College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | When summer sets up the next year

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

Thursday, August 31, 2023 - 1:30pm

During the summer months, the things we do often have an impact on what happens during the rest of the year. An obvious example is cleaning gutters for the rainy season. A campus example is taking summer classes to stay on track for graduation. A strategic example might be collaborating with global colleagues to improve opportunities for this region and our students.

Something nearly everyone who works at Cal Poly Humboldt enjoys is showing off our campus. For some, like the student ambassadors who work in admissions, it’s literally their job. For others, it might be the chance to share with colleagues from other campuses, and I’ve even seen individuals giving tours to visiting family members.

Prospective students and their families are always impressed the first time they come here, and as they enjoy the natural beauty of our location and tree-filled campus, we are able to introduce them to our academic programs and extracurricular offerings. Alumni, whether they were here last week or haven’t been back for decades, always enjoy the visit. Community members, leaders of businesses of all sizes, those who work at other universities, government officials from the city to federal level — it’s a treat to show all of them what a gem we have here.

The pride that’s involved in all of this is actually essential for us as a university. It generates the positive energy and great word-of-mouth that is so important to recruiting new students, recruiting new faculty and staff, generating grants and contracts, and earning donor support.

On the flip side, and for many of the same reasons, it’s vitally important that we personally get beyond this region and share Humboldt with the broader world. Many of our faculty do this when they travel to academic conferences or on research trips, and they often bring students with them. As a university president, my calendar could easily be filled with meetings or business trips. Instead, I have chosen to focus more on our local community, our tribal nations, and a couple strategic partners or locations. Two global examples have been the Philippines and Australia — specifically to develop our International Service Learning Program (ISLP) for students and establish a strategic partnership with Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Northern Territory, AU.

Cal Poly Humboldt, like the North Coast, is on one end of Project Echo, the subsea cable. On one of the other ends of the cable lies Charles Darwin University, another remote university that is also aligned to Indigenous peoples, natural resources and energy, sustainability, and the arts. We are very similar in many ways.

The opportunities discussed by campus and tribal leadership from Humboldt County, while on location in Darwin, might provide a strong springboard for sharing research, faculty and tribal exchange, and student internships. The fact that we will share a robust technological pipeline between our two regions suggests we should be working together, in any way we can.

We talk often about the ISLP, and it was recently featured in our Alumni Magazine. It’s important because we have a role, as a strong university, in helping create a better world. Providing opportunities for our faculty and our students to gain global competencies is vital. It will keep us competitive in a global marketplace. More importantly, we want our graduates to truly be respectful and understanding of different cultures and governments beyond the North Coast.

On the surface, these might seem like international trips. In reality, they can mean so much more when shared with a team of students or a strong delegation.

Of course, I’ve also spent plenty of time traveling in California recently, meeting with alumni and donors as well as colleagues within the CSU. I was also at the Rugby National Championship when Cal Poly Humboldt won the title and joined the National Champion Women’s Rowing teams in Washington, D.C.

This travel — out in the community, around the state, and around the world — is not only a duty but also an incredible privilege for any university president. Because it involves meeting many different individuals and visiting local facilities, I see everywhere I go from a much different perspective.

We want Cal Poly Humboldt to emerge and flourish as the best version of itself, and getting there involves creating a model global community right here on the North Coast. This has to do with preparing students to thrive in an interconnected world. It also involves ensuring that everyone feels welcome to engage with us, that we embrace new and innovative ideas, and that we are willing to try new approaches that others can then build upon. As we work on this, many of us at Humboldt will be spreading our wings a little more and reaching a bit further out in the world.

Be kind.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt.