Humboldt State Asked to Plan for Consideration to Be State’s Third Polytechnic

The California State University has asked Humboldt State University to undertake a self-study toward becoming designated a polytechnic.


The request offers the momentous possibility of HSU becoming one of just three polytechnic universities in the state, and the only one in Northern California. It would better position HSU to meet specific workforce needs on the North Coast and statewide, and it would significantly raise HSU’s profile among prospective students and grant-funding organizations.

HSU President Tom Jackson, Jr. shared his enthusiasm for the request in a message to campus today, calling it an “incredible, transformative opportunity.”

“This is our moment. First, let’s allow ourselves to imagine, dream, and consider Humboldt as a polytechnic,” Jackson wrote. “What are the possibilities for this region and future students? What are the possibilities for new grants and research?”

The CSU request came in a recent letter from Chancellor Timothy White. The Chancellor wrote, in part: “Humboldt State University is a vital institution on the North Coast and for California. The campus currently has many distinct strengths in the sciences, with a special capacity for matters pertaining to forestry, oceanography, energy, and agriculture. As we look to the needs of California in the decades ahead, programs dealing with the development and application of new knowledge in the fire sciences, aquaculture, sustainable energy, north coast crops, and environmental sustainability are among a few areas where HSU could provide world-class programs.”

Although it is Fall Break, HSU is sharing it as soon as possible with the campus and community.

Full letter from CSU

Campus message from President Jackson

Polytechnic institutions traditionally feature hands-on and career-focused programs, an emphasis in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and applied science programs like health and agriculture, along with a strong liberal arts foundation.

In the requested self-study, HSU will have a chance to build upon the collective vision from its academic and strategic planning to reimagine the polytechnic for the 21st Century. It could incorporate Humboldt State’s broad expertise in sustainability, along with areas like traditional ecological knowledge, renewable technologies, equitable and ethical practices, tribal and rural community development, and more.

“I am excited for the possibilities that HSU becoming a polytechnic CSU represents for our region,” said Keith Flamer, President of College of the Redwoods. “This will allow CR and HSU to expand the transfer pathway in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, forestry and aquaculture fields. CR’s administration and faculty are committed to working with our Humboldt State University partners to build a pathway from our high quality STEM related programs to HSU. It is a ‘win-win’ collaboration.”

In many ways, HSU is the obvious candidate to become the state’s third polytechnic. HSU has the highest percentage of courses with a hands-on component in the CSU, and it has the third highest percentage of students in natural resources and STEM programs (behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona). HSU also has the CSU’s highest percentage of STEM graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees, ranking 8th nationally among 660 master’s level institutions.

The self-study on the polytechnic concept, to be completed by Spring 2021, will be led by HSU Provost Jenn Capps and Lisa Bond-Maupin, currently serving as Interim Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to the President. It will build upon numerous important planning efforts currently underway at HSU, including the Strategic Plan process, Academic Road Map planning process, preparation for upcoming WSCUC accreditation visits, and others.

North Coast Leaders Comment on the Polytechnic Self-Study

“Like many universities in the country, Humboldt State University is facing unique challenges due to COVID and changing conditions for higher education. In California, we are lucky to have a strong model of polytechnic universities that could bring new opportunities to HSU and the students it serves, while continuing to offer its current curriculum. Becoming the third polytechnic university in the CSU system could be an exciting way forward for HSU, its students, and the North Coast community.”

Congressman Jared Huffman (California District 2)


“The North Coast is so fortunate to have Humboldt State as part of our community and the polytechnic designation would be an extraordinary opportunity for Northern California. HSU already has the third highest percentage of students in the entire CSU system enrolled in STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), behind the other two polytechnic schools — Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona. We are thrilled at this prospect and look forward to the launch of the feasibility study this coming spring.”

Mike McGuire, State Senator (District 2)


“Congratulations to HSU for receiving the Chancellor’s approval to begin the process of becoming a polytechnic university. In addition to HSU already offering high-quality educational programs that meet California’s needs and the unique needs of the North Coast area, becoming a polytechnic university will better position HSU to meet the high demand for polytechnic programs like fire science, aquaculture, energy and health, putting them in great company with only two other CSU polytechnic universities, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona.”

Jim Wood, Assemblymember (District 2)


“This seems like a natural fit for HSU. To me, it’s a recognition of the important role this institution continues to play in our understanding of natural systems, our impacts on the planet and the quest for solutions to make all communities more resilient.”

Mike Wilson, Humboldt County Supervisor


“Since its inception, HSU has continued to grow and change to become an institution that better meets the needs of its students and the community. From the Humboldt Normal School for the education of teachers to the Humboldt State Teachers College to Humboldt State College and eventually Humboldt State University as we know it today, it has evolved. This next step, to explore becoming a polytechnic, is an exciting opportunity to bring a distinction to the applied sciences that has already played such an important part at HSU. There is a prestige that comes with being a polytechnic that can revitalize the University and even invigorate the non-science programs.”

Susan Seaman, Mayor Eureka


“It is exciting to consider expanding Humboldt State’s footprint of environmental and social sustainability in the world. Locally we have known for years the quality of scientific education that has spurred great innovation coming from Humboldt State. Being recognized for that leadership and garnering the resources to grow our offerings would ensure stability of the university in our rural region.”

Arcata City Councilmember Brett Watson


“The County’s office of Economic Development is extremely excited at the prospect of Humboldt State University becoming the third polytechnic university in the CSU system. As our community seeks solutions for our post COVID economic recovery it is vital that we identify opportunities to attract and retain a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. Achieving polytechnic status would aid in the efforts of economic development agencies county wide to create jobs and attract outside direct investment into the region. We stand by HSU’s efforts and applaud them for taking steps which look to the future.”

Scott Adair, Director of Economic Development, County of Humboldt