I am delighted to report that Cal Poly is back for 2021-2022 — with over 85% of our courses in person and over 94% of our students vaccinated! Of course, we cannot say that COVID-19 is behind us, but we are close — and we are one of the safest places to be on the Central Coast.
As we were getting ready for the start of the year, I heard both excitement and concern about returning to nearly full capacity on campus. I want to emphasize that we asked students and staff to return to campus only because we were and are confident that doing so is in everyone’s best interest. Near-normal operations are allowing us to offer the highest quality educational and co-curricular experiences, and following the COVID safety steps — vax, mask, wash, test — is enabling us to avoid significant transmission or illness. We can do this, and we can do it safely!
Although the coronavirus pandemic will potentially be at the center of our attention for the whole academic year, it will not be the only thing we are working on. We must also look into the future and ask: what will make us or our successors Cal Poly Proud in 20, 50 or 100 years?
We have untapped capability to grow our excellence and serve even more students — but we lack the capacity to expand today.
For those future Mustangs to be as rightly proud as we are today, Cal Poly will have to grow and change. Given how competitive higher education is, standing still will be the same as falling behind.
We will have to adopt year-round operation and make strategic use of virtual education. We need to expand the student body to serve California better, and we need to make it easier for community college students to transfer to Cal Poly. Our campus community needs to reflect the diversity of California in every aspect, so that our students learn essential cultural competency by doing it every day right here on campus.
Perhaps most importantly, we will need to secure new, stable sources of revenue to expand and improve. We need to be able to fund more financial aid and scholarships so that Cal Poly is accessible to every qualified California student. We need to pay competitive salaries so we can continue to recruit and retain top-notch faculty and staff. We need to build more facilities, and renovate existing ones, for our community to do its work in. Our campus must be net carbon neutral, must use less water and produce less landfill waste than we do today.
Although this vision of the university’s future may seem overly optimistic, we actually know how to do all of these things. Successful programs like Cal Poly Scholars and others have proven that Cal Poly has the capability to get better every day. We have untapped capability to grow our excellence and serve even more students — but we lack the capacity to expand today.
During this academic year I hope to continue conversations begun last year about securing the university’s financial future. In my view, there is nothing more important than finding the additional resources needed to make these future possibilities a reality. Nothing else will help more to ensure Cal Poly remains a place of which we all can be Cal Poly Proud.
Jeffrey D. Armstrong, President