Soraya M. Coley

Soraya M. Coley
Soraya Coley



California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Soraya Coley is president of Cal Poly Pomona. Coley, who took office in 2015, is the first woman to be named president of the institution, which has more than 25,000 students and nearly 2,500 faculty and staff. Enrollment has grown by 2,000 students during her tenure. She was previously provost and vice president for academic affairs at Cal State Bakersfield and has held positions at Cal State Fullerton, Alliant International University and the National Center for Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. Coley is a member of the American Council on Education Women’s Network, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative and the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy and Jobs. She is a former member of the board of directors for Children and Family Futures and the Kern County Schools’ “Ready to Start” program. She holds a doctoral degree in social planning and policy from Bryn Mawr College.

What was your proudest moment?

My proudest moment comes every year at commencement when I get to participate in awarding college diplomas to our newest college graduates. This past June, 6,600 of our students received bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

What is your alma mater?

I earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Lincoln University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in social planning and social research from Bryn Mawr College.

What is your next project?

We’re currently implementing a new strategic plan and re-envisioning both our academic enterprise and our physical campus presence. Another one of my priorities right now is making clear the polytechnic advantage. An education must be much more than mastering a subject. The polytechnic approach utilizes a learning-by-doing model that emphasizes critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration.

Who is your hero?

My heroes are the countless individuals on whose shoulders I stand, those who pried open doors for me and inspire me to keep them open for those yet to come.
My heroes are the parents and family members who offer the tremendous, and usually untold, sacrifices so loved ones can attend and succeed in college.
My heroes are those individuals who defy odds, who look at impossible situations and find a way to succeed.

What do you like best about Los Angeles?

I am particularly struck by the cultural vibrancy and how that vibrancy translates into a collective ambition across education, business, religious, and nonprofit communities to constantly improve at making Los Angeles work for everyone.

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