Armstrong, provost create two high-level positions

(Photo by Maggie Kaiserman)

Sean McMinn

UPDATE — 11:08 a.m.

Presidential spokesperson Chip Visci said there will be no increase in salary for philosophy professor Rachel Fernflores in the new fellowship position. New salaries for David Wehenr and Andrew Thulin were not immediately available.

He added it is helpful to have a faculty member in the president’s office who understands curriculum issues and is familiar with university initiatives.

“There’s a lot of big ideas going on around what Cal Poly might look like in the future,” Visci said. “We might have a Learn by Doing village, we might nave an ag tech center. We know we want to strengthen partnerships with industry and others donors and stuff. But our curriculum has to be solid.”

Visci called the fellowship a common practice at other public universities in California. He said Academic Senate Chair Steve Rein was positive about the new position when it was announced during Tuesday’s Academic Senate Executive Committee meeting.

The job description for Fernflores’ new position is below:

Faculty Fellow Assistant to the President


Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong will create two new top-level positions after spring quarter, both of whom will work closely with the president in executing his goals during the coming year.

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean David Wehner will serve as interim vice president for strategic initiatives — a position created in response to shifting administration and increasing opportunities for public-private partnerships at the university, Armstrong said.

“Sometimes people are ready for a change,” Armstrong said of Wehner’s appointment. “And … we need this assistance at the senior level.”

Philosophy professor and former Academic Senate chair Rachel Fernflores will also be named as the first presidential faculty fellow, according to presidential spokesperson Chip Visci.

The new positions, neither of which were open for applications before Armstrong and Provost Kathleen Enz Finken made the appointments, come just one week after Vice President of Administration and Finance Larry Kelley announced he would retire at the end of this academic year. Armstrong said part of Wehner’s job will be to help the successors of both Kelley and Dave Christy — who will leave his post as Orfalea College of Business dean during summer — transition to Cal Poly.

Wehner will be the fifth of Cal Poly’s six college deans to leave his position since 2010. Andrew Thulin, chair of the animal science department, will replace Wehner as the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences dean.

“Dean Wehner is a very seasoned leader,” Armstrong said. “He served as dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences for over 11 years. This will provide him an opportunity to do something broader than the college, which I know is a very healthy change and he’s excited to do it.”

With six key administration changes since Armstrong took office and the number of deans leaving, Armstrong said Cal Poly is at risk of not being able to capitalize on opportunities to improve. A donation campaign expected to bring millions of dollars to Cal Poly is already underway, and Armstrong expects Wehner to manage plans that will advance the university and reach out to donors.

Wehner’s position will exist for no more than one-and-a-half years, Armstrong said.

“I can’t really quote problems this will solve,” Armstrong said. “But I believe it’s a proactive move to help us capture opportunities in the future and frankly to help us speed up (current opportunities).”

Armstrong said he is not concerned about increased expenses in Wehner’s top-level move because of its temporary nature.

“You have to spend money in order to move forward,” he said. “And the good news is our budget is looking better.”

Fernflores will begin in her fellowship in mid-June and, according to her job description, report to Armstrong and his chief of staff, Betsy Kinsley. The president and other administrators will ask Fernflores to complete projects for the university during her two-year appointment, including representing the president’s on-campus committees.

The fellowship will remain a faculty position and does not have management authority, Visci wrote in an email.

Fernflores has not taught a class this academic year because she is receiving release time for her work on university committees. These include the high-profile Semester Review Task Force, which completed its work earlier this year.

She did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday morning.

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