To borrow the mantra of the real-estate industry, delivering on Cal Poly Pomona’s pledge of student success boils down to one detail: location, location, location.
The Office of Student Success on the seventh floor of the CLA Building oversees initiatives and programs that assist students, while the Bronco Advising Center ensures that students are making strides on their academic paths. These two centers that drive student success are separated by five floors, several elevators and a long corridor in the CLA.
That divide will be bridged when the two offices move into the new Student Services Building, which will become the hub of academic and financial services for students when the 138,000-square-foot facility becomes fully operational in early 2019.
Beneath the flowing and glistening curves of the new Student Services Building, the Office of Student Success, Bronco Advising Center, Registrar, Financial Aid and other vital resources that are essential to student success will be housed under one roof.
“The design of the building is really about being student-centered,” said S. Terri Gomez, associate vice president and leader of the Office of Student Success. “We want to be able to engage with students but we also don’t want to waste their time. Most of our students are working. Most of our students just need quick answers to their questions so they can go to class.”
When students enter the first floor of the SSB, it will look similar to what diners at the Golden Arches see. Two electronic kiosks with touch screens will allow students to direct their questions to the appropriate department or get an answer about a particular issue.
The first floor also will contain a concierge desk and a counter staffed by counselors who are cross-trained to answer questions ranging from dropping a class to receiving financial aid. If issues are more complex and require privacy, there are several counseling rooms where the matter can be addressed away from public purview.
“We’re not going to send students to multiple offices trying to chase down resources,” said Gomez. “The idea is to meet the students where they are at and have them come to one place and get the services they need. We’ll be able to engage students much quicker.”
The layout of the SSB has the Bronco Advising Center and the offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Registrar, Graduate Studies, Early Start, PolyTransfer, Student Outreach, Orientation Services, Alumni and Parent Engagement, and the Veterans Resource Center stationed on the first floor. In addition, there will be a campus tour office and a conference room for tour groups.
“Students don’t care about the organizational structure. They care that someone cares about them, and that someone spends the time to help them navigate whatever issue they are having,” said Cecilia Santiago-González, director of Strategic Initiatives and leader of the Bronco Advising Center. “It’s their question, so we always take the time to understand where they’re coming from.”
Technology also will help streamline services to students. Every time a student seeks assistance, counselors will log the meeting using a notetaking system that will help ensure that students have their concerns addressed and avoid subsequent meetings about the same issue.
“You always know the status of something. If you’re meeting with a student, you will know historically what have been the conversations with that student. If the student hasn’t followed through with a referral, you will know,” Santiago-González said. “The holistic approach is understanding that it’s all-hands-on-deck to ensure that students are successful here. Leveraging this type of technology really exemplifies the fact that we care about all of our students.”
While new software and building functionality will contribute to the process of student success, student matriculation and graduation rates are the benchmarks at universities.
The California State University system adopted an ambitious mandate in the Graduation Initiative 2025, which aims to ensure that all students have the opportunity to be successful and graduate. The CSU’s plan is to increase graduation rates while eliminating achievement and equity gaps.
The Graduation Initiative 2025 goals call for the four-year freshman graduate rate to reach 25 percent, the six-year freshman rate to hit 61 percent, the transfer two-year rate to climb to 38 percent, the transfer four-year rate to achieve 77 percent, and the elimination of equity gaps for underrepresented minorities and Pell Grant-eligible students.
“What we are starting to see as we disaggregate the data and look into our success rates is that the transfer students are outperforming freshmen. We have, for example, already met the 2025 goal for transfer two-year graduation rate. It’s pretty extraordinary. In fact, we’ve blown past the Graduation Initiative metric. And we’re on track to meet the four-year goal,” Gomez said. “We’re just doing phenomenally well with our rates.”
Cal Poly Pomona is only one of two CSU campuses to meet or exceed the goals in all six metrics, Gomez said. Stanislaus State, which has about 10,000 students, is the other CSU to make progress. Cal Poly Pomona has a student population of nearly 26,000 and graduated the largest class in its history last June.
“We’re bringing in more students and getting them out a little quicker. Our time to degree is certainly decreasing,” Gomez said. “The mandate is clear. We have to engage in a continuous cycle of improvement.”
The SSB will not only centralize and streamline services to students, the facility will become the architectural jewel of the campus. The Cal Poly Pomona Department of Facilities Design & Construction started construction of the facility in June 2016.
“Location matters. The SSB is going to be the front of Cal Poly Pomona. It’s going to be a wonderful front door for our campus,” Gomez said. “It’s going to transform the campus and will be symbolic of the work we’ve been doing to put students at the center.”