Michael Ortiz, a finalist for the presidency at Cal State Channel Islands, pledged Tuesday that if chosen he would make the budding university first and foremost an institution of higher learning for Ventura County residents.
In a meeting with reporters, Ortiz, who is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Cal State Fresno, said the education needs of county residents--who for the first time would have a public, four-year university nearby--should be the first priority when recruiting students.
He was the first of the three finalists to tour the campus and meet with administrators and faculty representatives in a series of candidate appearances scheduled this week.
Ortiz and the other finalists--Vicky Carwein, chancellor and dean of the University of Washington, Tacoma, and Richard Rush, president of Minnesota State University at Mankato--are also expected to dine with two citizen advisory groups guiding the creation of the university.
The candidates will be interviewed by the Cal State Board of Trustees early next month, and a new top administrator is expected to be selected shortly thereafter to replace outgoing President Handel Evans.
A 53-year-old New Mexico native and a graduate of the universities of North Carolina and New Mexico, Ortiz spoke in a brief question-and-answer session following a full day of meetings.
“The reason behind the campus has always been that the people in the community have access to higher education,” he said. “We’re going to have a community of students and scholars.”
Still, as the university grows in coming years, he predicted it would be desirable to students from throughout California.
“All you have to do is look out the window,” Ortiz said from the university’s administration building on the sprawling manicured grounds of the former Camarillo State Hospital. “If this was not a campus that would be pleasing to students, I don’t know what would.”
Cal State Channel Islands is scheduled to open to college juniors and seniors in fall 2002 if enrollment goals are met. The first freshman class is expected to arrive at the start of the following school year. Cal State Northridge currently offers extension classes at the campus.
Ortiz said he embraced the public-private partnerships and income-generating ventures the campus has designed to expand the school over the next 25 years.
He said he had developed a number of community partnerships in Fresno since his arrival there in 1997, including an entrepreneurial center that helped local businesses get off the ground.
The new president of the campus will be expected to hire about 25 faculty members who will help plan educational programs and course content. The first of the teaching faculty will be brought on board by the end of the year.
Ortiz said he would look for faculty who are knowledgeable about technology and interested in interdisciplinary teaching.
He added that he expects the campus’ educational programs will complement local industry, including agribusiness and biotechnology.
“We need to look toward industry that expects us to produce the graduates they need,” he said.
Ortiz toured the deep-water Port of Hueneme, a major import-export center that ranks fourth in the state in total tonnage delivered.
The university is expected to include in its curriculum courses on international business and middle-management training courses, said Barbara Thorpe, associate academic vice president.
Carolyn Leavens, who serves on both citizen advisory groups, said she has heard high praise for each of the three finalists and hopes trustees will choose the person who can best appreciate the opportunity the university will offer county residents, including people traditionally sidelined from higher learning.
“The kids in less well-heeled areas of the county who have no hope of getting to a university now will have one,” Leavens said. “This university is the lighthouse that will provide the illumination so they can see it’s possible for them.”