Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.14
Liaison Kylee Singh
Submission Date July 10, 2023

STARS v2.2

California Polytechnic State University
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Kylee Singh
Sustainability Coordinator
Energy Utilities and Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:

Water, Energy, and Sustainability Training Team (WESTT)
The purpose of the Water, Energy, and Sustainability Training Team is to educate and train students in sustainable water-treatment practices, water-quality analysis, and renewable-energy production through involvement with research on campus which addresses the Grand Challenges for Engineering as defined by the National Academy of Engineering. This interdisciplinary team initiates undergraduate students to follow a scholar/student model where they will receive in-depth training in analytical procedures for testing water quality and renewable energy production and will conduct and contribute to research that is generally not accessible until graduate status is reached. Over the past decade, Cal Poly has gradually developed a process to engage 50-100 undergraduate students each academic term in hands-on research about algae biotechnology, biofuels, and wastewater recycling.

The WESTT program originated as a handful of students earning a few independent study credits for helping graduate students. Once the independent study students reached 20 per quarter, the administrative paperwork became excessive, and a Research Experience course was formed. Cloud computing tools now allow the administration and scheduling of typically 50-60 students per quarter without undue burden. A third to a half are returning participants. The program includes recruiting from all science/engineering departments, student selection, safety training and certification, training in laboratory techniques and quality assurance/quality control, and assistance with data analysis/presentation and final report preparation. The student activities are primarily analytical characterization of water and biomass samples, bioreactor operation, or pilot plant operation, all under the mentorship of graduate students, paid student employees, professional research staff, and principal investigators/faculty members.

The WESTT students are generally excited – at times joyful – as they learn and practice research techniques knowing that they are contributing to government-funded programs that may affect policy or lead to new technology. About 50 students per quarter receive 1-2 units of academic credit via ENVE 405 Environmental Engineering Research and 20 students receive wages. During the previous three years the WESTT research group presented about 15 talks a year at various conferences. This experience enhances student resumes, builds research skills, provides a taste of graduate studies, and engenders professional attitudes about industrial safety and quality.

Does the institution have a program to encourage academic staff from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:

Cal Poly is working to expand its hallmark hands-on, Learn by Doing approach to climate solutions through the Central Coast Climate Collaborative (4C), sharing resources and information, pursuing grant funding, and connecting faculty and students with real world climate adaptation and resilience challenges in their own communities across all six counties of the central coast—Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito.


Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

The University Academic Personel Policy Mission Statement:
1.3.1. Cal Poly fosters teaching, scholarship, and service in a Learn by Doing environment
in which students, staff, and faculty are partners in discovery. As a polytechnic
university, Cal Poly promotes the application of theory to practice. As a
comprehensive institution, Cal Poly provides a balanced education in the arts,
sciences, and technology, while encouraging cross-disciplinary and co-curricular
experiences. As an academic community, Cal Poly values free inquiry, cultural and
intellectual diversity, mutual respect, civic engagement, and social and
environmental responsibility. (CAP 110.1, AS-650-06)

Each college has its own personnel policy and criteria statements but all six colleges list inter-, trans-, or multi-disciplinary research as a core value. See below for language from each college:

College of Food, Ag, and Environmental Sciences Core Values
-Learn by Doing: Demonstrated by experiential, learner-centered and multidisciplinary
-Excellence: Demonstrated by achievement and integrity in scholarship, innovation,
leadership and service
-Knowledge: Demonstrated by the creative pursuit of theoretical and applied expertise
relevant to society’s needs
-Student Success: Demonstrated by students who are prepared, confident and equipped
to pursue their full potential

College of Architecture and Environmental Design Goals and Objectives:
Goal 2 - Promote Professionally-Based Curricula
To encourage strong professionally-based curricula which include a
broad, inter-disciplinary education.

College of Business
The Orfalea College expects all faculty members to disseminate ideas in published formats. In this regard,
the college values all three types of intellectual contributions defined by the Association to Advance
Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB):
a. Contributions to practice – contributions that influence professional practice in the faculty
member’s field or a related field in a cross-disciplinary manner.
b. Discipline-based scholarship – contributions that add to the theory or knowledge base of the
faculty member’s field or a related field in a cross-disciplinary manner.
c. Learning and pedagogical research – contributions regarding pedagogy or teaching
effectiveness in the faculty member’s field or a related field in a cross-disciplinary manner

College of Engineering
B. Philosophy
The College of Engineering is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in
undergraduate engineering education and is famous for its hands-on, learn-by-doing,
laboratory-based approach to education. Our curricula have been developed by a faculty
having a great variety of educational and experiential backgrounds, many of who have
cooperated in interdisciplinary approaches in order to solve existing educational
challenges. The ability to continue to attract and retain a capable, committed and diverse
faculty is a critical factor in preserving the leadership status of this college.

College of Science and Mathematics
B. Scholarship
Faculty members are expected to initiate, develop, and maintain career-long
programs of scholarly and creative activities. These programs should be
effective in maintaining connection, involvement, excitement, and life-long
learning in one’s field(s). Collaborative efforts involving students, such as in
undergraduate research, are especially valued as are collaborative pursuits
with faculty colleagues within departments and interdisciplinary pursuits
across the college and university.

College of Liberal Arts
Position Statement
The College of Liberal Arts comprises fifteen highly selective departments offering programs in the arts, humanities,
communications, and social sciences. These diverse disciplines share a focus on human experience and expression.
Providing nearly a third of the university’s instruction, the CLA serves as an essential component of liberal education for
all students at Cal Poly. The CLA fosters excellence within its cutting-edge disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses of
study while diversifying, extending, and enriching the broader polytechnic environment. Its rich history of teaching
excellence, active research and creative endeavors, and the breadth and depth of its course offerings position the CLA
as central to the Cal Poly educational experience.

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research:

The library maintains a Sustainability Research Guide and subscribes to several related databases and websites such as GreenFile, BuildingGreen, and Urban Land Institute (ULI) Case Studies. Collections support is handled by subject-specific “College Librarians” and supplemented with substantial, centralized CSU-wide resource support in the form of e-resources and databases. College Librarians are charged with staying abreast of and collecting in support of all curricular needs, including sustainability.  They are notified about new course proposals and participate in collections assessment and development for new majors, minors and other programs.


Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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