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By Cecilia Leyva, Feb. 15, 2022

The California State University Board of Trustees approved Humboldt State University’s proposal Jan. 26 to become the first polytechnic university in Northern California and the third in the 23-campus system, renaming the campus officially to California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt.

The push for the university to adopt the CSU’s polytechnic standards was forefronted by Cal Poly Humboldt Provost Jenn Capps, in hopes of increasing the institution’s enrollment numbers. The campus began a self-study in 2020, which found Humboldt State was serving the third-highest number of STEM students within the CSU system behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona.

During the Committee on Education Policy, Capps stated, “We are excited to accelerate expanded access to programs that attract California’s college students, grow the economy of the north coast and meet the workforce needs of our state.”

Humboldt State students take their education into the state’s northern coastal forests. (Courtesy of Cal Poly Humboldt Galleries)

Krystal Raynes, a CSU student trustee board member, was one of the members who eagerly supported the motion, stating during the January meeting, “There’s really this unique symbiotic relationship between the activism and passion of the students already there and the mentorship and the vision of the faculty.”

Along with the name change, the university anticipates the addition of 28 new STEM undergraduate degree programs, offering courses such as marine biology, applied fire science and management and cannabis studies over the next seven years.

“Cal Poly Humboldt is unique and very competitive,” said Raynes during an interview with The Poly Post. “It is, for example, the only university in the state to offer a certified wildfire program.”

In company with the new name and redesign, the college also received a $433 million allowance from Gov. Gavin Newsom. An additional $25 million of state funding was allocated for structural renovations and expansions. The university’s planning website outlines its intent to construct two new major buildings, by 2025, each projecting over 25,000 square feet.

For sisters Arianna and Natalie Wantt, Cal Poly Humboldt students, the university has always followed polytechnic practices.

“A lot of students get a really great hands-on opportunity,” said Arianna. “They (students) are out around the Humboldt County area, not even in a classroom, during many of their classes. So, there is already a lot of fieldwork.”

Natalie added, “Before switching majors, I chose Humboldt for their environmental science program. I remember going to campus for an immersive process with the Environmental Science Department. There is a research facility and research vessel minutes from the school that’s offered to students. The move to become a Cal Poly made sense because the school was already so hands-on.”

While the university focuses on its development as a Cal Poly and its expansion, some expressed concern over how the environmentally conscious school will maintain Humboldt’s key landscape amid its renovation.

“We have a lot of redwoods and, really, beauty areas, so we are a little bit concerned about it becoming too urbanized,” said Natalie. “We do need more housing and parking, but we also have a nice reserve. The hope is that the school keeps a good balance between the two.”

Despite reservations, the university has received overwhelming community support. Raynes noted that during a visit to the Humboldt campus, she was joined by the city’s mayor and city manager.

“The mayor and city manager that came to talk to us talked about how excited they are to have a Cal Poly,” said Raynes. “It was a new level of city engagement I had never seen. Even though it is a very small population, it is a very engaged population.”

The university’s admissions process as well as tuition will remain as is. Students who applied to the university before its new polytechnic status will not need to reapply, and for the graduating class of 2022, their diploma will read Cal Poly Humboldt.

For Raynes, this new era for the university brings much excitement.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Cal Poly Humboldt grow, thrive and bring more economic prospects to the community,” stated Raynes. “I hope to see more housing. I hope to see more health care in the area now that more students and faculty are coming into learn and educate. It’s a very exciting time for the northern California part of the state. There’s so much opportunity.”

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