Established as a vocational college in 1901, California Polytechnic State University (often known as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, or Cal Poly for short) is a public university, with one of the largest college campuses in the United States.
Students can study bachelor’s or master’s degrees (it does not grant doctoral degrees) at one of the six colleges: the College of Science and Mathematics, Liberal Arts, Engineering, Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Architecture and Environmental Design or at the Orfalea College of Business.
All programmes are founded on the ‘Learn by Doing’ philosophy – meaning students participate in activities, discussions, lab and fieldwork, collective working experiences and hands-on assignments. Rather than in large lecture halls, lecturers teach groups in small classrooms.
With almost 40km² of land, Cal Poly is the second largest land-owning university in the state of California. As well as the main campus, there are two properties in Santa Cruz County and two agricultural outcrops nearby, all of which are used by students in their studies. This includes the 12km² Swanton Pacific Ranch, located just outside the town of Davenport. It is here that students of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences develop their knowledge of sustainable management and forestry operations, with a combination of lab experiments and educational sessions.
From 1930-56, Cal Poly banned female students – however it now has an almost even balance between male and female students.
In 2016, over 1,300 Cal Poly students studied abroad in Spain, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Thailand, among others. On average, 23 per cent of Cal Poly students study abroad, which is one of the highest percentages in the California State University System.
Located between the Pacific Ocean and the renowned Edna Valley wine country, San Luis Obispo receives an average 287 days of sun annually and the Cal Poly campus is located ten minutes from the beach. As well as being one of the four California State universities which participates in the Big West Athletics Conference, Cal Poly is home to 21 NCAA Division I teams.
Notable alumni include aerospace engineer Burt Rutan and singer Weird Al Yankovic.