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Cal Poly Programs in Focus

These Cal Poly programs and projects are among those that exist thanks to private support — and require private support to continue and thrive.

Scroll down to browse the list or skip straight to private-support programs in the following areas:

[ Agriculture ] [ Architecture ] [ Business ] [ Engineering ] [ Liberal Arts ] [ Science & Mathematics]



The Cal Poly Creamery

Part of the largest dairy science school in the country, the Cal Poly Creamery has been making high-quality cheese and other dairy products for students, alumni, and the community since 1903. Private support allows the Dairy Science Department to:

  • Teach students to craft award-winning cheeses and ice cream using top-notch commercial food processing equipment;
  • Participate in all aspects of dairy goods production;
  • Staff the creamery with a professional dairy manager;
  • Learn to market and sell dairy goods post-production in a real-world business setting.

Details on the Cal Poly Creamery

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Collaborative Interactive Design Studio (CIDS)

CIDS provides the opportunity to interweave scholarship with academia, professional development with research and service at local and national levels, and creativity with collaborative student teamwork. CIDS establishes a theoretical and procedural foundation for the effective utilization of digital media in the design and collaborative process. Provides students with:

• Latest digital technology for design and construction
• Research and community service design projects
• Focus on building systems integration
• Group case study analysis
• Collaborative interdisciplinary education
• A theoretical and procedural foundation for effective utilization of digital media in design

Collaborative Agent Design Research Center (CADRC)

Allies advanced information systems technology to real-world problems in industry, government and commerce.

• Offers information systems technology service not yet available from commercial companies
• Installs and/or supports software products through CDM Technologies
• Provides financial support to student employees
• Provides opportunities for student design experimentation and preparation
• Students develop software
• Students practice technical writing
• Students provide software demonstrations and systems training
Details on the CADRC

Planning, Design, and Construction Institute (PDCI)

An applied research unit devoted to advancing the application of knowledge and practice that improves the quality and safety of the built environment. It forms partnerships with the civil society yielding community benefits providing the next generation of student leaders with involvement in research and solutions-based design. Provides students with:

• Opportunities to work on projects of faculty interest and community and professional need
• Experience in research and technical support in design, regeneration, sustainability, and construction of the built environment
• Educational workshops, presentations and reports
• Focus on sustainable communities, innovative technology, interdisciplinary education and global engagement
Details on the PDCI

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Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a universitywide center that promotes entrepreneurial activity, scholarship, and dialogue across campus and the local community. Private support helps the center:

  • Expose students to the processes, structures, and outcomes of innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • Foster research and facilitate entrepreneurial efforts on campus and in
    the regional community;
  • Create continued opportunities for exchange of ideas and hands-on learning through center-sponsored forums, competitions, and programs.

More Details on the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Student-Managed Portfolio Project (SMPP)

The Student-Managed Portfolio Project (SMPP) is a senior project course offering a select group of advanced finance students a hands-on education in fund management. Private support allows SMPP students to:

  • Apply what they’ve learned in class to real-world situations;
  • Experience the risks and rewards of managing a fund portfolio;
  • Learn to work with a client (the university), and draft a prospectus and investment strategy reflective of the client’s risk tolerance ;and objectives.
  • Gain experience in using the techniques and information resources used by
    industry professionals.

More details on the Student Managed Portfolio Project

Low Income Taxpayer Clinic

The Cal Poly Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is a university-sponsored Service Learning Project that provides undergraduate and graduate tax students the opportunity to work directly with clients involved in federal tax controversies. Private support helps the LITC:

  • Deliver tax compliance assistance to underserved local communities;
  • Assist low-income taxpayers with federal tax controversy matters and matters that require representation before the U.S. Tax Court;
  • Offer education, outreach and direct consultation services in both Spanish and English;
  • Provide all services to qualified low-income taxpayers free of charge.

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Global Waste Research Institute

One of the very few waste related institutes in the U.S., the Global Waste Research Institute (GWRI) advances state-of-the-art and state-of-the-practice sustainable technologies and policies for managing wastes and byproducts. Private support helps GWRI:

  • Transform waste into opportunities, such as energy and resource generation;
  • Find solutions to the global problem of waste — California alone generates more than 50 million tons of solid waste a year;
  • Provide training and education for stakeholders, including the professional community, regulators, and the general public;
  • Foster multidisciplinary and collaborative research;
  • Provide opportunities for students to become involved in world-changing projects.


An annual Learn by Doing project of Cal Poly’s industrial and manufacturing engineering project management class, Polyhouse provides a home renovation for a local family or individual struggling with issues related to disabilities. Private support helps PolyHouse:

  • Meet its $160,000 fund raising goal – PolyHouse is entirely supported by donations from businesses and individuals;
  • Provide an excellent opportunity for students to learn project planning and management skills;
  • Exposes students to the benefits of community service;
  • Make a real difference in the lives of individuals in need.


CubeSat is an international collaboration led by Cal Poly of over 40 universities, high schools, and private firms developing 10-centimeter cubic “picosatellites” containing scientific, private and government payloads. Private support helps CubeSat:

  • Develop opportunities for multidisciplinary teams of students worldwide to design, build and launch satellites;
  • Benefit private firms and government by providing a low-cost way of flying payloads in space;
  • Provide important hands-on educational experiences for future leaders of industry;
  • Ensure that California maintains its prominence in the global space enterprise community.

Engineers Without Borders, Cal Poly Chapter

Engineers Without Border (EWB), Cal Poly partners with disadvantaged communities to improve their quality of life through implementation of environmentally and economically sustainable engineering projects. While the focus of EWB USA is primarily on international projects, EWB Cal Poly is dedicated to serving the local community as well. Private support helps EWB:

  • Undertake life-changing projects, such as constructing a health clinic in Nicaragua, installing Slow Sand Filters to provide clean water throughout the northern region of Thailand, and enhancing agricultural opportunities in northern India;
  • Give students a global perspective and practical experience in international cooperation;
  • Promote sustainability.

International Computer Engineering Experience (ICEX)

ICEX, a collaborative effort between Cal Poly’s Computer Engineering Program and international partners, provides opportunities  for  students to apply  their  technical knowledge  in  an international context  and  to  increase  global citizenship  across campus. The 2011 program, Maltese Archeology Through Robotics, provided robotic based tools and services to archeologists studying Malta's ancient underwater sites. Private support helps ICEX provide engineering students with opportunities to:

  • Gain experience working in a foreign country;
  • Develop an understanding of how cultural differences can affect how work is conducted;
  • Apply knowledge gained in engineering coursework to new technology and applications;
  • Enhance skills necessary for intercultural teamwork and lifelong learning.

Cal Poly Center for Global Automatic Identification Technologies (PolyGAIT)

PolyGAIT focuses on groundbreaking radio frequency identification (RFID) research and development. Private support helps PolyGAIT:

  • Provide the best education and training to students and industrial partners;
  • Foster collaboration among industry, government and academia for the advancement of automatic identification technologies;
  • Undertake the various applied research challenges, multidisciplinary investigations, solution development, testing, training, and implementation projects presented by the emerging RFID industry.

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Liberal Arts

Graphic Communication Institute

The Graphic Communication Institute (GrCI) at Cal Poly is an outreach effort of the university’s Graphic Communication Department, created to provide industry professionals with access to Cal Poly’s state-of-the-art resources via workshops, seminars, training, consulting, testing, product evaluations, publishing and research initiatives.

The GrCI provides knowledge, critical thinking, and new ways of solving old problems in business and commerce. Students are often involved in the projects of the GrCI. These same projects provide significant professional development opportunities for faculty, keeping them on the cutting-edge of knowledge in their teaching specialty areas.

Private support enables GrCI to:

  • Provide opportunities for GrCI research and publishing;
  • Keep the GrCI’s laboratories up-to-date;
  • Provide public seminars, workshops and conferences at affordable prices;
  • Build an endowment leading to a GrCI research fellowship;
  • Fund student participation in GrCI projects;
  • Support Cal Poly’s commitment to Learn by Doing education;

For more information:


Music Department Ensembles

The music department has more than 20 student instrumental and choir ensembles that participate in local, regional, national and international concerts, and 80 percent of most ensemble members are non-music majors. Private support provides students in these performing groups with:

  • Equipment support.
    • New Marching Band uniforms;
    • Instruments for all ensembles ;
    • Software, hardware, and recording equipment updates for the Sound Design Studio;
  • Special equipment needs:
    • Pianos;
    • Percussion instruments;
  • Scholarships:
    • Underwrite private lessons for non-music majors in Wind Orchestra/Ensemble and the Symphony;
    • Provide support to non-major members in all ensembles*;
  • National and international travel opportunities.
    • Choir and Arab Music Ensemble East Coast Tour — featuring a performance in Carnegie Hall (spring 2014);
    • Marching Band San Francisco Chinese New Year’s Day Parade performance (Feb. 15, 2014);
    • Wind Orchestra performed throughout the United Kingdom (summer 2013);
    • Symphony performed in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (spring 2012);

*Scholarships/awards are already established for non-majors participating in choirs, the Jazz Band, and Marching Band. General Music Department awards go to non-majors in all ensembles.

For information on support for the Music Department.

Davidson Music Center Renovation and Expansion

The Davidson Capital Campaign seeks to renovate and expand the Davidson Music Center to improve the quality of the performing arts programs and better serve Cal Poly’s growing student population. The expansion and renovation will provide students with advanced tools to prepare them for a world where the performing arts intersect with technology. This proposed facility will meet modern-day curriculum demands and serve as a visual showcase of Cal Poly’s commitment to excellence in the performing arts and the university’s mission of interdisciplinary education.

Private support provides funds to:

  • Add additional classrooms, teaching studios, and practice rooms to the Davidson Music Center;
  • Create a Black Box Theater that will accommodate approximately 180 people;
  • Upgrade existing performing arts facilities;
  • Create new sound design, keyboard, drafting design, computer, and Black Box sound labs;
  • Improve recording studio and equipment;
  • Create multi-use space for interdisciplinary programming;
  • Include music editing rooms;
  • Incorporate a recital hall and performance room;
  • Aid in the creation of a new costume shop;
  • Create a revitalized center that will serve as central location for the performing arts on campus;
  • Assist in preparing students for careers that apply new technologies to music, art, theater and dance.


Center for Expressive Technologies

The Center for Expressive Technologies (CET) is a dedicated, interdisciplinary group comprised of faculty and students who are interested in the relationship between the technical, the creative, and the human. The center focuses and encourages creative expression, technical innovation, and community engagement.

Private support enables the CET to:

  • Work on projects that explore and shape the creative and technical expression of human interaction;
  • Continue collaborations with public and private partners on versatile projects;
  • Foster an entrepreneur-driven sense of invention, purpose and practicality;
  • Build and expand on past successful projects, such as the PolyGhost application, digital archives of collected history in “Re/Collecting,” and involvement with theatre productions;
  • Provide support for developing and executing future projects;
  • Expand Hackathon events: a competitive weekend of interdisciplinary app innovation;
  • Develop summer workshop collaborations with professionals;
  • Support visiting professionals in order to make Cal Poly a home base for students and faculty.


P-STEM Lab Preschool and Learning Lab

The Department of Psychology and Child Development’s Preschool Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Lab (P-STEM) offers young children inquiry-based learning experiences that support children’s natural interest and engagement with STEM subjects. Capitalizing on the polytechnic focus of Cal Poly, the P-STEM Learning Lab creates an environment that fosters innovative strategies to promote scientific and technological literacy where children also delight in learning. The lab is among the first of its kind to offer such an education to preschool-age children.

Private support enables the P-STEM Learning Lab to:

  • Promote a Learn by Doing mentality where undergraduates will gain practical experience working with young children;
  • Promote involvement of community members in supporting P-STEM Learning Lab-style learning;
  • Accommodate the childcare needs of Cal Poly faculty, staff and community;
  • Develop the lab as a setting for faculty and student research projects across disciplines that encourage children’s learning and development;
  • Develop future projects associated with the lab;
  • Promote a new method of education;
  • Promote a strong foundation of interdisciplinary education for young children.


First Generation Scholarship Endowment Fund

The First Generation Scholarship Endowment Fund, established in spring 2005 with assistance by the University Diversity Enhancement Council and the Provost’s Office, offers support for first-generation college students who frequently encounter multiple barriers — cultural, academic and economic. The college now has multiple endowments devoted to supporting first-generation students, but the need is much greater. The college’s goal is to grow this group of endowments to a collective total of $1 million. This would generate approximately $45,000 per year, enabling the college to provide meaningful annual support for 15 to 20 students at any given time. 

Private support enables the First Generation Endowment Fund to:

  • Enroll first-generation students who otherwise could not attend Cal Poly.
  • Provide first-generation students with the support needed to be successful at Cal Poly:
    • Increased study time by not having to work full time;
    • Resources to foster their success as students and in life;
    • Workshops, on-campus resources, time management, studying, writing, etc. – information that many other students would receive from their families;
    • Mentoring by successful first-generation students in their junior or senior years, as well as by faculty.


Initiatives in Science, Technology and Society

In addition to its major contributions to the general education mission of the university, the College of Liberal Arts offers much to the technical disciplines at Cal Poly.  Technology has given much to the world, and many people underestimate the positive contributions of technology. At the same time, a number of new technologies have failed to deliver on their full potential, failed to have any positive impacts, or had overall negative impacts. Often, such shortfalls result from a failure to incorporate the “human component” (cultural relevance, social acceptability, policy issues and limitations, attitude formation, and communication) from development through implementation of new technology. With resident expertise on such “human components,” the College of Liberal Arts is exercising leadership in the broad area of Science, Technology and Society (STS) by facilitating scholarly expertise at the STS intersection and by introducing new, interdisciplinary STS minors for students. 

Private support for the STS initiative will enable us to:
-     Rapidly launch interdisciplinary minors in:

    • Ethics, Public Policy, Science and Technology;
    • Gender, Race, Culture, Science and Technology;
    • Media Arts, Science and Technology;
    • Science and Risk Communication;

-     Offer interdisciplinary, project-based advanced learning opportunities at the STS intersection;
-     Provide seed grants for faculty involved in innovative scholarship at the STS intersection in which students can participate;
-     Prepare our graduates to be Day-One Ready, enabling them to enter the work force with meaningful, interdisciplinary, team problem-solving experiences.

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Science & Mathematics

The Monarch Alert Project

The Monarch Alert Project is a citizen-scientist effort that rests on a solid foundation of research set by Dennis Frey (Ph.D. Emeritus, Cal Poly), Francis X. Villablanca (Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cal Poly) and the Ventana Wildlife Society. Private support enables Cal Poly faculty and students to:

  • Obtain robust estimates of overwintering monarch population sizes at select sites in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties;
  • Develop models, based on diverse ecological variables over local and regional scales, which allow us to predict the population size for overwintering monarchs;
  • Tagging of monarchs to study movement and demographic connections between overwintering sites;
  • Develop models, based on local and grove specific habitat variables that explain overwintering monarchs tree use and movement within and between groves;
  • Participate in science-based management, planning and conservation of Monarch Butterflies;
  • Collaborate with local Natural History Associations and docent groups that are interested in monarch butterfly biology and conservation;
  • Present education and outreach to further an appreciation and understanding of monarch biology and migration dynamics.

Find out more on the Monarch Alert Web site


STRIDE (Science through Translational Research in Diet and Exercise) is a health research center associated with the Cal Poly Kinesiology Department, aimed at promoting healthy weight across the lifespan. Students, staff and faculty from across the university work together as multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams to develop numerous research studies and programs that improve the health status and knowledge of the greater community. STRIDE operates under five key components: Research, Service Learning, Education and Outreach, Program Design, and Evaluation and Consulting.

Private support enables Cal Poly health professionals and students to:

  • Translate existing scientific and medical literature into feasible and sustainable community-based programs to be conducted by agencies across the California Central Coast, the state and the nation;
  • Design and assess novel, comprehensive community-based education and intervention programs;
  • Foster the exercise and nutrition habits, skills and behaviors necessary to advance health in individuals;
  • Provide students from many majors and colleges with opportunities to gain real-world experience through internships and other leadership positions;
  • Purchase necessary supplies and equipment to keep existing programs accessible, affordable and effective to all community members.
Find out more about our mission and specific research programs on the STRIDE website.


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