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College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences

CAFES Learn by Doing Endowment

Illustration showing how the 2009 Learn by Doing Endowment was used

In 2009, 11 innovative industry leaders and philanthropists, recognizing the distinct advantage of the hands-on education offered at Cal Poly, came together to form the Learn by Doing Endowment to support the college’s renowned tradition of excellence.

Each founding member donated $100,000 to create a fund of $1.1. million, which was used throughout the last 10 years to create matching endowments and multiply the impact for students. In that time, 40 new donors have also pledged their support, with donations ranging from $12,500 to $240,000. These donations were matched with the founders’ original investment. A decade later, the endowment has grown to $2 million.

While the program has reached its maturity, the legacy of these generous philanthropists will continue to fuel student success in perpetuity. Annual payouts from the endowment are used to fund identified needs throughout the college’s nine departments. It has funded new and upgraded equipment and has provided opportunities for students to attend conferences and competitions.

Just recently, eight drones capable of high-definition photo imaging were purchased to provide hands-on experiences for students enrolled in a new aerial surveying course offered by the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department. The drones will be used by students to acquire real-time views of the environment and information about the height and position of nearby obstacles to create 3D maps. These will be used in conjunction with a classroom software package for drone-based surveying that was donated by Topcon this past fall.

“The generosity of these founding individuals has inspired more than a decade of giving,” said Russ Kabaker, assistant dean of Advancement and External Relations. “Their vision has provided better equipped classrooms, fueled student success, and reinforced the college’s commitment to ensuring that graduates are prepared to meet current and future challenges the moment they graduate.”