Tribune ‘trivialized’ provost’s career; here’s the full story

Cal Poly Provost Kathleen Enz Finken recently announced that she will be stepping down after nearly seven years with the university.
Cal Poly Provost Kathleen Enz Finken recently announced that she will be stepping down after nearly seven years with the university. SanLuisObispo

The Tribune’s Jan. 16 story on the retirement of Cal Poly Provost Kathleen Enz Finken does a disservice to a prominent member of our community and gives unfairly short consideration to a dedicated academician who has devoted seven years to maintaining and improving Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing excellence.

By ignoring the many highlights of Dr. Enz Finken’s distinguished career, The Tribune has trivialized her numerous contributions.

With seven years at Cal Poly, Enz Finken is the longest serving member of President Jeffrey D. Armstrong’s senior cabinet. Her influence is seen throughout Cal Poly. As provost, she has provided leadership for Cal Poly’s six academic colleges as well as the graduate, extended and international education programs. She hired all six of the current college deans and oversaw recruitment of employees and leaders throughout Academic Affairs — including more than 300 tenure-track faculty members. During her tenure, the number of tenure-track faculty and lecturers has increased, as has the university’s graduation rate. She has been a champion for diversity and equity and promoted the faculty and staff salary equity program as well as increased childcare options for students and employees.

She has overseen a $180-million-plus budget for a division that encompasses all of Cal Poly’s academic programs as well as admissions, research and economic development and financial aid, among other programs (even athletics and information technology services at points during her tenure).

Her leadership has directly led to a wide variety of programmatic and infrastructure improvements throughout academic affairs, including:

▪ Development of a full Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology;

▪ Development of an International Center for study abroad and exchange programs;

▪ Creation of an Office of Graduate Education and expansion of services to serve the graduate student population;

▪ Significant, ongoing investment in the university research programs;

▪ With the Academic Senate and faculty at large, facilitating the first complete review and revision of Cal Poly’s general education program in more than 20 years;

▪ Redevelopment of the university’s honors program, now enrolling more than 500 students; and

▪ Creation and enhancement of resources such as the Mustang Success Center, Poly Planner and Degree Audit programs that make a direct, positive impact on student advising and Cal Poly’s efforts in the broader California State University Graduation Initiative 2025.

For the last two years, Enz Finken has been the senior provost in the entire CSU system. For the last several years, she has served as chair of the CSU Provosts’ Research Committee, and she has served on the systemwide CSU Sustainable Budget Task Force.

As supporters of Cal Poly and Dr. Enz Finken, we believe she deserves better than an incomplete and off-base report that seeks to undermine her reputation and ignore her positive contributions. We offer our thanks for her years of service to our university and higher education. We wish her well as she transitions to the next phase of her life. And we commend her for her accomplishments and the high bar she has set during her time at Cal Poly.

Submitted by Andrew Thulin, dean of Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; Christine Theodoropoulos, dean of College of Architecture and Environmental Design; Amy Fleischer, dean of College of Engineering; Kathryn Rummell, interim dean of College of Liberal Arts; Dean Wendt, dean of College of Science and Mathematics; Scott Dawson, dean of Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business.