Diversity, Equity & Inclusion


OCOB DEI Students Standing Header Image

A Commitment to a Diverse, Equal, and Inclusive Community

As a community of leaders and educators, the Orfalea College of Business shares Cal Poly’s dedication and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by striving to create an environment that fosters critical thought and ethical leadership, reflecting the best values of our society. Guided by these principles, the college stands in solidarity of the social activism sweeping across our campuses and nation.

Although universities are designed to be communities of thought and study, they are also communities of ideals and care. It is up to all of us to listen, learn and do what we can to address racial, sexual, socioeconomic, and all other forms of inequality—in business, in our classrooms, in our communities, in our minds and hearts.

As a college, we therefore intend to respond collectively and individually to acknowledge clearly, loudly, and passionately that inequality and injustice exist and will always exist in our society unless we take measures to stop them.

We then pledge to take action and measures to create a more diverse, equal, and inclusive community at the Orfalea College of Business, one that can make us all proud.

Orfalea College Building

An Action Plan For Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Building on work the college has been engaged in for more than a decade, the Orfalea College of Business has begun implementing many initiatives to address systemic racism and other forms of inequality in our community.

These incorporate the formation of a DEI Committee—led by Professor Ahmed Deif, OCOB’s DEI Faculty Fellow—consisting of students, faculty, and staff, to help operationalize intentional and ongoing efforts, along with reading and discussions groups to create safe spaces and micro-communities for the exchange of ideas, viewpoints, and more.

Our Business Council, which oversees student clubs, has also begun many DEI initiatives under the leadership of our Career Readiness Center, to ensure professional development for students via clubs and organizations, and to serve as a voice of the student body in support of our DEI efforts.

In the longer term, diversifying our student body, faculty, and staff, committing to listening and self-education, reaching out to diverse Cal Poly organizations and national agents of social change, amending our curriculum and policies, and incorporating ways to address difficult issues surrounding race and inequality as they relate to not only business, but to society as a whole, are all measures the college is pursing, and are all being folded into plans at both the university and college levels.

As these programs and initiatives develop, the administration will actively and regularly evaluate these and other measures, implement new ones as needed, and review, redefine, and revise our metrics for success, continually seeking for ways to improve within the college.

Glimpses From the 2020-2021 OCOB DEI Plan

The Orfalea College of Business DEI action plan for the 2020-2021 academic year will focus on three main goals that are mapped from the University action plan. These goals and a summary of the main activities planned to achieve them include:

During this year, the DEI faculty fellow will work with each faculty member to develop and execute a personal DEI development plan (PDDP). A suggested template for this plan will be developed with access to available DEI resources. The follow up and support for these plans will be carried out through a community of learning and a faculty forum that will be initiated.

The DEI team will work with students to energize, mentor, and support their plans toward developing a diverse, inclusive, equal, and productive climate. An OCOB DEI committee including students, faculty, and staff will be formed in this effort. The committee will run and support various DEI events for the college.

An integral part of this year’s DEI plan is to improve the visibility and access of DEI activities and resources through virtual and physical platforms, with online and in person resources and communities for students, faculty, staff, and external stakeholders. Other planned activities will include running town hall meetings and discussion groups, developing a DEI calendar of events, establishing proactive and reactive DEI crises response protocols, and developing a DEI Canvas shell for resources and discussions among OCOB faculty.

The DEI effort at OCOB will also continue to engage with the DEI campus-wide activities and programs including the cluster hire program and other initiatives from the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (More on these below).

Leadership Beyond the Resume Conference, OCOB, Orfalea College of Business

Student Organizations & Opportunities

Multicultural Business Program

The Orfalea College of Business Multicultural Business Program (MBP) is a diverse, inclusive, and multicultural community led by students for students where they matter, belong, and are connected with resources and professional support to persist to graduation and beyond. The MBP is a community that starts from day one at Cal Poly for traditionally underserved and historically underrepresented students in higher education. In this program, students go through a learning community across their first year, with access to peer and professional mentorship, early connection to professionalism skills, and a dedicated academic advisor. In addition to its Leadership Beyond the Resume annual conference, MBP hosts weekly social events open to all students, focused on diversity and issues of social justice.

Women in Business Association

Founded in the spring of 2015, the Cal Poly Women in Business Association was created to act as a resource and community for young women, working to provide students with the skills and network needed to succeed in college and life. Organizationally, it pledges to embrace the intersectional diversity of all individuals respecting their sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, citizenship, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, physical ability, mental ability, and expression. In addition, members strive toward the social justice of all people in order to create and sustain a more productive and inclusive environment.

Latinx Business Student Association

The Latinx Business Student Association provides a resource for the underrepresented student body at Cal Poly through its pillars of family, professionalism, and academics. As part of its mission, the LBSA offers assistance to any student in finding professional connections, advising assistance, and a sense of belonging on campus.

Out Professional Engagement Network

Founded in 2020, the Cal Poly Out Professional Engagement Network (OPEN) strives to empower the more than 2,000 LGBTQ+ individuals at Cal Poly to navigate the professional environment. From engineering to journalism, from medicine to finance, CP OPEN provides a space for LGBTQ+ members to explore their career aspirations.

BEACoN Mentors

BEACoN exists to educate and empower underrepresented students and advocate for them as they aspire to successfully complete their Cal Poly education. The organization works collaboratively with all members of the campus community to increase success and retention of underrepresented or underperforming students.

Cal Poly entrance banners green and gold

Cal Poly’s Foundational Commitment to DEI

With a focus on action at the university level beyond the Orfalea College of Business, Cal Poly is committed to change and doing better for its underrepresented communities. That includes evaluating efforts, policies and regularly asking how the university can continually improve and reflect the diversity of California, our nation and today’s global workforce.

The university has taken important steps to assess and improve the campus’ climate, including the recently-conducted Cal Poly Experience Initiative (or CPX), the related CPX Survey, and its findings, which amplify the voices of students, staff, and faculty who have experienced racism and bias, and offers a roadmap for addressing these issues.

This builds on Cal Poly’s commitment to enmesh the values of diversity, equity and inclusion into its essential strategies, learning objectives, and accreditation efforts. Admissions and recruitment continue to help broaden Cal Poly’s applicant pool, while student-centered resources aim to empower students of color as they earn their degrees.

While there is much more work that remains, Cal Poly has seen the following demographic trends in recent years:
  • The university is more diverse today than ever before. In 2011, 63% of Cal Poly’s student body were white. Today, Cal Poly is 55% white.
  • The total underrepresented minority (URM) application pool for first time freshmen has increased 111% since fall 2008, from 7,533 to 15,841 applications. In the same time, the non-URM applicant pool has grown by 50% from 25,819 to 38,231 applications.
  • Total undergraduate URM enrollment has increased 70% since the fall of 2008, while undergraduate non-URM enrollment has increased 5% over that time.
  • The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to URM students has increased 122% since 2007-08, while bachelor’s degrees awarded to non-URM students has increased 18% over that time.
  • The proportion of all URM undergraduates has risen from 13.7% in the fall of 2008 to 20.5% in the fall of 2018.
  • In first-time freshmen applications, the number of non-white applicants has increased by 134% since the fall of 2008, growing from 13,440 in the fall of 2008 to 31,580 in the fall of 2019. Over the same time, white applicants have increased 18% from 16,445 to 19,346.
  • In first-time freshman enrollment, non-white students have increased by 112% from 882 in the fall of 2008 to 1,876 today. Among white first-time freshmen, the increase was 10% over the same time period.

Addressing Painful Legacies and The Vital Work Ahead

Unfortunately, there is still much work to do across society and campus.

Participants in the CPX Survey identified both historic and contemporary cultural challenges for DEI at Cal Poly, from homogeneity, to geographic location, to a past lack of leadership and change planning. In the eyes of many, the ultimate pathway to a stronger Cal Poly experience is to prioritize DEI and ultimately enhance ethnic, racial, economic, gender and other diversity on campus.

Today the university is experiencing the often-painful early stages that demonstrate how greater

demographic diversity does not necessarily create inclusion and belonging. In many ways, diversity is just the beginning.

The greater challenge before us is to create a culture at Cal Poly that is inclusive and equitable to those communities which have historically been excluded, marginalized, and underappreciated in higher education and at the university. By committing to evolving our culture, Cal Poly’s educational and working environments will foster a greater sense of community, inclusion, and belonging for everyone, regardless of their background or identity.

Now is the time to redouble past DEI efforts and accelerate them into the future at Cal Poly.

Leadership Beyond the Resume Conference, OCOB, Orfalea College of Business

Ongoing Action to Support People of Color and Other Underrepresented Groups in the Cal Poly Community

Cal Poly has put its commitment to supporting students, faculty, and staff of color and other underrepresented groups into action through enhanced programming and resources that have taken root in recent years. The CPX recommendations, made in the fall of 2019, confirmed and reinforced many of Cal Poly’s university-wide DEI initiatives and priorities.

ADMISSIONS AND RECRUITMENT: The Admissions team engages in proactive outreach and partnerships within target schools, districts, and community-based organizations in key markets inside and outside California to attract more academically qualified prospective students from underrepresented minority/marginalized communities—with the aim of enhancing the diversity of Cal Poly’s incoming classes. In 2017, Cal Poly eliminated the early decision admissions option to give accepted students time to make decisions with more financial aid information, which had a positive impact on the number of academically qualified students from URM/marginalized communities accepting Cal Poly’s admissions offer.

ALUMNI: The Cal Poly Alumni Association has created affinity chapters for Black Alumni and Chicana/o/x, Latino/a/x, and Indigenous Alumni.

CAL POLY OPPORTUNITY FEE (CPOF): The CPOF provides financial aid for low-income, first-generation California students through a fee on out-of-state student tuition that was introduced in fall 2019. CPOF now provides scholarships for 277 new Cal Poly Scholars, supports the Cal Poly Scholars Center, and supports new faculty hiring. All students on campus will benefit from CPOF funding, which also supports the Mustang Success Center and increased university and college advising.

CAL POLY SCHOLARS: Across all six colleges, 464 students from low-income backgrounds participated in Cal Poly Scholars in the 2019-20 academic year, with 47 completing their degrees. This year’s scholars included the first cohort of Transfer Scholars in the College of Engineering. The program also piloted a new Scholar Mentor Program to enhance the first-year transition experience. Since its inception, the program has connected 656 scholars with funding, technology, advising, and community support. The program continues to expand due to financial support from the CPOF.

CLUSTER HIRING: In 2019, a university-wide cluster hire brought a cohort of 13 faculty members working across five colleges. The program seeks to bring scholars and educators with specific expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion to Cal Poly.

CPX: The Cal Poly Experience Initiative engaged the campus community in 2019, gathering data to guide action toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. After listening sessions and a survey of faculty, students, and staff, the study found that women-identified, LGBTQIA, disabled, financially challenged, and people of color reported different and more negative experiences. The research team shared the final reports of the study in October 2019 with seven specific recommendations for Cal Poly’s next steps. The campus community then had a chance to continue the conversation in Strategic Diversity Leadership Institute sessions, Campus Dialogs, and the CPX Distinguished Speaker Series. Students also had access to funding for cultural and club events through new CPX Activation Grants. The data presented to campus in the fall of 2019 is being used by divisions and colleges throughout campus to develop action plans for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in their respective areas. Further details on action items out of these plans is expected to be unveiled in the 2020-2021 academic year.

CROWDFUNDING: Cal Poly’s Spur Change crowdfunding platform is now raising funds to directly support the Black Student Union, the Black Academic Excellence Center, the Multicultural Center and Cal Poly’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

HIRING PRACTICES: Academic Affairs now requires a diversity statement from all candidates for faculty and staff positions. The division also revised procedures for recruiting tenure-track faculty to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds that more closely reflect California’s demographics.

LEADERSHIP: In 2017, Cal Poly established a Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion position to sit on the President’s Cabinet. All six colleges now have associate deans or faculty associates who focus specifically on diversity and inclusion.

LIVING AND LEARNING COMMUNITIES: University Housing offers Cultural and Identity Scholar communities for first-year students. These include: Asian-Pacific Islander Scholars, Black Scholars, Chicanx/Latinx Scholars, Cross Cultural Scholars, Native and Indigenous Scholars, and Southwest Asian North African Scholars.

KEY STAFF: Cal Poly added inclusion-focused staff in multiple departments, including: Inclusive Excellence Specialist in the Center for Teaching and Learning (2018), Additional staff in the Cross Cultural Centers (2016), EOP / Outreach student position at Kennedy Library (2013), Multicultural Advisor in the College of Liberal Arts (2017), Cross Cultural Advocacy Resident Advisor position in University Housing (2018).

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR BLACK STUDENTS: California Proposition 209 forbids public institutions from recruiting, admitting or providing direct financial aid on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity. However, University Development has helped interested donors create scholarships for Black students that are administered outside of Cal Poly via the California Community Foundation (CCF) in accordance with Proposition 209. The CCF now has a general fund that can accept contributions to support Black students attending Cal Poly. As a recent example, an anonymous donor just contributed $100,000 to provide support specifically for Black students.

SPACE: Cal Poly has invested in specific spaces to support people of color academically, culturally and socially, including the Black Academic Excellence Center, The Dream Center, and the Multicultural Center, which expanded its space significantly in 2019.

SPEAKER SERIES: OUDI several colleges, and the Cross Cultural Centers created diversity-focused speaking and dialog events that brought scholars and experts on equity and racial justice to campus, including Cornel West, Spike Lee, and Robin DiAngelo. This is an ongoing series, and Cal Poly intends to welcome more speakers in the coming year.

STUDENT ORIENTATION: New Student and Transition Programs established the Week of Welcome Cross Cultural Experience in 2018 to help underrepresented students make connections and prepare for their academic journey. It also established the CORE (Creating Opportunities for Representative Engagement) pre-orientation for Black, Latinx, and Native American students.

CultureFest Students with Arms Raised Some Hands Open Some Closed Fist

More Guidance & Resources

Learn more about the Cal Poly Cross Cultural Center and sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date with their programming and announcements.

Participate in the College of Liberal Arts’ TEACH ON annual events.

Sign up for the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion Monthly Newsletter to learn more about diversity and inclusion speakers, events, and programs.

Sign up for a Book and Learning Circle and join other Cal Poly faculty and staff in discussion around a diversity-related book.

Help foster an inclusive classroom and inclusive teaching practices with help from the Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology’s Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom website.

Watch the videos from the CPX Distinguished Speaker Series:

Donate to organizations at Cal Poly that directly support students of color:

Follow and share content from social media accounts that celebrate people of color at Cal Poly: