In the midst of a routine stroll to class on a sunny San Luis Obispo day, it is likely that students will hear a corny joke or Cal Poly fun fact being cheerily shouted over the sound of your headphones. If you peek your head up from your phone you are more than likely to see a group of wide-eyed high school seniors — and a Poly Rep clad in a signature green polo leading the march.
Poly Reps is commonly known for the tour guide aspect of their job. However, Poly Reps are much more than backwards-walking students parading future Mustangs through campus.
Membership that goes beyond tour giving
Currently, Poly Reps are facing one of their busiest times of the year — selecting a fresh batch of Poly Reps members to join the organization. The Poly Reps Recruitment Team works for weeks to carefully hand-pick a new group of students to serve as official Cal Poly Ambassadors.
Each year, around 100 students apply to be a Poly Rep — typically around 10 students are chosen to be part of the 35-member team. Each hand-picked for a reason, Poly Reps members hold their individuality and uniqueness close to heart.
Computer science senior Zahnae Aquino said her reason for joining Poly Reps began with the 2018 blackface incident.
Before she decided to become a Poly Rep during her junior year, Aquino was heavily involved within Cal Poly’s cultural community. In the midst of the 2018 blackface incident, Aquino said she was a large role in the protests against Cal Poly’s administration. During this period of time, Aquino attended a Poly Reps info session, where she heard about the new “Outreach Committee ” Poly Reps built in response to the blackface incident. Poly Reps created this committee not only in realization of how important promoting diversity and inclusion is, but because they wanted to educate themselves more on the topic.
“I thought that an organization, especially an ambassador organization having those motivations was really great,” Aquino said. “I figured in order to achieve the change that I wanted to see within the school, this would be a platform for me and a great way to achieve that.”
Aquino now serves as the head of the Poly Reps Outreach Committee.
The application process
With a surplus of applicants and unique students to choose from, the Poly Reps team conducts an interview process that lasts weeks in order to choose a new batch of members.
The application process begins with a free-response application. In an attempt to be unbiased, each application is stripped of its name and assigned a number. Through the six Poly Reps on the New Member Recruitment team, applications are ranked on a scale of 1-5 based on a variety of criteria. Round after round the applicant pool is narrowed down until a final round of in-person interviews, where interviewees are asked questions intended to showcase traits such as open mindedness and willingness to be outgoing. Final-round applicants who score the highest scores are accepted into the Poly Reps organization.
The moment new members are chosen to become Poly Reps, they are fully welcomed into the organization. The club dedicates the first week of spring quarter solely to its new members — each night there are activities and other bonding experiences that the new members attend.
A club built on bonding
Bonding within the organization does not stop with the newly initiated reps. Three times a year, Poly Reps participate in a club event coined “STORM.” Poly Rep Bree Zedar, a mechanical engineering junior, said STORM has become one of her favorite parts of being a Poly Rep.
“During STORM, we will go and stay at another Poly Reps’ house who lives one to five hours away, and anywhere between 10 or 30 of us will go and stay at this person’s house for 2 nights,” Zedar said. “On Friday we break out and talk to 10 or 15 local high schools and present on Cal Poly. It’s such a great bonding experience for the group.”
The club even organizes “Poly pal dates” after each club meeting, setting up members on “dates” with other Poly Reps they do not know as well in attempt to foster an even stronger bond within the group.
Bonding via sleepless nights, Poly pal dates, and three-cups of coffee mornings, Poly Reps unite at 7 a.m.. club meetings every other Tuesday to discuss club business such as new member recruitment, outreach and tours.
“Even though it is a serious organization, you don’t have to be really serious,” Zedar said. “You get to be silly, you get to throw bagels at the morning meetings — it’s the little things like this that make you feel like you want to be there, not like you have to be there.”
And, although all Poly Reps members do indeed want to be there, the reasons behind that passion vary from student to student. Poly Reps stress that because the club is a volunteer-based organization each member has their own personal reason for wanting to be there.
“Being able to represent your university and being able to give back to a school that gives you so many opportunities is really awesome,” Zedar said. “Plus, I love the attention I get when I give a tour.”
The art of giving a tour
Tours, what Poly Reps are mainly known for, are often a selling point for potential Mustangs.
“Something I really love about Poly Reps is the fact that we aren’t paid, so our tours are 100 percent transparent,” Zedar said. “If someone asks me what I don’t like about Cal Poly there’s no pressure for me to tell them one certain thing or for me to keep anything away from them.”
Poly Reps tours are an essential part of future Mustang recruitment.Microbiology sophomore Shantelle Angarita said the Poly Reps campus tour she went on as a graduating high school senior solidified her decision to come to Cal Poly.
“[The Poly Reps] were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic,” Angarita said, “that made Cal Poly very enticing because you know they really love their school … they made a totally new place feel like home in less than an hour.”
Angartia challenged the Poly Reps’ honesty during the tour, and said their transparency regarding Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo is what made her want to spend the next four years in San Luis Obispo.
“Having that open honesty and being able to use your tour as a platform for what you love about Cal Poly, but also what you don’t like about Cal Poly and what you think Cal Poly can work on, that’s a very powerful thing,” Zedar said.
Zedar said Poly Reps differ from campus ambassadors at other universities not only because they are not paid, but because of how they facilitate their campus tours.
“What’s unique about our tours is they’re all built on stories,” Zedar said. “For example, I talk about my first day of school when I started a fire in my lab because I didn’t know how to use a drill.”
Zedar said each tour is designed for the group in front of her — she will cater to the needs of each attendee. Although each tour Zedar gives is unique, they all come together on one shared aspect: her parting words of wisdom for potential Mustangs.
“Wherever you decide to go to school, wherever you get your education, take classes outside of your major — whatever it is, go outside of your comfort zone,” Zedar said. “Expand your horizons because that’s where you’re really going to grow and that is what college is all about.”
Zedar also said she gives a spiel about being kind to parents and guardians and moving away from home for the first time when she reaches her final words of wisdom.
“Always be so incredibly grateful to even consider higher education,” Zedar said. “So many people do not have access to higher education and the fact that we do, especially at a school like this is such an unbelievable privilege. Never forget how lucky you are to have that option of a higher education in the first place.”