After an extensive nationwide search, Cal Poly administration found their most qualified candidate for the role of Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management already within the campus community.
Newly named vice president, Terrance Harris, has been working with admissions and enrollment at Cal Poly for 17 years and has recently filled the vice president role in an interim capacity since June of 2021.
But his roots in the campus community go much deeper.
As a crucial part of the admissions division, Harris’ role sets the overall strategic vision for Cal Poly enrollment, develops strategies to better leverage financial aid, collaborates with university partners on long and short-term enrollment goals and works towards eliminating barriers to matriculation.
“It’s just being very proactive and mindful about what it takes to educate the students that are here, whatever that might be,” Harris said. “I think of my role as a role of service to the students and to the state of California and beyond.”
Harris was given the opportunity to present his vision for the role through a community forum that took place in November.
“When I talk about my vision really, it’s around helping the university reach its goals, helping be a positive member of the CSU and the state of California … and doing so in a way that is incredibly collaborative and engaging across campus so that this is not just our division trying to tell people what needs to be done but really having an opportunity to dig in and listen and work together with some incredibly gifted units across campus,” Harris said.
While Harris has worked for the university since 2004, he also earned his master’s in educational leadership and administration and his bachelor’s in psychology from Cal Poly, making him uniquely familiar with the Learn by Doing approach.
“I went to school here, my parents went to school here. I’ve been a part of this community for virtually my entire life so the opportunity to continue on here and do work that is meaningful… it’s more than just a job to me,” Harris said. “This campus is part of the fabric of my family and the opportunities that we’ve had to learn, to gain an education and to be part of the San Luis Obispo community.”
Harris’ parents came to Cal Poly in 1968 and were part of the original group of students participating in the Educational Opportunity Program’s (EOP) pilot program at the university, which aims to improve retention of historically, economically and educationally disadvantaged groups. His current position allows Harris to further the diversity goals of Cal Poly, some of which were previously established in the EOP program through enrollment and recruiting efforts.
“A lot of times people limit diversity and they think only in terms of ethnicity, and to me it goes much beyond –– it’s regions, it’s educating students from rural areas, it’s educating our low-income population,” Harris said. “It means having diversity of thought, it means having people with various backgrounds and experiences because students benefit from being in an environment with a variety of lived experiences.”
As head coach of the Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School varsity boys basketball team, Harris has also been able to mentor hundreds of students while remaining closely involved in the community he aims to serve.
“It’s a great opportunity as enrollment manager to stay connected with our youth, to understand exactly some of the lived experiences that they have, what they’re going through and how that might translate to the work that we’re doing and how we can best serve the students in our local population,” Harris said.
Harris’ selection to fill the strategic enrollment management position comes with a high recommendation from President Jeffrey Armstrong.
“Terrance has been an incredible member of our community as a student, an advisor, a mentor and a leader. He truly embodies Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy,” Armstrong said in a press release. “His leadership will be crucial in our continued efforts to make sure we are bringing students to Cal Poly and supporting them throughout their college career so they can be Ready Day One.”
While the university’s administrative roles can appear isolated from the day-to-day lives of students, Harris said he wants students to know that they are at the heart of everything he does at Cal Poly.
“There’s not a day that goes by or a decision that gets made that doesn’t reflect on the needs of the students,” Harris said. “This university exists to create opportunities for students to grow both in their academic and their social experiences and even though we won’t be perfect in every decision that we make, we will be intentional and working towards creating a better today and tomorrow than yesterday.”