Office of the President

A Consequential Year

May 17, 2021

With the end of the semester just a few days away, I write to share some personal thoughts with our Bronco community, along with some important updates about our return to campus and the state budget.

This week brings to close a truly unique year in the history of Cal Poly Pomona. It has been a time of great adversity, but unsurprisingly our university community proved equal to the challenge. Even in the midst of the largest disruption to our operations in nearly 80 years, we set new records for enrollment and applications, and we sit on the cusp of graduating our largest ever class. But these figures only tell a small portion of the story. What has been most inspiring to me is you — our students, faculty and staff pushing forward and working together to foster our legacy of excellence and achievement. At its core, a university is its people. Cal Poly Pomona is the model for a modern and inclusive polytechnic university because your dedicated efforts — day in and out — make it so. I am so proud of your perseverance, ingenuity and commitment. I thank you sincerely for all you have done and continue to do to live up to our values and mission.

For many of our students, this week represents the culmination of your Cal Poly Pomona journey. To all our graduating students, I offer my most sincere and heartfelt congratulations. Whether you are completing a graduate degree, bachelor’s degree or a credential program, this moment represents the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. And regardless of whether you studied Accounting, Geography or Urban and Regional Planning, you participated in a one-of-a-kind polytechnic education that will reap benefits the rest of your life. I wish you all success in the future and invite you to stay connected to your alma mater through our Alumni Association. You have a bright future ahead of you, and I can’t wait to see what you achieve.

Our Safer Return

The ongoing vaccination efforts statewide bring increased anticipation for ramping up our safer return to campus, and we are actively preparing to “repopulate” campus as much as circumstances safely allow. This is an exciting time, and I am looking forward to greater numbers of our community engaging on campus. 

Based on the latest public health recommendations, we developed a phased roadmap that delineates our approach to teaching, learning, working and campus life. In terms of instruction, 46 percent of the courses in the fall class schedule included an in-person component when registration opened last month. Between now and the fall semester, we expect this figure to increase to more than 50 percent as we add in-person classes to meet student demand. Fall 2021 will be a transitional time as we move from largely virtual instruction to a more robust on-campus mode. As conditions continue to improve, by Spring 2022, I expect that we will be operating predominantly in-person with minimal restrictions on our activities 

As a critical component of our planning and preparations, later this month an initial group of employees will join currently on-campus workers in returning to work on campus on a limited basis as part of a pilot program to consider the effectiveness of campus protocols and policies. The participants will provide regular feedback through surveys and focus groups, and the modest size of the program allows us to proceed safely while still garnering useful information on our preparedness. The result is a people-centered and data-informed foundation for a phased-in approach to repopulating campus. A second, more expansive pilot is planned for June, with a goal of all employees returning to some proportion of in-person work by early August.

The Safer Return website continues to be the authoritative source for Cal Poly Pomona information related to the pandemic, our response and our planning. Additionally, we’ve created the Safer Return News, a compendium of up-to-date information delivered to your inbox every other Wednesday.

I also add a personal plea to get vaccinated if you have not already. The rapidly declining rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths across California and elsewhere are direct results of vaccination efforts. As the CSU Chancellor’s Office announced last month, starting this fall all students, faculty and staff seeking to access campus facilities will need to be immunized against the coronavirus, pending full approval of one or more of the vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To better protect ourselves and our communities, I urge all members of the campus community to seek a vaccination through one of the many available providers. You can find more information and make an appointment at the California Vaccine Website.

Investing in Cal Poly Pomona is investing in California

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom released the “May Revision” of the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. Combining all budget proposals from the start of 2021, Gov. Newsom aims for an increase of more than $500 million in recurring funding for the CSU and an additional $325 million in one-time funding for critical infrastructure, maintenance and renovation projects.

This development is monumental news for the CSU and for Cal Poly Pomona. One year ago, we faced the prospect of years of diminished funding. The proposed investment in our state’s public colleges and universities serves as recognition of the role higher education plays in fostering opportunity and social mobility as well as in energizing California’s diverse and dynamic economy. As Chancellor Castro noted in his statement on the budget news, California’s economy reaps seven times over whatever it invests in the CSU. Indeed, the state’s resilience during a historic disruption is proof positive of the value of the finest system of public higher education in the world.

Gov. Newsom’s funding proposal now goes to the State Legislature, which has until June 15 to pass a budget. With this context, my leadership team is working diligently on assessing the critical needs and investments to leverage this boost to our capacity towards advancing our Strategic Plan and academic mission. Further information on our fiscal 2021-22 budget will be shared with the campus in the coming weeks.

In closing, I again thank and commend the Cal Poly Pomona students, staff and faculty for your resilience and creativity during this uniquely challenging time. Both individually and collectively, we have proven yet again the determination to thrive against all obstacles. I remain ever grateful for this journey we are on together as a Bronco family. I wish you a healthy and safe summer and look forward to being together on campus very soon.


Soraya M. Coley, Ph.D.