Image: Cal Poly students monitor a well on campus with Dr. Bwalya Malama. This class is one of many instances of the university's signature Learn by Doing pedagogy.
During the 2000-2012 cycle of review, Cal Poly conducted a thematic self-study built around the major theme of “Our Polytechnic Identity in the 21st Century.” Three subthemes — “Learn by Doing,” “The Teacher-Scholar Model,” and “Integration and Student Learning” — were intended to represent critical aspects of that identity. The exploration of these themes by working groups resulted in a number of specific action items, many of which have been achieved, and also in a number of key policies approved by the Academic Senate. Cal Poly's identity as a comprehensive polytechnic university was also significantly affirmed.
In 2017, WSCUC developed a more streamlined approach called the Thematic Pathway for Reaffirmation (TPR) that allows institutions to focus on the themes that are important to them in a more abbreviated process. WSCUC approved a select group of high-performing schools to participate; Cal Poly was one of them.
The TPR only requires one visit by the accreditation team to the university, without the necessity of the off-site review. It also reduces the size of the self-study from nine sections to four, which results in a 40-60 page report. This report includes an introduction, a compliance section, thematic essays, and a conclusion.
Themes and the Institutional Report
WSCUC encourages institutions to be creative, to build on processes already in place, and to focus on a limited number of key issues that can be addressed in depth. This process is intended to promote significant engagement and improvement among faculty, staff, and administrators. Cal Poly's theme establishes a framework for connecting its mission and priorities with the WSCUC Core Commitments, Standards of Accreditation, and Criteria for Review. This information, as detailed in the WSCUC Handbook, can be found here.
During Fall Quarter 2018, Dr. Mary Pedersen (then Senior Vice Provost and Accreditation Liaison Officer [ALO]) and Dr. Bruno Giberti (then Associate Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Planning) made presentations to various campus stakeholders, including the President’s Cabinet, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Board of the Associated Students, Inc., the Academic Senate, the Provost's Council, the Associate Deans Council, and the Student Affairs leadership, to name a few. As part of the presentation, they administered a short survey that allowed participants to review a long list of possible themes, selecting the three they considered critical. The results pointed strongly to an enduring campus concern for issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as a commitment to student success as represented by the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025. Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong approved the theme submission in January 2019.
In July 2019, Cal Poly received an approval letter from WSCUC to explore the following theme: Promoting the Success of All Cal Poly Students While Achieving the Goals of the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025. Specifically, Cal Poly focused on the following three subthemes:
- Recruiting and Retaining a More Diverse Community of Students, Staff, and Faculty
- Developing a Campus Culture that Is Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive
- Teaching and Learning How to Live and Work in a Diverse World
A TPR governance structure was established that included a leadership team, a steering committee, and three working groups — one for each subtheme. The working groups received an approved charge sheet that specified topics to be explored, questions to be answered, evidence to be consulted, and outcomes to be achieved by the time of the accreditation visit and beyond. Each working group spent approximately two years researching and developing individual subtheme essays. Drafts of these essays and the institutional report were shared with several groups of institutional shareholders during fall 2021.
On February 16, 2022, Cal Poly submitted the TPR institutional report, which can be found here.
Site Visit (April 27-29, 2022)
During this visit, members of the WSCUC visiting team held some 30 meetings with members of the university community. These included meetings with university leaders and campus groups whose work related to the self-study themes of DEI and student success. There were three open forums, one each for students, staff, and faculty. The final event of the site visit was a university-wide exit meeting where the visiting team shared their initial comments to the campus community.
The team provided six commendations, praising the university for the following:
- undertaking a TPR based on a challenging DEI theme;
- the passion and dedication of the institution’s students;
- a renewed engagement with the local community and alumni;
- the institution’s DEI-focused, student-centered, and faculty-mentored programs;
- the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology as an institutional strength; and
- a strong assessment culture.
The team also provided seven recommendations for the institution:
- strengthen its aspirational and inspirational DEI vision;
- further integrate a cohesive, clearly communicated, and data-informed DEI plan;
- strengthen cross-divisional partnerships between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs;
- develop an institutional policy for access to disaggregated data;
- develop a strategy for the continuous gauging and improving of campus climate;
- accelerate processes for diversifying faculty and staff hires; and
- ensure the necessary staff capacity, training, and expertise to provide continuity for student services.
Commission Action (Spring/Summer 2022)
The Commission reviewed the visiting team report and an appointed panel of commissioners discussed it with President Jeffrey Armstrong and Provost Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore at an open meeting on June 22, 2022. At its June 24 meeting, the Commission acted to:
- Receive the accreditation visit team report
- Reaffirm Cal Poly’s accreditation for a period of ten years
- Schedule the next reaffirmation review: the offsite review in fall 2031 and the accreditation visit in spring 2032
- Schedule a Special Visit in spring 2025 to address two specific issues:
- Continued progress on initiatives intended to increase student diversity and equity, including Cal Poly Scholars and partner high school programs.
- Progress in the development of an integrated and cohesive DEI plan.
The Commission’s letter to the campus cited the visiting team’s six commendations, and reorganized the team’s seven recommendations into six requirements to be met over the next ten years:
- Develop an integrated, cohesive, data-informed campus DEI plan.
- Strengthen the partnership between Academic Affairs & Student Affairs.
- Improve access to disaggregated data to be used in DEI initiatives.
- Gauge and improve campus climate and the community’s sense of belonging.
- Accelerate the processes for diversifying faculty and staff hires.
- Ensure necessary staff capacity, training, and expertise to provide continuity for student services.
Following the conclusion of this 2012-2022 cycle, the campus turns its attention to the six requirements specified by the Commission in its action letter of July 2022, and to the Special Visit now scheduled to take place in fall 2025.
WSCUC Commission Action Letter — July 11, 2022 (pdf)
- Formal notification and official record of action taken at WSCUC's June 24, 2022 meeting regarding Cal Poly's accreditation status.
WSCUC Visiting Team Report (pdf)
- Report of the WSCUC Team for Thematic Pathway for Reaffirmation (TPR) of Accreditation to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (April 27-29, 2022)
Cal Poly's Institutional Report (pdf)
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Institutional Report for the WSCUC Thematic Pathway for Reaffirmation: Promoting the Success of All Cal Poly Students While Achieving the Goals of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025, submitted to the WASC Senior College and University Commission on February 16, 2022.
WSCUC's Acceptance of Cal Poly's Theme (pdf)
- Osborn, Richard. Letter to Cal Poly. July 2, 2019.
Proposal sent to WSCUC February 2019 (pdf)
- California Polytechnic State University. Submission of Themes for the Thematic Pathway for Reaffirmation. San Luis Obispo, 2019.