President of Cogswell Polytechnic College and Joint Venture Board
By Duffy Jennings | Published: May 2010
With a long and distinguished career in academia, public policy, international affairs and business management, Chet Haskell is ideally suited to his dual responsibilities as president of Cogswell Polytechnical College and a board member of Joint Venture.
Both roles require directing vital collaborative efforts by diverse teams of dedicated people and organizations to produce results that enhance others’ lives.
“It’s pretty obvious,” says Haskell, seated in a conference room on the Cogswell campus, a digital arts and engineering college in Sunnyvale. “From both a philosophical and practical standpoint, the region prospers when you have all the parties in the same room. The central component is education.
“We have a specialization here at Cogswell that is hard to do in a big institution. We are providing an education for emerging professions, not for individual artists. The students here recognize that developing video games and digital films are a group task.”
As president of Cogswell since 2004, Haskell has stabilized the college, completed its reaccreditation, revamped its organizational structure and fostered greater ties with alumni, business and the community.
">“Our purpose here is to prepare people to move into useful roles in society. We are sitting in the global epicenter for these industries. Joint Venture has both an institutional and personal interest for me because we need to be seen as part of the community.”
Haskell has served on the advisory committee for Joint Venture’s annual Silicon Valley Index since he became a board member in 2006 at the urging of president and CEO Russell Hancock.
“Good data is the basis for discussion and planning,” Haskell says. “It’s all too easy in any region to get caught up in the mythologies of the day, but good data are very useful. You can be much more persuasive in an argument if you have good data.
“The Index is important to Silicon Valley because we are very internationally diverse, multi-cultural and entrepreneurial, so this kind of information makes a difference in the way we can improve things. I haven’t seen anything quite like it anywhere else.”
Over more than three decades in academia, Haskell has served as president of two small colleges, dean and de facto provost at another and in a range of senior level positions at larger institutions like Harvard and the University of Southern California. He has taught at both the masters and undergraduate levels, and has wide experience working with international programs in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Those experiences are a long way from the small northern Massachusetts town of Merrimac, where Donald and Virginia Haskell raised him and his brother and sister in the 1950s.
After high school, Chet entered Harvard University, where his classmates included the likes of future vice president Al Gore and future Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones.
Haskell majored in government and international relations, leading to a role in his senior year as executive director of the National Model United Nations, a student-run program involving more than 100 colleges and universities.
He and several others in the program were working in New York City on the spring day in 1969 when 300 student protestors took over University Hall at Harvard.
“We got back to Cambridge as quickly as possible, arriving the morning the police evicted the demonstrators, which completely radicalized Harvard,” Haskell recalls. Shortly thereafter, there was a fairly comprehensive student strike and I was involved in that.
“I recall amazing student meetings in Harvard Stadium, with several thousand students trying to argue about the strike in a reasonably democratic fashion, with votes and everything. As we were quite close to the end of the term anyway, my professors were pretty lenient with graduating seniors.
“Even though many of my classmates and I eventually ended up in pretty mainstream lives and careers, we all know folks who took a different path,” he says.
“In addition, the Vietnam War and its attendant politics made us all pretty skeptical of authority and quite open to new ideas and that certainly has been useful. All the changes associated with the Sixties made an impression, even if we all look presentable today.”
Haskell was drafted the day after his Harvard graduation and served three years in the Army. While at the Federal Executive Institute, he earned his Master of Arts degree in public administration from the University of Virginia. He later earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in public administration from the University of Southern California.
He began his professional career as associate director of the Washington D.C. Public Affairs Center for USC, where he spent four years, then worked briefly at the University of Vermont before returning to Harvard in 1982 as executive director of the Center for International Affairs. Over the next thirteen years, Haskell served in a variety of executive, faculty and advisory roles at Harvard and the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
From 1995 to 1999, Haskell was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professional Studies at Simmons College in Boston. He also served as President of the Monterey Institute of International Affairs for three years before taking over at Cogswell.
In addition to his executive duties at Cogswell, he also teaches courses in United States Government and international political economy. He is also a visiting professor in the School of Animation at Communications University in Beijing, China.
In addition to the Joint Venture board, Haskell currently serves on the American Council on Education’s Commission on International Initiatives, the Pacific Council on International Policy and the Equal Access International board of directors.
He has been a member of numerous other boards, commissions, task forces and other civic and community organizations, and has authored numerous professional articles.