September 4, 2013 - California State Polytechnic University, or Cal Poly as it is most frequently called, is providing tremendous value to Project Lead The Way (PLTW) schools and teachers in the Greater Los Angeles- Orange County area. As one of four official affiliate universities in the nation’s most populated state, Cal Poly works hand-in-hand with San Diego State University, San Jose State University, and California State University East Bay to ensure a strong and thriving PLTW network across the state.
Since becoming an affiliate in 2008, Cal Poly Pomona has benefited tremendously from the PLTW partnership, says Affiliate Director Cordelia Ontiveros. Ontiveros says that Cal Poly, as a large college of engineering, is interested in recruiting a larger and more diverse student body to its program. PLTW makes that goal easier to achieve, providing a sizeable potential pool of quality candidates.
“By partnering with PLTW, it puts us in touch with potential applicants to our program and their teachers. It helps our recruitment efforts,” says Ontiveros. “PLTW helps better prepare students for education and careers, and by recruiting through PLTW high schools, we’ve found that students are better informed and prepared in engineering before they arrive here.”
Each year, Ontiveros and her team send materials to PLTW teachers for distribution to their students and host campus visits, taking PLTW students into the classrooms and labs to visit with current undergraduate engineering students and professors.
Since the fall of 2009, Cal Poly’s recruitment of PLTW students has produced significant results. In that first year of tracking PLTW students, of the approximately 700 students in Cal Poly’s College of Engineering, nine percent were PLTW graduates. In just three short years, by the fall of 2012, that number had climbed to 20 percent.
Susan Castillo, PLTW vice president of the West region, says this success with PLTW students is no surprise.
"Cordelia's approach to the work she does with Project Lead The Way is all about the student,” Castillo says. “Whether it's Core Training or Informational Conferences, she helps foster practices that will connect with students in powerful ways, helping students who never would have thought of a career in engineering pursue that path of study."
Coordinating PLTW’s Core Training and hosting informational conferences are two of the many areas in which Cal Poly excels as an affiliate.
Cal Poly hosts Core Training for both the Pathway To Engineering and Gateway To Technology programs, adding a new course and unit to the offerings each summer. Teacher enrollment in Core Training has increased steadily as well. In a unique approach to training, Cal Poly offers ‘Refresher Workshops’ for teachers in the fall or winter as a way for them to go back to campus for a half-day refresher on their specific course(s). The teachers gather together and talk about areas that are working well, as well as areas in which they need assistance. Master Teachers facilitate the workshops.
Cal Poly also organizes and holds three annual informational conferences that allow counselors who are both familiar and unfamiliar with PLTW to learn more about the program offerings. The conferences are a major aspect of Cal Poly’s work, Ontiveros says, drawing in not just counselors, but also teachers, principals, and district administrators.
But Ontiveros is reluctant to take credit for the success that Cal Poly has had as an affiliate and as a magnet university for PLTW students.
“We have a whole team in place,” she says. “We have leadership from the dean, and our provost and president are in support of our relationship with PLTW. We have various faculty and staff who are participating in supporting PLTW. It’s a whole team, not just me. We have event staff and technical staff [dedicated to PLTW], and several faculty have become affiliate professors as well.”
As the school year kicks into high gear, Ontiveros and her team are no doubt working around the clock. Summer Core Training may be over, but planning for the Refresher Workshops and conferences, and recruiting PLTW students have just started to accelerate.