University President Soraya M. Coley has been selected to receive the American Council on Education (ACE) Donna Shavlik Award.
The award commemorates the long and outstanding service of Donna Shavlik, former director of ACE’s Office of Women in Higher Education. The national award honors an individual who demonstrates a sustained commitment to advancing women in higher education through leadership and career development, campus climate, and mentoring.
“Throughout her decades-long career, President Coley has demonstrated a sustained and continuing commitment to the advancement of women through actions or initiatives enhancing women’s leadership development,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “President Coley’s unwavering dedication to advancing women in higher education exemplifies the spirit behind the ACE Donna Shavlik award.”
Coley is the first woman and first African American scholar to be named president of Cal Poly Pomona, the most diverse polytechnic university in the nation with nearly 30,000 students and 2,700 faculty and staff. Her university leadership team is currently 75 percent women.
As the ACE Southern California Women’s Network presidential sponsor for four years, she has devoted resources to the professional development of women and is currently overseeing a new strategic direction for the network that focuses on creating multiple leadership pathways for women at various stages in their academic careers.
Throughout her career, she has both benefitted from the mentorship of other female leaders in higher education and mentors others, from students to rising professionals in education, and through the civic organizations The Links, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Junior League of Orange County. She has served on the faculty of the New Presidents Academy sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and collaborates with the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE), among other programs.
“I have benefitted greatly from having mentors, and I pay that forward when I can,” said Coley. “I owe gratitude to my mentors and supporters, especially those who saw potential in me that I never imagined. I vividly remember a time earlier in my career when I had just settled into my role as a department chair at CSU Fullerton. The university president at the time, Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb — an African American woman and trailblazer in the sciences — said very emphatically, that someday, I was going to be a university president. I summarily dismissed that idea, but her confidence in me, and her mentorship proved critical in getting to where I am now.”
Coley has spent nearly her entire career in the California State University system rising from lecturer to a tenured faculty member, department chair, dean (California State University, Fullerton), provost (California State University, Bakersfield) and president (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona).
In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Coley to the California Future of Work Commission, which was charged with making recommendations to the governor and legislature regarding, among other things, raising the quality of jobs and modernizing the worker safety net.
She has been named to the Los Angeles Business Journal “LA500 – The Most Influential People in L.A” list since 2018.
The Donna Shavlik Award will be presented on April 13 at the Women’s Leadership Dinner during ACE2023, ACE’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.
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