Aiming to keep Cal Poly Pomona on an upward trajectory, new university President Soraya M. Coley charted a course of inclusion and collaboration in her first address to faculty and staff on Jan. 6 in the Bronco Student Center.
Coley, who became the first female president of Cal Poly Pomona on Jan. 1, titled her address “My Journey to You, Our Journey Together” and shared how her upbringing in legally segregated Goldsboro, North Carolina, shaped her childhood and forged her values.
“Growing up with imposed restrictions and boundaries made me even more determined to work to eliminate the barriers that divide people,” Coley said. “The denial solely on the basis of demographic and personal attributes causes society to miss the next great inventor, artist, scientist, educator, entrepreneur, designer, business executive or leader.”
Joining Coley at the event was her husband, Ron, who is the vice chancellor of Business and Administrative Services at UC Riverside. Before the main address, Rachel Dominguez, president of Staff Council, bestowed the title of Honorary Staff Council Member upon Coley. David Speak, chair of the Academic Senate and a member of the presidential search committee, primed an enthusiastic audience eager to hear the message of the new president.
Coley lauded the university’s “learn-by-doing” method and affirmed that her personal philosophy aligns with that approach. Coley added that the diversity of the campus, the climate of engagement and collaborative spirit make Cal Poly Pomona one of the jewels of the CSU system.
She pledged to be a leader who is “student-centered, faculty- and staff-focused, and community-minded.”
“Every faculty and staff member, and each division, unit, college and department play key roles that keep this university running and maintaining the academic excellence you are known for by alumni, and others across the state and nation,” Coley said. “And as we begin a new quarter, I thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to our students and the enrichment of our institution.”
One of the cornerstones of her strategy of inclusion is a listening tour that will encompass all divisions of the university. Coley said the insights gleaned from the tour will help provide a foundation for the next university plan that will include faculty and staff hiring, program strategies and priorities, and institutional and infrastructure needs.
“Your engagement and input will be instrumental as we plot our journey together. You can’t set realistic expectations without understanding the current environment, the challenges, perceived opportunities and resource expectations,” Coley said.
Coley also recognized the work of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Administrative Affairs, Information Technology, Advancement and Foundation. The achievements ranged from the record-setting $160-million Campaign for Cal Poly Pomona to the installation of a Wi-Fi network across the campus to improved graduation rates for freshmen and transfer students.
High rankings in U.S. News & World Report and other publications confirm the exceptional work achieved by the award-winning faculty, Coley said. The work of staff members gives students the vital support and services they need inside and outside of the classroom, she added.
Even before Coley officially took the reins as president, she was meeting administrators, the campus community, alumni and donors. She also helped decorate the Cal Poly Universities Rose Float and her first day on the job was spent in Pasadena watching the award-winning entry travel along Colorado Boulevard.
Coley, who was named Cal Poly Pomona president by the CSU Board of Trustees last September, was provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Cal State Bakersfield since 2005. She also was interim vice president for University Advancement.
During her career in higher education, she has served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Alliant International University and as dean of the College of Human Development and Community Service, an administrative fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and department chair and dean of Department of Human Services at Cal State Fullerton.
Coley earned a bachelor’s in sociology from Lincoln University, a master’s in social planning and social research from Bryn Mawr, and a Ph.D. in social planning and policy also from Bryn Mawr.
While paying tribute to President Emeritus Michael Ortiz and the legacy he leaves, Coley embraced the challenge of maintaining the lofty standards that have been set but also acknowledged that collaboration will be instrumental in this quest.
“Today, we begin our journey together. We’ve already taken the first step, with me sharing my journey and laying out my path to Cal Poly Pomona,” Coley said. “The next step is for me to understand your hopes, aspirations, concerns and suggestions. Our journey will only be successful if we venture forth together.”
To read the full address, download a PDF of the transcript.