College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | Cal Poly Humboldt celebrates academic expansion

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, August 17, 2023 - 1:00pm

The fall 2023 semester has arrived and the campus is filled with optimism. Cal Poly Humboldt is entering the 2023-24 academic year fully energized by a host of milestones. In the past several months, so many amazing things have happened; yet the anticipation of so many more lies in front of us. Perhaps the most significant of these is the launch of an unprecedented number of new academic programs associated with our transition to California’s third polytechnic.

This is another historic moment for the university. As far as we can tell, in the history of our institution, we have never launched so many new academic programs in a single year. This academic feat was only possible by the dedication and commitment of hundreds of individuals across campus, most especially our faculty.

Humboldt was officially designated a polytechnic on Feb. 2, 2022, after an extensive planning effort. Our goal was to launch 12 new academic degree programs, primarily in the areas of science, technology, engineering and applied science by fall 2023. We exceeded that goal, and this fall we are launching 15 new academic programs:

Bachelor’s degrees

  • Applied fire science and management
  • Biochemistry
  • Cannabis studies
  • Data science
  • Energy systems engineering
  • Geospatial science and technology
  • Individualized degree program
  • Marine biology
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Software engineering

Master’s degree

  • Engineering and community practice


  • Cybersecurity
  • Gerontology
  • Information technology
  • Sustainability

This type of program expansion at a university is extremely rare. It just isn’t something that regularly occurs, particularly during a global pandemic. If a campus adds programs, it might be a few every few years — at best.

It was a herculean effort, largely made possible by our faculty. They came together in partnership with university leadership and others to dream new academic programs, confirm student interest, review workforce data, and collaborate to develop curriculum — all in alignment with state workforce needs. Faculty intentionally broke down bureaucratic and other barriers that have historically slowed the curriculum development process. They ensured that the shared governance process was followed, that students were centered in the process, and that diverse voices, representation, and expertise guided the process.

Of course, it was the exceptional reputation and accomplishments of our faculty that allowed us to even get started. We were able to leverage strengths in areas like climate resilience, fire mitigation, and sustainability.

This achievement was also made possible by the work and commitment of hundreds of individuals on campus, along with the involvement of industry experts, alumni, donors, and other friends in the community. Our strong partners at College of the Redwoods were instrumental in program development and ensuring our efforts would complement one another. Individuals throughout the California State University systems supported us, and leaders throughout the CSU Chancellor’s Office were indispensable. The polytechnic planning and implementation has been a transparent process, leveraging collective expertise for the polytechnic self-study, the polytechnic prospectus, the polytechnic implementation team, and ultimately the 15 new academic degree programs that emerged.

As the fall semester gets underway, we have momentum, and the work is continuing.

Planning is underway for additional academic programs to launch by 2026 and 2029, and we are already ahead of target. Curriculum for a bachelor’s degree in health advocacy and navigation as well as a master’s degree in STEM education are in the works. Phase two of the academic program polytechnic buildout will focus squarely on addressing the health workforce gap and explore other important sectors like agriculture, aviation, engineering, and others. We also continue to lean into our identity as a polytechnic campus that values arts, humanities, professional studies, traditional ecological knowledge, sustainability, and interdisciplinarity.

Our neighbors and community members often ask about how many students we have accepted this year. But that’s not exactly the right question.

Each year, Humboldt is able to accept most students who apply, provided they are academically qualified. The question is really how many students actually enroll and attend. At this point, our enrollment is looking strong but not overwhelming. We continue to demonstrate steady and manageable growth, which helps create access for students to important academic programs, develop a pipeline of qualified graduates to fill important workforce gaps, and stimulate the North Coast economy and beyond.

The investments of both fiscal and human resources in Cal Poly Humboldt are yielding a transformation of the University and are beginning to transform our region in positive ways.

When you see a Humboldt faculty member, please thank them. As a group they enthusiastically worked to create hands-on, relevant academic degree programs for our students, and launching so many programs this fall was an incredible achievement. Also, if you see our students in the community, please acknowledge these future scientists with soul, emerging nurses with rural health expertise, budding environmental and energy-focused engineers who value place, and others. They are excited to change the world for the better, and your support and encouragement mean a lot to them.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt. Dr. Jenn Capps is provost and vice president of academic affairs at Cal Poly Humboldt.