Last Word

Our Three Little Words

Photo by Chris Leschinsky

Every university, institution and organization, large or small, strives to have its core tenets commonly known, its precepts and practices identifiable and imitated, and its reputation firmly established, offering limitless opportunity and the potential to sustain the test of time.

At Cal Poly, we know what we are about, and we have known it throughout our 115-year history. It comes down to three simple words – words that I heard from faculty, staff, students and alumni when I first arrived at Cal Poly nearly six years ago. They are the same three words I hear today from employers who love to recruit our graduates. They are the basis of our strategic planning, and reflected in almost every story you read or hear about Cal Poly. They are the three words that answer the question: “What is the source of our success at Cal Poly?”

The answer is, of course, Learn by Doing. It made Cal Poly the comprehensive polytechnic university it is today, and it will carry us forward into the future.

When I meet alumni for the first time, they often ask me about my career, my family, and how I ended up at Cal Poly. They talk about how much they love the campus and San Luis Obispo. But they quickly move on to what really matters. They want to know if I truly understand the relevance and the importance of Learn by Doing.

It is more than a common connection. Learn by Doing is a shared transformative experience that continues to serve Mustangs throughout their lives and careers. It resonates no matter your college or major, no matter where you are or when you graduated.

A Cal Poly education is more than hands-on experience working side-by-side with faculty. It’s problem-solving, trying again and eventually finding a solution. Learn by Doing is creating an atmosphere where it is okay to fail in order to learn, and then to move forward. It sounds just like the real world our student will encounter when they graduate.

It is no surprise that a growing number of industry recruiters come to Cal Poly looking for students who have what it takes to contribute from day one. They want our students because they can communicate clearly and articulately, they can work in individual and group settings, and they can grow and adapt as quickly as technology and industries change.

Learn by Doing will always be the source of Cal Poly’s success. Those three words will remain the basic precept and core tenet that will keep our reputation firmly established and relevant, sustaining the test of time for the next 115 years. Imagine what that limitless future might hold.


Jeffrey D. Armstrong

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