Monday, March 2, 2015

Living and Learning at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

On our return from our college visit trip to LA a couple of weeks ago, we stopped at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  The most selective of the CSU campuses, Cal Poly enrols approximately 19,000 students with about 4,500 students per undergraduate class.

Touring the campus with Theresa, a current first year architecture student, gave us an inside view of the university as well as her particular experience in the “Living Learning Program,” a unique opportunity for students to combine their educational and social lives through their campus housing. 

We met Theresa at her residence hall, one of the six “Red Brick” dormitories, which comprise the “Living Learning Program.” Theresa lives in “Sequoia,” a residence of 270 students, 90 per floor, all of whom are enrolled in the same academic program as she is.  She lives in a double on an all women’s hall.  Her room (11’x13’x9’) is well-maintained, spacious enough for a bed, dresser, wardrobe, three drawer filing cabinet, desk and mini-fridge.  It is functional rather than aesthetic.  Some of the rooms on the hall are triples, the same sized room which, amazingly, fit enough furniture for three students.  When we passed through the spacious, clean common rooms, they were in use by small clusters of students, some of whom appeared to be studying, while others were socializing.  The whole atmosphere was comfortable and low-key.

Theresa explained that most classroom buildings on campus also belong to a particular program or major such as business or engineering though a certain percentage of general education classes are held in each location.  The architecture program is located near the engineering quad and contains large studios where each quarter she is assigned a “space” along with about 40 other students in her class. 

Theresa in her design studio
Classroom building for architecture
She has 24/7 access to the studio and this is where she completes a lot of her design projects.  Each quarter this year she takes two general education courses and the rest of her academic schedule is devoted to her architecture study/studio work.  In the fall her composition class had only about 20 students and her physics course there were about 20 students.  This winter quarter she is enrolled in big lecture survey courses of between 100-200 students each.  She is really enjoying both of these survey courses, art history and architectural history as they relate directly to her major.

Theresa described a couple of the benefits of Cal Poly’s five-year architecture program: in her fourth year she will have a hands-on internship, which could be in an international location like Copenhagen or Switzerland.  As part of a pilot program, this year she has been paired with a peer mentor, a third year student in the architecture program who gives her advice about coursework, summer jobs and other topics. 

Social life for Theresa is pretty low key.  We toured the nearby town of San Luis Obispo (close enough to walk to but there is also a shuttle), where we ate lunch in a inexpensive deli-type restaurant.  There are numerous other casual restaurants and coffee shops, chain stores for clothing and other goods, a movie theatre. Theresa has made friends with her roommate and with other students in her program/residence hall.  The program-based housing appears to be both an academic and social benefit for her.

Overall, I was favorably impressed by Cal Poly’s campus and by Theresa’s experience in the Living Learning Program.

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