CPP-themed Zoom backgrounds reignite Bronco pride in online meetings

By Zachary Chen, March 9, 2021

As the campus community approaches nearly a full year of virtual instruction, the struggles that student face when expressing themselves continue to be a challenge. Self-expression can vary for many in a socially distanced world, but the Cal Poly Pomona community is using themed Zoom backgrounds to liven up their online meetings.

Last May, University Photographer Tom Zasadzinski and Senior Graphic Artist Ani Markarian released various official Cal Poly Pomona-themed Zoom backgrounds for students, faculty and staff to use.

“We want students of CPP to gain a sense of pride and belonging on campus even though they’re attending remotely,” Markarian said.

The initial release of the themed backgrounds displayed different locations around campus including the College of Business Administration building and the University Library. The stylized versions of the themed backgrounds were shortly released after, providing an uplifting alternative for students with a more artistic side.

Markarian originally designed her first CPP-themed background for personal use, but when asked by other staff to share it with them, it came as a welcome surprise to her.

“When my boss, Amon Rappaport, asked me to share my background with him, I was shocked,” Markarian said. “The background was vibrant and pink, and it was to match my hair at the time. It was really a form of artistic expression for me.”

Cal Poly Pomona-themed backgrounds include a stylized version of the University Plaza. (Courtesy of Ani Markarian)

Markarian, who was responsible for designing the stylized versions of the CPP-themed backgrounds, used the landscape photos taken by Zasadzinski and edited them with an artistic approach.

Zoom’s virtual background feature allows users to display an image or video as their background during a meeting.

This brings a unique characteristic to online meetings as it can often set the tone of a conversation. If users choose to take a more conservative approach, they may display something that represents their organization or club. Users wanting a lighthearted approach may opt for a more colorful or fun background.

“When people are cut off from their learning environment, it can be hard for them to practice that self-expression that’s so important to them,” said Christian Nunez, a fourth-year plant science student. “A lot of self-expression is done through campus life. Many people are in clubs. They interact with students, and they have all these opportunities to bounce off their own personal passions and life goals.”

Although something like Zoom backgrounds may seem small to some, it may benefit others struggling with the monotony of an online learning environment.

“If we can be an anchor to the campus for people, we’re all for it,” said Zasadzinski. “You could be 10 minutes away or 10 hours away, if you’re not on campus, then you’re still a whole world away.”

Currently, there are 27 CPP-themed Zoom backgrounds available — consisting of 17 photography backgrounds, nine stylized backgrounds and one seasonal background. Zasadzinski and Markarian both plan on releasing additional Zoom backgrounds in the near future.

The Cal Poly Pomona themed Zoom backgrounds are currently available for download at https://www.cpp.edu/brand/downloads/zoom-backgrounds.shtml.

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