Coley receives Trailblazer Award

By Christopher Galvan

Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya Coley is among six other California State University presidents who will receive the 2015 Trailblazer Award from Leadership California.

In addition to Coley, the award is honoring Jane Close Conoley at Cal State Long Beach, Mildred Garc_Òå_a at Cal State Fullerton, Dianne F. Harrison at Cal State Northridge, Karen S. Haynes at Cal State San Marcos and Lisa A. Rossbacher at Humboldt State.

“With higher education in the forefront of state policy issues and as a desired goal of many of California’s people, the opportunity to honor the women leading higher education in our state could not be more relevant and timely,” said Pamela Hemann, executive director of Leadership California.

The Trailblazer Award honors pioneering women leaders for groundbreaking achievements in their fields. The Leadership California Institute, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the representation of diverse and inspirational women leaders throughout the state, created the award in 2010.

“The recognition is a richly deserved honor for an accomplished group of academic leaders who have dedicated their professional and personal lives to the service of all people in California,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy White in a press release. “As mentors, CSU’s six women presidents serve as exemplary role models for women leaders in higher education and beyond. We, as a system, laud them for their commitment to transforming their campuses, our state and the nation.”

This is the first time that the award is being offered to a group of awardees at once.

“Usually it is only one woman that’s chosen, but now Leadership California has decided to award this group of women as one,” said Stephanie Thara, CSU public affairs communications specialist. “These women are trailblazers in the higher education field. The award is not always for higher education, but women who are leaders in their field, whatever that may be.”

Coley, the first female president of CPP, said that she is honored to be among the recipients.

“I am very humbled and appreciative of the recognition, and I’m pleased to be joining such an outstanding group of CSU women presidents,” said Coley. “When I think about the collective achievements of these fellow presidents I am very pleased to be among them and as a part of this recognition.”

Coley said that she has a lot in common with the other recipients of the award, and that they are all exhibit strong leadership.

“Our lives have all been about challenging and overcoming barriers, persevering and being very focused on opening opportunities for individuals here in California,” she said. “There is a common theme among us of a focus on excellence, commitment to student success and opening more doors for others.”

Leadership California’s program, California Issues and Trends, trains women in various areas, focusing on gaining new insights into complex issues affecting California and the United States. The program graduates 65 women every year, including Coley in 1999.

“[The CIT program] put me in the context and environment of meeting some outstanding women,” she said. “It allowed us to formulate ideas around shared strategies for addressing issues and problems facing California. We all came from different backgrounds, and it provided us reinforced opportunities for networking and greater opportunities for women and people of color.”

The president had many words of advice for young women entering today’s workforce, noting that helping others is a crucial part of life’s climb.

“Don’t let others define the level at which you can rise,” said Coley. “Though over the years you may run into detours, you must stay focused and continue moving ahead. Equally important, though, is recognizing our responsibility to help open doors for others.”

Leadership California will recognize the six CSU presidents at its Legacy of Leadership Awards ceremony April 27 in Los Angeles.

Coley Interview

Stephen Acosta / The Poly Post

Coley Interview

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