Launch Plan

Students celebrating at graduation

OCOB’s Graduation Rate is the Highest in the CSU System. Here’s Why.

By Christina Arthur

The Orfalea College of Business currently has a four-year grad rate of 79 percent, the highest in the California State University system. Orfalea Assistant Dean for Student Success Amy Carter revealed this rate hasn’t always been as high. Instead, she says, there’s been an upward arc, citing several different initiatives. “I think a huge part of it comes from the resources we dedicate to support and enhance student success,” Carter said. 

One resource she noted was the development of Student Services, especially over the last ten years, a department that offers tutoring, mentoring, an internal career readiness center, along with a Multicultural Business Program. According to Carter, in 2005, the college began its peer advising model and saw grad rates jump almost 10 percent over the course of four years. “Peer advisors allow us to free up our professional advisors to do more developmental counseling and targeted outreach to students, who may be falling behind or need additional support to get connected to campus resources,” Carter said.

The college staffs roughly 25 peer advisors, which Carter said is one of the largest peer-advising models she’s ever seen. “I haven’t actually seen another model on another campus that mirrors the scale at which we’re employing our advisors,” she added.

OCOB has more than 150 peer leaders in Student Services, who work as advisors, mentors, Multicultural Business Program interns, or ambassadors. A large part of their job is focused on proactive outreach to students and providing support as required. They even check in with seniors before they graduate, to advise them on exactly what they may still need to keep in mind academically, or even socially, as their time at Cal Poly winds down.

Academic Advisor Yovani Lopez Alexander explained it’s important to have those peer-to-peer conversations because it’s more relatable for the student. “This is a great support for the students because they have someone to talk to who has already gone through what they’re going through,” she said.

“I haven’t actually seen another model on another campus that mirrors the scale at which we’re employing our peer advisors.”

Amy Carter, Assistant Dean for Student Success

Like Carter, Alexander shared that this model also allows the three professional advisors within the Student Services Center to provide deeper, one-on-one advising regarding curriculum, minors, or anything else that has to do with a student’s career path. “I would say this has benefited the students in knowing what direction to take and how long it’s going to take them to graduate on time,” she said. 

Overall, the Student Services Center works to be as proactive as possible to reach out to the students and inform them of the resources available to help them graduate in a timely manner. “We pride ourselves of graduating students in four years because we are here to help them achieve their goals,” Alexander said. 

Another valuable branch of Student Services is the Student Ambassadors program. Finance senior and Student Ambassadors President Sami Von Gober said this initiative is unique within Student Services because, instead of working directly with students, they’re more externally focused. “We’re essentially out there being the face of the college and trying to increase opportunities for students within it,” she said. 

Some of the duties of student ambassadors include meeting with companies, alumni, and executives to educate them about initiatives in the College of Business. “We aim to impress them and get them to engage in some form, like coming back to speak in classrooms or hopefully recruiting and hiring our students,” Von Gober said. 

Not only do these programs benefit OCOB students in general, they also provide student leaders with valuable experiences beyond the classroom. “Our college is unique in terms of the opportunities offered for leadership,” Von Gober added. “Through this, I’ve been more engaged in the college, and I’ve done better in my classes when I feel more a part of the school, which is what these programs do. I think OCOB has done an amazing job segmenting what students need into positions. I think without peer advising, without us, or without all the other positions, it wouldn’t be as cohesive.”

“Our college is unique in terms of the opportunities offered for leadership. Through this, I’ve been more engaged in the college, and I’ve done better in my classes, which is what these programs do.”

Sami Von Gober, Student Ambassadors President

Beyond these initiatives, the College of Business has developed courses to ensure students are on the right track. All freshmen are enrolled into Business 100: Student Orientation and College Success in their fall quarter. “Within that class, we educate them about how to be a student and transition into college,” Carter said. “And they build out a four-year plan based around what they might want to pursue as a concentration, including options for their minors. Basically, they walk away from their first quarter of college knowing exactly which courses they plan to take from when they start, all the way until graduation.” 

A follow-up class, Business 206: Business Professionalism and Career Readiness, makes sure to continue the trajectory, encouraging students to think about foundational career pieces like resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and internships. “It’s also a place where we encourage them to explore where their values are, and how they want to build out their leadership skills,” Carter said.

With career readiness being OCOB’s mission, these initiatives are designed specifically to prepare students for graduation and post-grad careers. “We try to get as much data as we can around where students are going once they graduate,” Carter said. “And we have an 85 percent knowledge rate of where our graduates are going.” 

Along with this, the college has put a priority on getting its students as connected to industries as possible, which has positively impacted job-placement rates for graduates. “At OCOB, our students have a 94 percent job placement rate within three months of graduation,” Carter explained. “That means nearly every student in the college receives their diploma, walks out our doors, and immediately lands in either their professional field or in a graduate program.”