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Learn by Doing

From the beginning

Since our founding in 1901, Learn by Doing has always been Cal Poly’s core philosophy.
It’s a deliberate process in which students, from day one, acquire knowledge and skills through active engagement and self-reflection inside the classroom and beyond it.

Critical Part of our Curriculum

Experiences are a critical part of our curriculum, which shows students how theory combines with application and prepares them to use their knowledge to solve the world’s challenges. To do is to learn — that’s why our faculty infuse hands-on opportunities in every part of the learning experience.

But it doesn’t just happen in the classroom. From labs and internships to launching business ventures while in school, Cal Poly students take what they learn and put it to work. Learn by Doing isn’t just our signature learning philosophy — it’s our way of life.

The result of this experience is that Cal Poly graduates are ready, from day one, to make an immediate impact on the world around them in their careers and throughout the rest of their lives.

Two students work on a robotic, articulated hand

Meet Jimmy

As a sophomore, food science student Jimmy Wong dreamed of being a chef in an upscale restaurant — but he wasn’t willing to wait until graduation day to get there. He combined his classroom knowledge, his family’s culinary heritage and his passion for good food to launch DENCH., an appointment-only restaurant experience that caught nationwide attention — out of his studio apartment.

Read more about Jimmy’s Learn by Doing experience

Jimmy Wong in a kitchen, wearing an apron

Meet Selynna

When she first got to Cal Poly, computer science student Selynna Sun launched a club aimed at helping other students develop big ideas. Now she travels the world helping others do the same.

Learn more about Selynna’s Learn by Doing experience.

Selynna Sun helps students during a hackathon

Meet Emma

Architecture is her calling, but music is her passion. Architecture student Emma Gracyk found a way to bring the two together with a research project exploring how sound and space work together.

Learn more about Emma’s Learn by Doing experience.

Emma Gracyk poses with a euphonium on stage, in an empty hall at the Performing Arts Center

Explore Wild California

Every year, a select group of students from across Cal Poly get to explore California’s plant diversity in one of the state’s most rigorous field courses. Get a preview of this distinctive Learn by Doing journey from the desert to the Sequoias.

Learn more

A group of students walks through a wild California forest

Meet Haley

After a painful night of dancing, business student Haley Pavone wanted to create a shoe that could switch seamlessly between comfort and couture. Her innovative solution is now a company getting national attention.

Learn more about Haley’s Learn by Doing experience

Haley Pavone poses with her business plan and first shoe design

Meet Sean

Is there a way to innovate a crop that has been cultivated since ancient Egyptian times? Bioresource and Ag Engineering student Sean Foster is working on a way to grow a better head of lettuce.

Learn more about Sean’s Learn by Doing experience

Sean Foster and others work directly with crops in a lab

Meet Malcolm

During a season of political turmoil, sociology student Malcolm Mills got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to venture into the epicenter of American politics and find out how Congress really works.

Learn more about Malcolm’s Learn by Doing experience

Malcolm Mills at the US Capitol Building

More Learn by Doing in Action from Our Colleges

A student inspects strawberries in an agriculture field on campus

Monitor Crops from the Sky

Work with a drone to take aerial photos to measure various factors of crop health and analyze how they grow over time.

Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

A student constructs her structure at the design village

Design a Village

Design, build and spend a weekend in your structure during Architecture's famed Design Village competition.

Architecture and Environmental Design

A student works in a clean lab or hardware that is part of a satelite

Launch a Satellite

In the PolySat lab (a student run, multidisciplinary independent research lab), you can design, build, operate and launch satellites.


Student works at the student-run Cal Poly news station

Produce the News

The Mustang News television broadcast is produced entirely by students.

Liberal Arts

Two students begin to work on a human cadaver in the cadaver lab

Work with a Cadaver

Biology students learn human anatomy and physiology by studying a cadaver.

Science and Math

Three students discuss their business idea during the Start Up Marathon

Launch a Business

Develop, plan and launch a business with resources and support from faculty and professionals.

Orfalea College of Business