Poly officials.

Debra Larson, 54, will join Cal Poly on Aug. 22, taking over the university’s largest college with 5,000 students, 13 degree programs and more than 80 laboratories.

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a statement that Larson’s colleagues consistently praised her focus on student learning, her high energy, and ability to build consensus among peers.

“Cal Poly has one of the nation’s most respected engineering programs, yet everyone in the College of Engineering believes we can be even better, and Debra is the right person to help us enrich our program,” Armstrong said.

Larson has been with Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff since 1994, serving as a civil engineering professor; associate dean of Engineering and Professional Programs; chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department; associate dean of the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences; and, since July 2010, as associate vice provost for Academic Affairs.

Larson’s professional background includes stints with private engineering firms in Arizona, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Wisconsin. She also served as visiting professor at the Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, Finland, in 2003.