Office of the President

A United Bronco Community

April 6, 2020

My Dear Cal Poly Pomona Community,

I feel as if I can finally take a moment to reflect on the past several weeks. I have thought deeply about you and your family and friends, as well as the immediate and long-term impact this pandemic will have on each of us individually and on our community, our state, our nation, and globally. The impact on each member of our community has always been at the center of our decision-making as our leadership team has confronted this dramatic shift in our operations. For while history shows us that we can meet and overcome such challenges, it is fair to say that many of us have not experienced anything like this in our lifetimes.

In writing this letter, I wish to express my gratitude to you: the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of Cal Poly Pomona for your commitment and perseverance in sustaining the progress of this great university.

I have also begun to reflect on the potential impact that our individual and collective responses to this pandemic can have on our “community.” Rather than allowing “physical social distancing” to result in social disconnection, we can determine now to be a collection of individuals whose bonds to each other and our campus are stronger than ever. I think of community not just as a place, but as a mindset where belonging, support, trust, and safety are present. It is the result of shared experiences and relationships that work towards common goals. I am proud of our CPP community and how you have each played an essential role in responding to this challenge.

Our Students

As the pandemic has unfolded, my thoughts have centered on the different challenges all of us face in navigating such rapid and continuous changes. Many of our residential students who were able to return home, did so — though many would have preferred staying on campus. I thank the University Housing staff in supporting students during this very stressful time.

Despite the unique circumstances created by the pandemic, our students remain resolved in pursuit of their educational goals. While they miss the enjoyment of their interactive classes, labs, and projects before the pandemic — the essence of the polytechnic experience — they remain hopeful about the continuation of their studies through remote engagement with faculty and staff. Having to announce the postponement of commencement was deeply felt. It was just one more realization of the need to weigh the joy and excitement of this landmark day for our students and their families, against the potential impact of the virus. And yet, we know that for some, adjustment has been even harder. I think often about the student who reminded me of the acute difficulties of social distancing experienced by many students dealing with mental illness. For these members of our community, a daily routine and interaction with classmates and faculty are components of an essential support system. We recognize that many of our students are dealing with concerns that far outweigh an exam or a final paper. With economic and food insecurity affecting many of their families, the weeks and months ahead hold many uncertainties.

As a community, I promise our students this: our faculty, staff, and administrators are doing all in our power to ensure that you continue receiving an educational experience consistent with Cal Poly Pomona’s high standards. We won’t always get it precisely right; the circumstances are simply too unpredictable to meet that standard. But you can rest assured that our priorities are clear: we are committed to your health, safety, and future success.

Our Faculty

Cal Poly Pomona is a university unified in its dedication to the success of our students. This dedication has been on full display during the coronavirus pandemic. In the spirit of collaboration that so defines our campus, our world-class faculty moved roughly 5,000 courses from in-person to virtual and remote modes of instruction. They may be lecturing to laptops or holding office hours via Zoom, but our faculty continue to demonstrate fearless ingenuity and the “learn-by-doing” ethos that is at the heart of a Cal Poly Pomona education.

I want to thank our Faculty Development Center and our Information Technology Division for their rapid response. Also, in recognizing the differential access that our students have to technology, we worked to develop ways to ensure that they all had whatever support they need to be successful in the new teaching and learning environment.  

I am heartened by how you, as faculty, redoubled your commitment to our academic mission and student learning and achievement. Many of you formed “technology communities,” sharing instructional approaches; others of you provided collegial and personal support to one another and exemplified the meaning of a “community.” Similarly, there were enormous challenges for department chairs, the deans, and associate deans to coordinate and operationalize the instructional continuity guidance.

Likewise, our Academic Senate adjusted to the “shelter in place” guidelines, while remaining committed to continuing its work. And given the xenophobic and racist language targeted at Chinese communities and the related attacks on Asian Americans in connection with the coronavirus, I applaud and wholeheartedly support the Academic Senate’s resolution that forthrightly rejects such language and behavior. 

Our Staff

And similar to the faculty, our managers and staff continue to support one another and accommodate each other’s needs as much as possible. I thank our Office of Employee and Organizational Development and Advancement (EODA) and the leadership of our campus unions for working collaboratively to craft, in record time, a remote work agreement. And thanks to our dedicated staff, the delivery of a host of campus services — from academic advising to financial aid — were transformed to accommodate physical distancing. Likewise, critical services such as the Student Health Center, the Centerpointe dining facility, and the University Police continue operations. These changes happened extraordinarily quickly. And regardless of the division, or unit, there has been an unwavering focus by the Cabinet and management on the care and concern for our students, faculty and staff.

Our Alumni and Friends

This pandemic has also reminded us that the bonds forged at Cal Poly Pomona last long after graduation. Our alumni, philanthropic board, and college advisory boards, as well as friends of our university, have actively sought out opportunities to help students in need. We have received donations toward emergency funds for students and offers of assistance to graduating seniors with job searches and referrals to other resources. Such generosity is often connected to our alumni’s remembrances of the challenges they faced and the support they received while at Cal Poly Pomona.

Our Community

We face an immense foe. We most assuredly still have a considerable road to travel before some degree of normalcy returns. This pandemic is of such a magnitude that we will all be touched in one way or another — some infinitely more than others. I sincerely hope that all those who are directly and negatively impacted by this pandemic will find strength and comfort during these difficult times. In our typical Cal Poly Pomona spirit, regardless of the size of the challenge, we can, and must persevere and remain hopeful. Now is the time to rely on each other and on our shared commitment to the power of education to enlighten, inspire, and change lives. Now is also a time for compassion. “Physical distancing” does not need to mean isolation. I invite you to find ways to reach out to one another. To help foster our sense of community, Strategic Communications has started sending out a weekly email called #CPPtogether, featuring stories of fellow Broncos that demonstrate that even though we may be physically separated, we are still moving forward together.

We have faced challenges before. If we stay united as a Bronco community, we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever. Please stay safe, healthy, and hopeful.