College Matters | A positive, meaningful educational experience

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, December 7, 2023 - 1:30pm

It’s an exciting weekend for Cal Poly Humboldt, as our men’s Rugby Club is in Houston to defend their national championship. They dramatically won the championship last year, and hopes are high this year for a repeat performance, though obviously just making it into the tournament is an enormous accomplishment.

The first game is Friday at noon (PST). A contingent from Humboldt will be there rooting them on, and alumni from different parts of the country will be there as well. Many will be watching the matches online.

You don’t have to go to Houston to watch! More information, including how to stream matches, is at the National Collegiate Rugby website at

As fans, this is a big weekend for sure. For both of us, as lifelong educators, we know there’s a much bigger picture. We know that the students participating on the rugby team are gaining invaluable life skills and making personal connections that keep them motivated and supported in pursuing their education. That experience is replicated in many other sports clubs and intramurals, student clubs, and other extracurricular activities on campus.

These programs have a big impact, and many remember them for life. There’s a reason that so many alumni who were part of the rugby program will be following this weekend’s championship closely.

At Humboldt, as at universities across the country, extra-curricular and co-curricular programs are an important part of shaping the holistic student experience.

When students enter our welcoming Cal Poly Humboldt community, students are encouraged to embrace their new home with curiosity and exploration by participating in all aspects of campus life. Actively engaging in campus activities not only reinforces academic learning but also enriches their overall experience. We strongly encourage students to be involved in at least one campus club or organization, recognizing the value and benefits of forging those connections beyond the classroom.

Nationally, there is significant data showing that both college students and high school students benefit from extracurricular activities. Among other things, they tend to earn higher grades, have better graduation rates, and report a stronger sense of belonging.

When students are POSITIVELY engaged on campus, they succeed. In these roles, students gain incredible mentors and discover ways to eventually become contributing members of our society as college graduates.

Cal Poly Humboldt takes pride in our thriving and active student life culture, and we’re working to develop it even further. Our extracurricular and co-curricular programs are intended to provide students with opportunities to explore personal and career interests. They help students develop essential life and career skills. Students not only learn from structured activities but also foster mutual growth and leadership skills through their interaction with peers.

Students, when full-time, are in the classroom about 16 hours a week. With labs, it is a little more. The remaining hours in the week are “outside the classroom” and differently engaging.

Participation in sports teams, clubs, and other organizations empowers students to actively pursue their passions, allowing them to translate their interests into real-world practice. We currently have a robust array of nearly 90 on-campus clubs and organizations, meaning plenty of options for students to find avenues to express themselves beyond the classroom. The rich tapestry of our student body finds expression in clubs ranging from Conservation Unlimited to Hispanic Professional Engineers to the Circus Club, showcasing varied interests of our diverse student community.

Beyond academic pursuits, co-curricular activities serve as a dynamic complement to the academic learning environment, providing students with opportunities to engage with various facets of university life. These facilitate connections, foster friendships, promote idea-sharing, and create lifelong memories.

Our vibrant community includes the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence (CCAE) and cultural clubs, fostering environments that center around community, learning, academic engagement, and student leadership. These initiatives contribute significantly to the holistic development of our student body, reinforcing our commitment to a comprehensive educational experience. For example, with the help from Umoja Center for Pan African Student Excellence, the Black engineering group was able to travel to student development conference events, exemplifying the impactful support they have received. The El Centro Academico Cultural has a cultural-focused dance and music group that bridges the community to the campus, celebrating diversity and fostering inclusivity.

Elevating the student experience stands as a central priority for Cal Poly Humboldt in building an amazing place to live, learn, and thrive. Our commitment is rooted in the belief of challenging students to become the best versions of themselves while supporting their journey. We emphasize the importance of fostering a diverse and enriching educational experience for every student, ensuring an inclusive and vibrant community. Be well.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt. Dr. Mitch Mitchell is Cal Poly Humboldt’s associate vice president for student success and dean of students.