Gov. Gavin Newsom, citing the need to shape “an equitable, sustainable, inclusive economy of the future,” has named Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya M. Coley to a newly formed state commission tasked with that ambitious goal.
“For so many Californians, having a job is about more than just getting a paycheck – it’s about belonging,” Newsom said on May 1 when he signed the executive order creating the commission. “It’s about understanding that you fit into a broader picture and that you provide value to others. As California builds the economy of tomorrow, we must prioritize our workers and strengthen pathways for Californians to find meaning through work.”
Over the coming year, the 21-member Future of Work Commission will make recommendations about harnessing technology, innovation and lifelong learning to promote better jobs, wages and working conditions, and to ensure that prosperity remains within reach throughout society.
President of Cal Poly Pomona since 2015, Coley has overseen a period of historic growth in enrollment and progress in promoting student success. In addition to strengthening Cal Poly Pomona’s standing as a national leader in promoting social mobility, Coley has made preparing students for the future of work a campus priority. As a cornerstone of the campus’ Strategic Plan, Cal Poly Pomona launched an initiative titled The Future of Work, Human and Civic Engagement. This broad-based project draws on experts across Cal Poly Pomona and beyond campus to consider the essential skills and abilities students need to achieve their full potential professionally and personally and be engaged in civic life. Drawing on the 8-elements that comprise Cal Poly Pomona’s inclusive polytechnic approach, the campus is designing a framework to embed student acquisition of these competencies in its curricular and co-curricular programs.
Coley previously served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, Bakersfield from 2005 to 2014, a senior research fellow for the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare from 2004 to 2005, and system-wide provost and vice president for academic affairs for Alliant International University from 2001 to 2003. She held multiple positions at California State University, Fullerton from 1981 to 2001. Coley is a member of the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs, the Los Angeles County Fair Association and the Pomona Community Foundation, and serves as presidential sponsor for the American Council on Education Women’s Network for Southern California. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in social planning and policy and a Master of Social Welfare degree in social planning and social research from Bryn Mawr College.
“Dr. Coley is uniquely qualified for membership in this commission,” the Los Angeles County Business Federation said in a letter of support. “During her tenure as president, Cal Poly Pomona has continued to grow its legacy as the most diverse polytechnic university in the country and as a national leader in promoting social and economic mobility.”
The federation, a grassroots alliance of more than 180 top business groups representing more than 400,000 employers throughout Los Angeles County, said the commission’s work “is strongly aligned with the strategic priorities of Cal Poly Pomona and their inclusive polytechnic approach.”
CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White cited Coley’s experience as a thought leader in higher education, calling her a visionary in understanding and preparing students for the future of work. He also noted that her personal journey has given her a perspective that will enhance the commission’s work.
“Dr. Coley grew up in segregated North Carolina, where her experiences led to a career defined by a commitment to expanding opportunity and eliminating inequities,” White said. “This commitment can be found throughout her career and is most recently evidenced by Cal Poly Pomona’s student success efforts that are improving outcomes across the board and greatly reducing achievement gaps.”
State Sen. Connie Leyva said Cal Poly Pomona is creating a robust and actionable campus-wide vision for preparing its students for the future of work, human and civic engagement. The Senator noted that “Dr. Coley recognizes the transformative power of higher education in the lives of students, their families and communities.”
Rated as one of the top regional public universities in the Western U.S., Cal Poly Pomona has provided students a unique higher education experience for more than 80 years. Cal Poly Pomona’s more than 26,000 students live and learn on a 1,400-acre campus located in one of the most dynamic and diverse regions in the U.S. As a modern and inclusive polytechnic university, Cal Poly Pomona connects theory and practice that ensure students are prepared for success when they graduate.
Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, whose 52nd District encompasses a large swath of the Inland Empire and part of Cal Poly Pomona, says Coley will provide a strong voice on issues of opportunity.
“I want to congratulate President Coley on her appointment to the new California Future of Work Commission, established by Governor Newsom,” said Rodriguez. “She will bring an experienced voice to the Commission as someone who has worked tirelessly to make California prosperous for all. The Inland Empire and our state face unique challenges ahead, and I know President Coley will help craft the right path forward.”
The Future of Work Commission will report on its progress by May 1, 2020. Executive Order N-11-19 created the Future of Work Commission.