History in Action: Cal Poly Humboldt Plans for Academic Growth

Karina Ramos Villalobos, EcoNews Intern

New campus sign. Source: Cal Poly Humboldt Galleries Flikr.

There has been a legacy of this local academic institution being known by different names since its founding in 1913 on beautiful Wiyot land. On Jan. 26, 2022, a name change occurred once more in the California State University (CSU) system. Now known as California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, or Cal Poly Humboldt, our local university became the third polytechnic in the CSU system and the only campus in Northern California.  

The various different names of the institution throughout history went from Humboldt State Normal College (1913-1935) to Humboldt State College (1935-1972) then known as California State University, Humboldt (1972-1974), then changed to Humboldt State University (1974-2022). With the new name change for Cal Poly Humboldt, there are various plans and efforts being made for the positive growth of the university’s development and upgrades in the seven years to come. 

The university has a $458 million one time investment from Gov. Gavin Newsom, for the polytechnic vision and approval of polytechnic designation from CSU. Cal Poly Humboldt will add a total of 27 new academic and experiential programs by 2029. According to Cal Poly Humboldt’s Polytechnic fact sheet, there will be 12 new programs launching in the 2023 academic school year. 

“I think there’s value to all students actually from the university becoming a polytechnic,” said Jenn Capps, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “But what it does, it provides opportunity for students to have hands-on experience and what it does it’s with an alliance of what the workforce needs are and the priorities outlined for the state of California with the academic programs that we offer. It makes students really marketable and workforce ready to fill the workforce gaps.”

A Feb. 3, 2022 article in the North Coast Journal, states that Cal Poly Humboldt President Tom Jackson Jr. said Cal Poly Humboldt’s goal is to become a polytechnic for the 21st century, focusing on giving students the experiences needed to find solutions to the critical issues the state is facing, including climate change, raging wildfires, and extreme drought. 

Marine biology. Source: Cal Poly Humboldt Galleries Flikr.

The proposed new academic programs that will be implemented by 2023 to support Cal Poly Humboldt’s goal to focus on giving students the experiences needed to find solutions for critical issues the state is facing are: Energy Systems Engineering BS, Mechanical Engineering BS, Data Science BS, Geospatial Analysis BS, Software Engineering BS, Applied Fire Science & Management BS, Cannabis Studies BA, Marine Biology BS, Engineering & Community Practice MEng, Cybersecurity Stackable Certificate, Information Technology Certificate, Sustainability Certificate.

“We did a ton of research during our self study process,” Capps said. “What we did was we pulled from a couple of different places, we pulled from the workforce data locally and then, throughout the state and seeing where those key areas where there are big job opportunities, big workforce gaps.” 

These academic programs that the university will offer are on track to launch in 2023. According to Capps, a priority for the institution was to ensure that while recruiting faculty for the new programs and courses that BIPOC faculty were hired for more representation of all students. 

“It’s a really exciting time on campus because we had over 20 requirements for new faculty and we brought on record numbers of diversity, so Indigenius faculty, Black faculty, etc,” Capps said. “We don’t have the exact number because we are still in the middle of verifying and doing offers and that sort of thing. But, it is well over 50-60 percent of our incoming class of faculty are BIPOC faculty.”

Before the historical name change, the institution was severely declining in enrollment rates over the last several years. Now as Cal Poly Humboldt, the institution is climbing back up in enrollment rates and has the capacity to build new infrastructure such as dorms and more parking space for the future. The Cal Poly Humboldt spirit is to continue growing and impacting many students, staff and faculty lives positively with a hands-on education experience. 

Why should future students apply to Cal Poly Humboldt?

“We have the academic programs that are going to be able to allow students to have a lot of hands-on experience and be able to study in the forest, ocean and really be able to live and breathe,” Capps said. “It’s not just going to be in the classroom, most of the time. They are really going to be able to get out and have that experiential learning component and when they get done with their degree, they’re gonna get tons of job offers because the curriculum that we built is really attractive to employers.” 

Fire education. Source: Cal Poly Humboldt Galleries Flikr.