University President Soraya M. Coley welcomed faculty and staff back to campus at a convocation event that was part rally and part seminar.
An estimated 800 faculty and staff attended the kick off to Fall Conference on Monday, Sept. 19. With Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” as her soundtrack, Coley made her way down the top-floor hallway of the Bronco Student Center and into Ursa Major, greeting staff and faculty with handshakes, hugs and “How are you doing?”
To open her formal remarks, President Coley directed the audience to the pen lights placed on all of the seats, which will symbolically light the way in an academic year that will include the largest number of students – more than 24,000 – enrolled in the university’s history, she said.
“This a different year for Cal Poly Pomona – for you and for me, for the entire campus community,” she said. “It’s a year of change – change in the faculty ranks, among staff and university leadership, and change in the size of our student population.”
Even more significant than the newly opened parking structure on the south end of campus or the progress in converting to the semester system, is the change in perspective, Coley said. During a listening tour last academic year, she visited 93 academic and administrative units and met with more than 1,200 members of the campus community, as well as students.
The president said she learned about the need for more summer classes to expedite graduation and to deter costs, so the university offered the classes at a reduced rate. Plans to revamp the university travel policy and to upgrade restroom facilities at University Plaza to accommodate transgender students are underway as a result of the listening tour.
“The listening will continue,” she said. “Know that the Listening Tour is not a ‘to-do list,’ but rather it’s another useful tool to help effectuate change and to give substance to the perspectives we hear about.”
Convocation also included the introduction President Coley’s Cabinet members, many of them new faces. Each division leader spoke about their goals and new initiatives for the year, including semester conversion, improving student retention and graduation rates, and addressing food insecurity and homelessness among students. Administrative Affairs Vice President Danielle Manning also discussed developing a financial plan that will support the university’s strategic goals and objectives, as well as provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff.
Also underway is a university-wide effort to craft a strategic plan, a topic that was the focus of the latter part of Convocation.
Peter Stokes, managing director of Huron Consulting Group and a consultant on the project, spoke about the university’s progress in the strategic planning since January 2016 and shared some of the early survey results. Led by the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, the university created a strategic planning website, held focus groups to poll stakeholders, and interviewed other CSU and civic leaders, Stokes said. Around 700 people participated in the online survey, including a significant number of alumni, he added.
“Folks have a connection to this institution,” he said. “They care about the identification of this institution. They care about the future of this institution, and that is a very significant achievement.”
During a panel discussion, participants talked about the importance of experiential learning for students and the value of balancing liberal arts programs with the more technical areas of study. Participants included biological sciences department Chair Lisa Alex and Martin Sancho-Madriz, professor of human nutrition and food sciences, as well as guest speaker Thomas Carey, executive in residence for teaching and learning innovation for higher education systems in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada.
To read the transcript of President Coley’s Convocation message, download the PDF.