Photos by Chris Leschinsky
A Collective Effort to Support Learn by Doing
By Mary McNally
“Growing up on a farm in California, I already had Learn by Doing experience,” said John Salmonson (B.S., Crop Production, 1967), owner of Monterey AgResources. “But when I went to Cal Poly and was exposed to Learn by Doing there, it was like a finishing school preparing me for the workforce.”
Today, much of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy is applied in cooperative, multidisciplinary projects that resemble real-world situations. That means students work in teams to support the effort of the group, producing an effect greater than the sum of its parts.
In a creative twist, donors are applying the same collaborative philosophy, coming together from a cross-section of industry to create an enduring fund that will support Learn by Doing education in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.
It’s all about being part of a greater effort and bringing others along. Ten Founding Partners have together committed $1 million in total – half of the $2 million goal for the Learn by Doing Endowment.
Funds from the Founding Partners will be used to match 80 Investor gifts of $12,500, and these contributions can be spread over several years.
Collectively, they will create an endowment that will support academically motivated students in the laboratories and in the field; small class sizes that enhance critical interactions between students and faculty; and student projects and competitions that help develop problem-solving skills and whole-system thinkers.
“Cal Poly gave me a good education,” said Rich Krizo (B.S., Agricultural Business, 1970) president of Pacific Appraisal Consultants Inc., and Investor-level donor. Krizo said he learned how to assess goals and create a strategy to achieve them. Most of all, though, he said, the hands-on education gave him the confidence to know “I can do it.”
Krizo believes Cal Poly attracts self-directed students and that his investment in the endowment will give those students the help they need to succeed.
Making that kind of contribution required Krizo to increase his annual gift. He was motivated in part by the fact that his gift would be matched. He was also inspired by the commitment made by the Founding Partners that gave this campaign such a solid foundation. Reaching the goal became important to him, too.
“At Cal Poly, Learn by Doing means more than just the classroom,” said Salmonson, a Founding Partner with his wife, Carol. “You have labs and then you take what you learned into the field and see it happen.
“I’m convinced it works. We prefer to hire Cal Poly grads. They’re more mature and more prepared than other grads. They’re a year ahead of other new hires – at least.
“My wife and I wanted to give back to Cal Poly,” Salmonson said. “It’s been good to me. We’ve seen the results of Learn by Doing education. It’s the way to learn. We wanted to see it grow.”