|Kristen Day has spent a year at Cal Poly Pomona learning about the university's hands-on philosophy.|
After a year at Cal Poly Pomona, Kristen Day's time as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow is coming to a close. But the leadership skills she's gained from this experience are sure to last a lifetime.
During her time on campus, Day was basically President Ortiz's “shadow” — learning from his daily mentorship and immersing herself in the culture, policies, administration and decision-making processes that are part of everyday life at a university. The week of May 19 will be her last on campus.
To participate in the ACE Fellowship, Day took a leave of absence from her full-time job at UC Irvine, where she serves as an urban planning professor. She then applied her full attention to the leadership-development program, which prepares emerging leaders across the country to serve American colleges and universities.
As it turns out, her location choice couldn't have been better.
“I applied to come to Cal Poly Pomona because, among other things, I knew about the quality of the university from its urban planning program, which is very well regarded,” she said. “But I'm also very interested in the concept of hands-on learning — and Cal Poly is a great place for me to be in that respect, because that's really the foundation of the campus.”
Indeed, Day's learning opportunities proved to be everything she expected. Every day, she was exposed to new aspects of university leadership — including things like budget planning, enrollment management, assessment, accreditation and strategic planning.
“The president has been incredibly generous in opening up opportunities and asking me what I want to learn about,” she said. “I've been able to sit in on all kinds of different meetings and events — like cabinet meetings, strategic planning sessions, budget committees and senate meetings — all different aspects of campus life.”
Day also spent a lot of time doing one-on-one interviews with folks all over campus, learning about housing, psychological counseling, Associated Students Inc. and the ombuds' office — things she would not normally have the chance to see.
“I'm basically a sponge,” she adds. “I've been watching, listening and learning from all these discussions and processes, and have even had the chance to practice what I've been learning.”
One high point has been learning about the power of personal relationships in leadership.
“I've watched firsthand how President Ortiz is open and approachable and really gets to know people on campus and that creates a climate of goodwill that's an important part of leading a campus,” she says. “For example, he knows the name of just about everybody on campus. His style has really been wonderful to watch, and is something I'm definitely trying to learn from.”
“I really hate to go; its been such an amazing opportunity,” she added. “But I've learned plenty during my time here, and hopefully, I'll have some opportunities to put some of what I've learned into practice.”