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Learn by Doing

We Do it Best

We Did it First

Since our founding in 1901, Learn by Doing has been core to our curriculum—in and outside of the classroom—and central to the success of our students. It’s why top students choose us and why top employers choose them. Because when you Learn by Doing, you’re ready day one.

A Number of Reasons Why

Learn By Doing is Different

Most Innovative School in the West
U.S. News & World Report
Within 9 months of graduation
Students Employed
or attending grad school
Top Public School in the West
U.S. News & World Report

A Number of Ways

Mustangs are making a difference

Cal Poly's 4th Astronaut

And the first African American astronaut to call the ISS home

Whether it was piloting the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience to the International Space Station or his current service as a member of the Artemis Team of NASA astronauts preparing to return to the moon, Victor Glover’s mission to expand both humanity’s knowledge and reach began here at Cal Poly.

Explore Victor’s journey from engineering student to astronaut

Captain Victor Glover smiles while wearing safety glasses and a blue flight suit in the Cal Poly aerospace engineering hangar

Major League Hacking Coach

And founder of Los Altos Hacks and SLO Hacks

Hackathons bring communities of coders together from around the world to collaborate on everything from A.I. and machine learning models to mobile apps and game design. Computer science student Selynna Sun chose Cal Poly because of Learn by Doing and because we lacked a nationally recognized collegiate hackathon. Not anymore. 

Learn how Selynna went from high school coder to globe-trotting coach

Selynna Sun helps students during a hackathon

Celebrity Chef and Author

And guest on The Chew and The Daily Meal

California feeds America. Food science major Jimmy Wong prepares the meal. And in 2018, he shared his recipe for success in the TEDx talk “Food, Identity, and Kung Fu Panda.” The evening’s theme—Making Waves—celebrated those like Wong who “create real change in their communities … whose ripple effect has made the world a better place.”

See how Jimmy cooked up a pop-up restaurant out of his apartment

Jimmy Wong in a kitchen, wearing an apron

Providing the blueprint for a better world

Architecture and environmental design lecturer Stacey White is helping architecture students to rebuild community in those communities that need it most.

See the Difference Architecture Students are Making

Changing how we utilize and think about teams

Professor of entrepreneurship Lynn Metcalf is researching the potential and harnessing the power of swarm A.I. technology to optimize teamwork in the business world.

Learn how A.I. is improving business' bottom line

Shaping Careers, Communities and California


See how Learn by Doing impacts everything we do

The Learn by Doing story is still being written

By the more than 200,000 students, staff, alumni and faculty living it

Cheryl Flores in front a colorful mural featuring a red tail hawk and the words 'Rooted in Native Knowledge'

Preserving a Culture

Ethnic studies student Cheryl Flores draws on a rich history of language and food to preserve her family’s indigenous roots.

See her recipe

Building wells in Haiti

Water is Life

A trip to Haiti inspired then artist John Gausman to earn the engineering degrees needed to achieve his life’s goal of helping others.

Get inspired

Students work on the Rose Bowl float

Flower Power

Cal Poly students reunite post-COVID to continue the tradition of building one of the Tournament of Roses Parade’s most iconic floats.

Come along for the ride

Students explore tide pools and conduct a clam survey.

Higher Education Advocate

Mathematics student and marine science program ambassador Andres Rocha Jayasinha gives Central Valley high schoolers the chance to Learn by Doing.

Learn more

Student Dara Lin sits atop her structure built in Poly Canyon

Shedding Light

To most campus observers, the utility shed is just another building. To these architecture students, it’s an experiment in cultural meaning.

See what they discovered

Students work on wave and tidal sensors at the Coast Guard Pier in Morro Bay

Summer Break

As oceans rise in response to climate change, students spent their vacation working on low-cost sensors to keep coastal communities safe and informed.

Dive deeper

Hernandez with the Mars Perseverance rover

Space for Everyone

Aerospace engineering student Christina Hernández went from being afraid to raise her hand in class to helping land the Perseverance rover on Mars.

Climb aboard

Portrait of Amber Williams

Leading with Love

To better understand and combat discrimination and inequality, Professor Amber Williams is researching how children develop attitudes on race.

Read about the MLK Legacy award winner

Cal Poly architecture student Chloe Wardrick

Constructing Belonging

Fifth-year architecture student Chloe Wardrick is redefining multiculturalism to demonstrate how architecture can create more inclusive communities.

Read Chloe’s interview

Three female students gather around a clam aquaculture tank

Clam Capital of the World

Sixty years ago, it was Pismo Beach. Student researchers hope to bring the endangered species back from the brink.

Learn why it matters

A headshot of Roselyn Romero

Exposing  Fraud

Roselyn Romero came across one of the biggest stories of the pandemic while interning on the Associated Press’ global investigation team.

See what she uncovered

Two student veterinarians wearing masks help weigh a small dog under a blue tent

Unconditional Love

Animal science student Lena Hoover gained valuable clinical experience while providing free veterinary care to the pets of our area’s most vulnerable people.

Feel the love

Several smiling students work over a conveyer belt of recently harvested grapes

Right Off the Vine

Wine and viticulture students get a unique experience with professional winery equipment as they process harvested grapes into the next bottles of Cal Poly vintage.

Explore the harvest

Kiana Corey sits under an arbor on the Cal Poly campus

Kiki’s Corner

Child development major and Mustang student-athlete Kianah Corey is providing individual counseling through our new Black Academic Excellence Center.

Read what inspired her

A woman stands between two brown horses and holds their reins in a field with mountains in the background.

Blazing a Trail

Alumna Gillian Larson turned riding experience into a world record and a new career after Learn by Doing helped in a moment of uncertainty.

Learn more


legendary football coach and Emmy-winning broadcaster

John Madden, '59


"Some people learn by example and other people learn by participating. John learned by participating."

Virginia Madden (MA '61) remembering her husband, John



More about John in Cal Poly Magazine

John Madden carried on field by teammates
This image of the James Webb Space Telescope was taken following its launch into space and is humanity's last look at the box-shaped observatory.

Deep (Space) Stuff

Physics professor Vardha Bennert is using her expertise—and the James Webb Space Telescope—to advise researchers studying dark matter and our universe’s expansion.

See the universe in a whole new light

Students laugh and react to the strong taste of citrus

Taste the Science

Biological sciences professor Nishanta Rajakaruna has seen first-hand the impact experiential botany has on his students. Now you can see it, too — on their faces.

You won’t believe your taste buds

Students carrying materials for their Design Village project

It Takes a Design Village

Each year, architecture students Learn by Doing when they team up to turn Poly Canyon into a vibrant, yet fleeting, neighborhood of innovative structures.

See them

Two female students work with equipment on the bluffs by the ocean

California’s Seal of Approval

In a novel program piloted here at Cal Poly, students are using drone technology to gather important data about the local elephant seal population.

Learn more

Students suited in white beekeeping suits and masks examine a honeycomb

What the Buzz is About

Join students from a variety of majors in the field as they learn about the care and keeping of our most important pollinators.

See it to bee-lieve it

Desiree Nunes wears a black blazer while standing on the steps of the United States Capitol

Views from the Hill

Interning in Washington D.C., political science student Desiree Nunes got a behind-the-scenes look at the government's inner workings.

Get the inside scoop

Our six colleges

Where students get hands-on in their education and take education into their own hands

Learn by Doing is central to Cal Poly

Cal Poly is Central to California

And what happens here in California impacts our world.

line drawing icon showing the side of a person's head with a heart shape inside

Tech and Humanity

During the pandemic, researchers developed a saliva-based testing technology to help combat COVID-19, as well as to address future viruses, improving healthcare technologies worldwide.

line drawing icon of a bunch of grapes

Food and Wine

Students are helping small-scale farmers in one of California’s most important industries — leafy greens — to overcome food safety issues related to barriers in language, education and resources.

line drawing icon of an astronaut


Faculty co-created CubeSat technology, a billion-dollar industry both expanding space exploration and research and leveraging the tech developments of California’s non-space industries; CP1, our first student-led CubeSat, launched in 2006.

icon of the sun and a thermometer showing a hot temperature


Biology students are researching ways to use rare and understudied lichen as bioindicators for things like air pollution, mineral content in rocks or to assess an ecosystem’s health.

a line drawing of a three-story building and a shaff of wheat

Built Environment

Interdisciplinary groups of students and faculty are researching more resilient methods of building to reduce wildfires at the most frequent source of declared disasters in California — where the natural and built environments meet.

a line drawing of an illuminated lightbulb


Students and faculty are driving economic development, launching more than 120 companies since 2010, creating over 1,000 jobs and raising more than $250 million through our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.