As a student involved in the Rose Float program, Heather Hanson spent many days balancing the books, procuring much needed materials and decorating the university’s latest parade entry.
Even after she graduated and began a career in the corporate world, Hanson (’94, marketing management) never left Rose Float behind. She has been active in the Rose Float Alumni Chapter for many years, serving as the president of the organization from 2007 to 2018.
So, when she was approached about serving as the interim Rose Float director – taking over for Janetta McDowell, who recently started a new role on campus as director of first year and transition experiences – Hanson agreed to take on the role, effective July 31.
The need for leadership continuity during this transition period and the chance to work closely with students sealed the deal, she said.
“I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun,” Hanson said. “Students who have come through the program are sharp and smart. They want to learn. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to mentor them and share what I’ve learned in my 20-plus years of experience in the business world. I am happy to help and give back.”
Hanson’s involvement in Rose Float goes back to her freshman orientation when she visited the program’s booth and decided to volunteer. The Monrovia native had had previous experience decorating floats in high school.
While at Cal Poly Pomona, her life revolved around Rose Float.
“It was bonding with like-minded people where we all just kind of clicked, and it made us a family,” Hanson said. “We were all very close and we are still close.”
She learned some important skills from Rose Float that she has applied during her 20-year career as a supply chain and operations executive for e-commerce companies – how to run a business, how to work with people and resolve issues on the job, and how to get things done with a tight deadline and budget.
“I managed the Rose Float budget and worked directly with suppliers for two years,” she said. “It was a tremendous learning experience. You can’t get that kind of practical experience just going to school.”
Hanson had been a member of the Rose Float Alumni chapter for several years when Ron Simons, the Cal Poly Pomona alumnus who helped start the float program, put out a call to arms. He told the group that the leadership board needed new blood and urged members to step up, Hanson said.
She heeded the call to join the board and later became president in 2007. That enabled her to work closely with the Rose Float directors at Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly SLO.
That connection with McDowell (’97, liberal studies), who served as director since 2015 will help her transition to overseeing the program, Hanson said.
“Janetta has shown me how things have changed and how the paradigm of the program and the parade has changed since I was a student,” she said. “I feel confident that I can take the reins from Janetta and run with it, then later effectively help the next person transition in.”
The success of the program has made way for the addition of a full-time student leadership coordinator position, according to Benardo J. Dargan, interim associate vice president and dean of students.
Brandon Woods, who previously assisted with the coordination of programs in the Office of Student Life & Cultural Centers, will serve as interim coordinator until a permanent appointment is made.