Brand Overview

Below we outline the key elements that we consider to be essential to Cal Poly’s brand identity. These elements aren’t solely the responsibility of the Marketing, Development, or Admissions offices, but rather a responsibility of every individual — absolutely everyone who represents the university in any capacity should be able to tell the Cal Poly story clearly, accurately and with a consistent voice.

After extensive interviews with a large sample of the Cal Poly community, one team of researchers reduced that story down to its simplest form, and we have adopted this statement as the core message of who we are as an institution:

Cal Poly is a distinctive learning community for academically motivated students who seek a challenging, hands-on education in order to prepare for professional and personal success in an increasingly scientific and technological world.

This message can be broken down into several important components.

  • Learn by Doing
  • Academically Motivated
  • A Community of Shared Purpose
  • An Ideal Location
  • Resourceful Professionals
  • Innovative Leaders


Brand Attributes

Learn by Doing

Regardless of your major, Cal Poly intentionally integrates theoretical learning in the classroom with practical, outside-the-classroom learning experiences. These experiences take the form of research in state-of-the-art laboratories and workshops;  fieldwork and field visits to sites across the nation and beyond; and internships and other workplace-centered opportunities. The entire Cal Poly community is dedicated to interdisciplinary learning and collaboration, co-curricular engagement and career preparation across every aspect of the college experience. Cal Poly prepares students to become successful and resourceful professionals in their fields, and enables them to serve as whole-system thinkers and dynamic, multifaceted leaders who enrich their professions and their communities. This is all the result of a deliberate focus on Cal Poly’s distinctive Learn by Doing philosophy, aimed at preparing graduates for all-around success in an increasingly scientific, technological and interconnected world. Learn by Doing is the single biggest factor that differentiates Cal Poly from its competitors and its peer institutions.

Academically Motivated

As a university that attracts some of the brightest, most talented minds in the West, Cal Poly is the perfect choice for academically motivated students who are looking for a practical and innovative learning environment that challenges them to think outside the box at every stage. Admissions are highly competitive, and unlike most other universities, Cal Poly students apply for a particular major field of study, meaning that instruction begins in earnest from the student’s first day on campus. This is a community that offers them all the knowledge, professional skills, resources, faculty mentoring, support and confidence they need to take intellectual risks without fear of failure. It is also a community where faculty and staff are equally motivated to do more and to challenge and support one another to more fully realize their individual potential as much as they challenge their students. Cal Poly graduates are equipped to become lifelong learners, flexible employees, and dynamic leaders who thrive on change and who are constantly driven to greater accomplishments because of their enduring curiosity about the changing world and their place in it.

A Community of Shared Purpose

As a comprehensive polytechnic university, Cal Poly offers a holistic educational experience designed to develop the whole person, integrating academic, professional, and co-curricular and extracurricular activities in intentional, often unexpected ways. Cal Poly is filled with students, faculty, staff and alumni who share your desire to fully realize your potential and to impact the lives of others around you in real, tangible, and positive ways. This is a distinctive learning community where diverse minds and interests are bound together, not merely by a shared vision of a better world, but also by a shared purpose – to transform that vision into action and support one another in order to become the leaders of such a world. It is a highly engaged, proactive, solutions-driven and results-oriented community that welcomes and furthers your passion for the life of the mind as well as your dreams about developing the skills and connections you need in order to enrich our collective future. It is a community where your professors and fellow students know your name, recognize your talents and skills, respect your goals and objectives, and empower you to succeed after you graduate. It is a community that helps you find a sense of purpose for the future by believing in your ability to be an agent of positive change. Cal Poly students, faculty, staff and alumni consistently identify the enduring intellectual and professional connections, personal friendships and bonds, and sense of community as being among the biggest benefits the university offers them.

An Ideal Location

Some of the biggest professional, academic and lifestyle advantages of being a Cal Poly student derive from its centralized and stunning location in the classic college town of San Luis Obispo, just minutes from the Pacific Ocean. Cal Poly’s setting provides a distinctive blend of small-town charm, sun-soaked beaches, and a laid-back yet confident approach to life — all with easy access to California’s hubs of entrepreneurship and innovation. Cal Poly students live and learn as part of a supportive and highly engaged community on a beautiful, 6,000-acre residential campus. In fact, Cal Poly is one of the largest land-holding universities in the nation, providing abundant living laboratories for student projects and Learn by Doing experiences. This location complements and enhances the university’s efforts to nurture the kind of visionary professionals and leaders who can succeed in an ever-changing world. Combined with innovative on-campus housing, the university’s location contributes significantly to the independent thinking, progressive attitudes, cutting-edge achievements, high-tech learning environments, and welcoming spirit that defines the Cal Poly experience.

Resourceful Professionals

In addition to equipping students for success as skilled, well-rounded professionals, Cal Poly also trains them to maximize the resources and opportunities available to them in order to accomplish their objectives. Creating professionals who can think both critically as well as resourcefully, who are as cognizant about the larger objectives as they are in their attention to the details, who can bring about positive change even in the most challenging of circumstances – who can easily adapt and continue to be productive, proactive, and ethical even in a troubled economy, for example – is an integral part of Cal Poly’s mission as a comprehensive polytechnic university. This ability to view the world in innovative yet pragmatic ways is a unique characteristic of Cal Poly graduates, one which offers them a tremendous advantage as they prepare to embark on their careers and lives. It is also a big part of why Cal Poly enjoys an undisputed and enviable reputation – among prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, and prospective employers alike – of graduating competent, workplace-ready, hard-working professionals. Cal Poly graduates – always in demand in the job market – are highly respected for their ability to adapt, evolve and thrive in an increasingly technological and interconnected world, where change is the only constant.

Innovative Leaders

A spirit of innovative leadership defines every aspect of the Cal Poly community, from ambitious students to outstanding faculty to the university itself. For 23 consecutive years, Cal Poly has been ranked as the best public master’s university in the West by U.S. News & World Report, and is consistently ranked among the nation’s best values in education. That same spirit can be observed as much in the successes of each individual member of the Cal Poly community as it can within the vision and future aspirations of the university and the community as a whole and in the ways through which Cal Poly continues to grow, improve and develop new opportunities for its students to learn and to thrive.