Since 2007, the Kellogg Honors College (KHC) has hosted their Showcase of Excellence, an annual event held at the start of spring semester each year to help recruit prospective students to Cal Poly Pomona and the program.
This year, the 14th annual event was held virtually February 19-20, welcoming nearly 300 potential freshmen and over 130 transfer students.
“The Showcase of Excellence brings together every academic college and all divisions at Cal Poly Pomona to recruit top students from across the country,” said Won Choi, Academic Coordinator for the KHC.
Claudia Garcia-Des Lauriers, the new interim director for the KHC, helped organize the event with Choi. This was her second Showcase of Excellence in her position and the 10th year for Choi.
“This continues to be one my favorite programs to organize because we get a preview of all of the amazing potential students that will join our KHC community, and it is a wonderful opportunity to share our love of CPP with prospective students and their families,” added Garcia-Des Lauriers.
To recruit students, the KHC casts a wide net, sending showcase invitation emails to the top 15 percent of applicants in every CPP college in addition to anyone who checked the box on their general CPP application to apply to KHC.
“This year we had two events, one specifically for transfer students, where we are looking to increase our numbers, and one for first-time freshmen, where we sought to make the case for why Cal Poly Pomona is the best choice for them,” Garcia-Des Lauriers said.
The challenge this year was moving the traditionally in-person event to a virtual format. Garcia Des-Lauriers noted that while not ideal, there were some silver linings in hosting the Showcase of Excellence event online.
“The virtual environment allowed us to host two events targeting different communities of students with different needs,” she said. “Moreover, the experience taught us the value of online events, and while we plan to go back to holding the Showcase of Excellence on campus again, it will likely be hybrid and include an online option to expand accessibility to a broader audience.”
Typically, the in-person showcase included opportunities for students to attend sample classes in their prospective majors. However, this year with the Zoom format, the KHC held question-and-answer sessions hosted by current KHC student volunteers. The volunteers lead groups of students in similar majors and answered student questions while talking about their experiences.
Marina Alvarado, a junior biotechnology student, was a volunteer at both for the 2020 in-person showcase and this year’s virtual event.
“With everything going virtual it has been pretty difficult to stay connected to the campus community,” said Alvarado. “I volunteered because I wanted to show prospective freshmen and transfers that there is still a solid community within the KHC and share my experiences both within and outside of the virtual environment.”
Alvarado noted her favorite parts of the KHC are the different opportunities that are available to its members. This includes academic, travel and social opportunities such as honors courses, research conferences, as well as and trips, retreats, and events.
With the pandemic, the KHC has had to move away from these in-person components and get creative with creating a virtual community for the 2020-2021 academic year. This has included moving honors courses online, finding opportunities for virtual civic engagement events, organizing guest speakers on Zoom, and supporting virtual events hosted through the KHC’s student club. The KHC staff have made themselves readily available during the pandemic and maintained frequent and open communication with the students through email and Zoom.
Mandi Villanueva, a first-year sociology student, was a first-time volunteer for the showcase. Her entire KHC experience so far has been online.
“Being a part of the KHC has provided me a community of support and of people that strive for academic excellence during this pandemic,” said Villanueva. “I have never been on campus to take a class and I have never met anyone from the KHC in person, but nevertheless, the KHC has continued to make me feel a part of something bigger to bring me a sense of joy and endless support in all of my endeavors.”
In addition, the KHC organized virtual campus resource panels for the 2021 showcase, previewing hands-on programs the students could get involved in during their time at Cal Poly Pomona. The transfer showcase hosted a panel with staff from the McNair Scholars, Office of Undergraduate Research, PolyTransfer, and the Office of Student Life & Cultural Centers. The freshmen showcase held a similar panel with staff from Student Housing, Academic Innovation, and Student Innovation Idea Labs. President Soraya Coley also did a live welcome to the students and their families during the freshmen event.
Both showcases also featured panels with current students, alumni, and parents of KHC students. The goal of these panels was to help the students and their families understand more about the KHC experience from those who lived it.
Benjamin Brown (‘18, environmental biology; ‘20, Master of Science in regenerative studies) was one of the alumni speakers on the panel. He talked about his time at the KHC and how it gave students like him opportunities to network across disciplines, team build, and make lasting friendships in a diverse community.
“My experience in KHC prepared me for my continuing education and helped me build up a network that has continued to be a support system for me after graduation,” said Brown. “I can’t say enough good things about the time I spent in KHC, and I recommend that every CPP student make joining the Kellogg Honors College a goal.”
The students who attended the Showcase of Excellence had until March 5 to submit their KHC application, a separate application from the Cal Poly Pomona general application. Those accepted into the program should receive a notification by mid-April and will be invited this summer to a special virtual KHC orientation to help welcome.
There will be one more opportunity for students to apply for the upcoming academic year through the sophomore applications, coming soon in May 2021. Interested students can visit the Kellogg Honors College website and email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.