The band roared. Cheerleaders shook their pompoms. And a baton twirler glimmered as she danced and spun under the Kellogg Gym lights.
University President Soraya M. Coley took faculty and staff back to the days of pep rallies in the gymnasium before the big game for the Aug. 20 Convocation – even intercepting a swimming trunks-clad Bronco Billy headed to the pool so he wouldn’t miss the annual academic year kickoff event.
A crowd of approximately 1,000 gathered around tables decorated with centerpieces made of canned goods — items subsequently donated to the student food pantry on campus — to hear Coley’s wide-ranging speech on everything from semester conversion to highlights of the previous year’s successes to the university’s new logo and seal.
“We have been traveling partners for more than three years now,” Coley said. “We’ve shared moments when the path was straight, wide and level. We’ve also shared moments when the incline was steep and rocky. But regardless of the shape of the path, we have traveled this road together.”
Coley compared gearing up for the first semester in the university’s history to preparing for Y2K, the phenomenon in the year 2000 that called for every computer on earth to be adjusted to avert a tech crisis.
“Virtually every process and program had to be considered and, if necessary, realigned to pave the way for semesters,” she said. “More than 3,500 courses were redesigned. Financial aid. Admissions. Registration. Course scheduling and the facilities timelines. Our tech infrastructure had to be changed. You name it. It had to be reviewed and readied for the move to semesters.”
The work was hard and the transition tough, Coley said. So difficult, in fact, that she recalled attending a musical revue in 2015 hosted by the music department where Professor Dave Kopplin performed an original song he composed titled “Semester Conversion Blues.”
Kopplin and the Semester Conversion Jazz Ensemble performed the number at Convocation. He also debuted a happier response song specifically for the event in honor of how far the university has come to get ready for the change. A choir joined Kopplin and the jazz ensemble on stage to perform “We’re Ready Now,” an ode to starting anew.
A Year of Success
In her State of the University speech, Coley celebrated the previous year’s successes, from the university’s historic enrollment to receiving funding to help alleviate the shortage of special education teachers in the region to besting the four-year and two-year transfer graduation rates.
She discussed how at last year’s conference she introduced the framework and themes of the strategic plan and lauded the various divisions for working hard to make those initiatives into actionable objectives.
“We are moving from strategic planning to strategic doing, as we undertake the work that will continually advance this great university,” she said. “Find yourself in the plan. Discover where you or your division and unit are essential in realizing these goals.”
Other accomplishments from 2017-18 include:
- A 45 percent increase in private philanthropic support over the previous year, with the total value of the university’s endowment exceeding $100 million for the first time.
- Parking Structure 2 became the first in the state to earn Parksmart certification for its sustainable design.
- The university won the 2018 system-wide Human Resources All-Star Award from the CSU for its employee onboarding and assimilation process improvement initiative.
- Money Magazine ranked Cal Poly Pomona No. 47 on its list of “The 50 Best Colleges in the U.S.” for quality and affordability, up from No. 124 last year.
New Logo, Seal, Colors
Also unveiled were the university’s new logo, seal and colors. The branding initiative was launched last year and involved eight committees, as well as consultants who specialize in marketing, branding and design. The initiative was also informed by thousands of survey responses from stakeholders and the general public in Southern California. The results showed that while the university’s reputation exceeded the previous brand, there were many who weren’t aware of Cal Poly Pomona’s many accomplishments, she said.
“Financial support for higher education, more than ever, is associated not only with federal and state and legislature support, but also donors, foundations, corporations, and regional and community leaders,” Coley said. “So after a very deliberative process, it was clear that with our branding, we needed to both look forward as well as pay homage to our unique history.”
The Year Ahead
- 46 tenure-track faculty searches have been approved with a goal to increase the number of tenured professors, reflecting the diversity of the university’s student population, the region and the state.
- FivePoint has been selected as the developer for the Lanterman site.
- Crews will soon complete the Student Services and Administration Building.
- A new philanthropic foundation will be established to focus on fundraising and development, while the current auxiliary foundation will continue with business operations.
- The university plans to break ground on construction of a new Rose Float Lab and Design Complex, thanks to significant donor contributions.
“And so, our journey continues, and as we strive to reach the next plateau, it is essential that we always find time to consider why we are on this journey,” she said. “Each year, at Fall Conference, we affirm our guiding principle: One Team. One Goal. Student Success. Fortunately, the reminders of our purpose are everywhere we go and in everything we do.”
For more information about Convocation, including the full transcript of the president’s speech, visit the Fall Conference website.