December 28, 2016
After serving six years as dean of the College of Engineering, Debra Larson is leaving the university for a new role as vice president and provost at Chico State. Larson’s last day with Cal Poly will be Friday, Feb. 24.
During her tenure here, Larson has worked to improve graduation rates, increase the percentage of the college’s female students and encourage programs such as the new Cybersecurity Center.
“Cal Poly’s College of Engineering is ranked among the best in the nation, and we thank Dr. Larson for her stewardship and leadership,” said Kathleen Enz Finken Cal Poly’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “We wish her continued success in this next chapter of her career.”
Under Larson’s leadership, Cal Poly Engineering’s fundraising grew from about $4 million per year to a total of $15 million in 2015-16.
The college increased its four-year graduation rate from about 8 percent to nearly 31 percent, and its six-year graduation rate jumped from 64 percent to 71 percent.
When Larson came aboard in 2011, women accounted for about 20 percent of first-time freshmen in the college; this year, 28 percent of first-time freshmen are women. Overall, about 23 percent of students in the college of 6,000 are women.
The campus’ Cyber Lab, which began offering classes in 2014 as part of the university’s cybersecurity initiative, was part of a larger effort Larson helped lead to keep learning environments fresh and relevant across a spectrum of areas, including advanced manufacturing, autonomous flight, innovation and entrepreneurship, safety diversity and inclusivity.
“We tackled the future by taking a first-things-first approach, from rebuilding the business model and culture of the college to introducing a number of new and exciting initiatives,” said Larson. “I am proud of the college-wide collaborations and momentum we have created together. It has resulted in a college that is re-energized, constantly reimagining its possibilities and poised for the future.”
Prior to her tenure at Cal Poly, Larson served as chair, associate dean and associate vice provost during 17 years of service at Northern Arizona University (NAU). She also worked as a civil engineer in the private sector for more than a decade before her work at NAU.