CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White got a first-hand look at student inventions, the inner workings of the campus brewery, and mentoring and research efforts during a visit to Cal Poly Pomona.
The visit Thursday was the latest stop on White’s planned tour of all 23 campuses in the CSU system.
Besides the tour, White participated in a campus forum and met with the media.
He lauded the university’s innovative programs and initiatives and said he felt inspired hearing from students about their experiences and research.
White also commended faculty, staff and administrators in finding a balance to both challenge and support students with individual learning needs and styles.
“It takes resources and it takes bright minds to figure out how to create that support and challenge environment,” he said. “This campus is doing it in an amazing way.”
After breakfast at The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch, White dropped by the Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab), where students presented products they are developing, from a teardrop-shaped motion sensor that can keep track of water usage in the shower to a battery-powered scooter that folds into a backpack.
During a demonstration of a laptop bag that doubles as a seat cushion, White asked students whether they had received any “outlandish” comments from potential consumers. The team shared that some questioned if the cushion would be flimsy, to which the chancellor suggested they market it as “tougher than a Bronco.”
He also heard presentations from McNair Scholars about their various research projects and graduate school plans. Glen Morrison, a senior majoring in biology, spoke about being a first-generation college student who barely graduated high school before attending community college and turning things around academically.
Morrison later said that the chancellor shared that he came from similar circumstances.
“It was exciting,” Morrison said of the visit. “I thought it was really cool to meet the person who is most chief to the CSU system. You can tell that he cares.”
White dined at Innovation Brew Works and attended a presentation about the university’s successes in STEM education. Representatives from the colleges of Science, Environmental Design, and Engineering spoke about efforts to make sure that students who pursue degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields have the support and mentorship they need to be successful.
Professor Steve Alas, director of Science Educational Enhancement Services (SEES), gave a presentation on plans for what he dubbed the STEMpire program. Beginning with this year’s summer orientations, future Cal Poly Pomona STEM students will be divided into houses or teams, similar to the characters in the Harry Potter series, and compete in different events related to their majors for a trophy and bragging rights.
The purpose of the program is to get students enthusiastic about science, technology, engineering and math, Alas said. Less than 30 percent of students who major in STEM fields end up graduating with a degree in those fields, he added. Alas said those involved in planning the STEMpire program got the idea from the entertainment industry.
“We were really excited because we have so many innovative ideas,” he said, “ideas you’re not going to see at any other campus.”