Work to address requests of campus leadership and upcoming plans to develop a retention and persistence strategy focused on Black students were highlighted at the Black Thriving Initiative (BTI) symposium.
Over 120 participants attended the Nov. 13 event themed as, “A Year of Truth, Hope, and Progress,” where key updates were shared on the initiative’s progress over the last year.
As the first of its kind in the California State University system, the initiative made key progress throughout the academic year through community modules, member check-ins, and involvement in the renaming of the African American Student Center to the Black Resource Center, the result of student input.
Additionally, in response to a list of requests the Black Student Union (BSU) made to campus leadership last year, BTI was involved in making substantial progress on 11 of 12 requests, with ongoing support committed to ensure all are adequately addressed.
BTI also released a 45-page report highlighting community feedback, critical consciousness, preliminary recommendations, and further calls to action. The report also outlines the numerous ways the Division of Student Affairs continues to support Black student success through experiential learning opportunities, cultural and identity programs, motivational interviewing coaching, and more.
“It’s important to understand what the data tells us. As we think about our progress as it relates to GI 2025, we know that Black students continue to struggle the most to persist and graduate at Cal Poly Pomona. Knowing who our students are, we must ask ourselves — what are we doing to ensure change happens?” said Jonathan Grady, senior associate vice president for equity and belonging and BTI co-chair.
As the initiative moves into its next phase over the next 18 months, several priorities will guide key actions, including the development of a comprehensive retention and persistence strategy for Black students, inclusive and culturally relevant curriculum, and continued investment in Black faculty and staff support. These priorities were shared to ensure the campus community holds key stakeholders accountable to their commitments.
These steps include the creation of CPP Principles of Community, the launch of a director of conflict mediation position and university ombuds position, the expansion of the Racial Justice Learning Series to all staff, and new collaborations with the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFE).
Learning activities also allowed participants to engage with each other in small groups through truth-telling exercises and an activity in which individuals wrote their own personal action plan and commitments to change, further cementing the accountability component.
“One of the things we want to talk about is accountability — how we hold ourselves as an institution accountable, and how we hold ourselves as individuals accountable,” said Cindy Pickett, associate vice president for inclusion, chief diversity officer, and BTI co-chair.
Throughout the symposium, one message was clear — when Black faculty, staff, and students can fully thrive at Cal Poly Pomona, the university will take a collective step forward to becoming the campus it aspires to be.
“By addressing racial biases and prejudices towards our Black community, we also develop the pedagogies, skills, strategies and tools needed to support all communities impacted by structural racism,” said Teisha Roby, associate vice president for learning and research and BTI co-chair. More information and opportunities for learning can be found on the Black Thriving Initiative website.