Cal Poly VP aims to woo first-generation students

Cornel Morton, Cal Poly’s vice president for student affairs since 2002, will take on a new assignment aimed at recruiting more first-generation college students, according to university officials.

Morton has been a leader at the university in dealing with a range of issues affecting students, including sexual assault and discrimination.

Preston Allen, associate vice president for student affairs and executive director of university housing, will serve as interim vice president for student affairs until a national search for a permanent successor is concluded, according to university officials.

The changes are effective Jan.1, the university announced last week.

Morton’s role will involve reaching out to alumni and other university stakeholders to recruit students whose parents didn’t go to college.

“Cornel’s commitment to our students and their success has been extraordinary, and he has long been passionate about attracting and retaining first-generation students, particularly those from historically underrepresented populations,’’ President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said in a statement.

“Company CEOs and job recruiters have made it very clear to us that Cal Poly needs to provide a richer, more diverse experience,” Morton said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to doing all I can to improve the Cal Poly experience for all students.”

Morton’s role in student affairs thrust him into a sensitive issue on campus after a controversial Halloween display in 2008 appeared at the crops house on campus. The reported display of a noose and Confederate flag where six students lived and worked sparked outrage among many on and off campus.

Morton urged white male students and white leaders on campus to take a protective role that included supporting minorities.

University leaders then organized activities aimed to quash intolerance on campus.

During Allen’s tenure, Cal Poly’s housing program has more than doubled with the 2003 opening of Cerro Vista and the 2008 opening of Poly Canyon Village. The two projects added 3,400 beds, bringing the university’s total on-campus housing capacity to more than 6,500.