100 Years of Business at Cal Poly: A Timeline


Cal Poly students working with calculators in an Agriculture Business Management class, 1968.

By Grace Power Smith

In 1921, a small group of men and women attended the very first business classes at Cal Poly. Although the classrooms, curriculum, and technology looked different 100 years ago than they do today, these classes paved the way for the majors, minors, and masters programs offered within the Orfalea College of Business. 

Cal Poly began as a vocational high school that accepted men and women to three-year programs in 1903. Household arts, mechanics, and agriculture were the only three areas of training. Twenty students were enrolled, and the only requirements to attend were that the student be at least 15 years old and provide proof of graduation from the 8th grade. 

Enrollment increased every year, so the school began adding new areas of study. In 1921, business classes were introduced, although they were known as “commercial courses” at the time. These commercial courses were “designed to train the student in the profession of business,” according to a 1921-22 course catalog. Students were required to take classes in penmanship and spelling, typewriting, business elements, commercial arithmetic, bookkeeping, stenography (shorthand), commercial geography, commercial law, industrial history and economics, and advertising and salesmanship. 

Cal Poly’s business curriculum and vision has come a long way in the last century, especially with regard to technology, projects and research, and industry partnerships, all made possible with a Learn by Doing approach, and through the work of faculty, students, alumni, industry partners, and staff, according to  Orfalea College of Business Interim Dean Al Liddicoat. 

“We continue to evolve our pedagogies and courses and are focusing our attention on integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into our curriculum and culture to produce global business leaders with the skillset to make the world a better place,” he says. 

A Brief Timeline of Business Classes at Cal Poly

May 1909. Cal Poly Agronomy Class studying fertilizers in a chemical laboratory.

May 1909. Cal Poly Agronomy Class studying fertilizers in a chemical laboratory. 


1921

The fourth largest college at Cal Poly today, the College of Business began as an area of study called “commercial courses,” in 1921. The commercial courses were originally designed in 1920 for injured World War I veterans. However, the curriculum opened up to all students the following year and immediately became popular. By this time, The California Polytechnic School had turned to four-year programs. Eighteen students founded the Commercial Club in October of this year, as well.

Students were required to study commercial geography, commercial law, history of economics and industry, and salesmanship. Students were also trained in bookkeeping, shorthand, and typewriting.

Students use typewriters as part of the training for Commercial Courses in 1922.

Students use typewriters as part of the training for Commercial Courses in 1922.


1923

Commercial courses were discontinued after the new California governor cut funding for the school. Only three areas of study remained, and students had new entrance requirements as well as increased fees.

1924

Benjamin Crandall became president of the school and attempted to bring back the courses that had been removed by the previous administration. The commercial course of study did not return, but subjects such as economics were implemented into the Academic Department.

Cal Poly students working with calculators in an Agriculture Business Management class, 1968.

Cal Poly students working with calculators in an Agriculture Business Management class, 1968.


1930

In the midst of the Depression, the state banned women from attending school. The California Polytechnic School became an all men’s school and only offered programs in agriculture and engineering. Crandall implemented a junior college division for high school graduates.

1940

Under President Julian McPhee, Cal Poly became a four-year institution on par with the University of California and California State University curriculums. Graduating students were given bachelor degrees. McPhee focused on developing the agriculture and engineering departments during his time as president. He also placed more emphasis on the “Learn by Doing” motto. One example of this was requiring that each student complete a project before graduation.

A Cal Poly business professor lecturing to his students in a property finance class, circa 1970s.

A Cal Poly business professor lecturing to his students in a property finance class, circa 1970s.


1945-1960

After World War II, enrollment increased drastically, and so did the school’s funding. This allowed for academic expansion. In 1959-1960 the Arts & Sciences Division began offering B.S. degrees in Business Administration. Women began enrolling in the program for the first time since 1921.

1965

The division was renamed as the Department of Business Administration and offered courses in accounting, business administration, economics, finance and property management, industrial relations, and marketing. At this time, the department’s objectives were to “acquaint [students] with the practices of business administration,” to “introduce them to the knowledge essential to understanding business as an integral part of the ever-changing society,” and to “provide students with the knowledge basic to responsible citizenship,” according to a 1966-67 course catalog.

Cal Poly students attending a presentation by the American Marketing Association, 1985.

Cal Poly students attending a presentation by the American Marketing Association, 1985.


1970

The School of Business and Social Sciences began offering masters degrees. The one-year masters program aimed to “lay the professional foundation for careers of growing responsibility in the business community and related fields.” 

1986

The department was renamed again as the School of Business and was accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business.

A graduate of Cal Poly Business, Barbara Kain Peterson, at the First Annual Women’s Symposium for Strategies for Successful Career Women. May 1989.

A graduate of Cal Poly Business, Barbara Kain Peterson, at the First Annual Women’s Symposium for Strategies for Successful Career Women. May 1989.


1992

The department was given the title of College of Business. The current business building was also opened this year.

2000

The Orfalea family donated $15 million to the school and the department was renamed the Orfalea College of Business in honor of the Orfalea family.

A computer lab in the Business Administration and Education Building, circa mid 1990s.

A computer lab in the Business Administration and Education Building, circa mid 1990s.


2010

The college launched the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which has helped students start businesses through the Hatchery, HotHouse Accelerator, and Incubator. The CIE has also become a part of the larger San Luis Obispo community by helping local businesses raise funding.

2021

The college still practices an upside-down curriculum, which allows students to take major classes early on. With a continued focus on Learn by Doing—in addition to a rapid adaptation to distance learning amid the pandemic—the Orfalea College of Business is an integral part of the Cal Poly campus and the larger SLO community. 

“Reflecting back on the past 100 years of teaching business classes,” says Interim Dean Liddicoat, “we can see the tremendous progress OCOB has made with our Learn by Doing instruction. In the beginning, our students used typewriters and adding machines. Today they use cutting edge software, data science, and cloud based computing while working on sophisticated projects, many with industry partner support or to develop business plans that they launch into the world.”

Startup Marathon participants, 2019.

Startup Marathon participants, 2019.


All archival photos courtesy of University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Robert E. Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic State University.

The OCOB DEI Action Committee, Its Upcoming Townhall Event, and How To Lend Your Voice to the Conversation


The Orfalea College of Business DEI Action Committee was formed in the fall of 2020 to work within the college to help foster a more diverse, equal, inclusive, and productive community in OCOB’s classrooms and beyond.

Led by OCOB’s DEI Faculty Fellow, professor Ahmed Deif, the team consists of three students, three faculty, and two staff members. Among other initiatives, part of its mandate is to help organize events and forums that help foster inclusive, honest, and healing discussions about the state of diversity and equity at Cal Poly and within the Orfalea College of Business.

Currently, the committee is working to gather data and input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and our community in order to help organize an inaugural DEI Townhall Meeting.

More About The 2021 OCOB DEI Townhall

This Zoom conversation is scheduled for Wednesday, April 14, from 6-8 p.m. and will be moderated by campus leaders, including OCOB interim dean Al Liddicoat, Multicultural Business Program Coordinator Yovani Alexander, and OCOB interim Associate Dean Stern Neill.

The goal is to bring all members of the OCOB Community together to heal and explore how we can support each other as a college, a university, and individuals to make our campus community reflective of the best values of our society.

How You Can Be a Part of the Conversation

The OCOB DEI Action Committee wants to hear your stories to better implement programming and training for faculty and students—and to help steer the townhall discussion.

The initial phase of this effort consists of a survey, distributed by the committee in order to gather information and perspective from our students and our community to help guide the conversation. Please consider responding now and sharing your thoughts and experiences.

The more voices and perspectives the moderators can bring into this conversation—from students, faculty, staff, and alumni—the more representative it will be of all members of our community. “We want to gather and open our hearts together,” says Professor Deif.

The second phase will be the townhall itself, during which the moderators are planning to make use of audience questions, comments, chat features and the survey responses to help guide the conversation. The goal for the event is to heal, listen, and express ourselves together—and also to help propose real solutions in programing, policy, and training that the college can implement to help inform further DEI efforts going forward.

The more voices and perspectives the moderators can bring into this conversation—from students, faculty, staff, and alumni—the more representative it will be of all members of our community. “We want to gather and open our hearts together,” says Professor Deif.

Act Now

We can all be a part of this important conversation as we work to create a better community.

In the weeks to come, the committee will share more information on how to register for the 2021 OCOB DEI Townhall.

In the meanwhile, please consider filling in the survey and please pencil April 14, from 6-8 p.m. onto your calendar. It’s vitally important to lend your voice to this conversation.

Orfalea Chats | Emitte Scruggs



In this episode of Orfalea Chats, we sit down with Emitte Scruggs, a leader in the human resources field, specializing in talent acquisition. Since graduating from Cal Poly, Emitte has worked in the aerospace industry with companies such as Ford Aerospace and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. He is also on the Board of Directors of Operation Coaching Our Youth, a residential camp that uses sports to equip at-risk adolescent males with the tools to lead productive lives.

In conversation with OCOB Ambassador Lauren Lee-Tran, he discusses finding his calling in human resources, overcoming mistakes in the workplace, staffing the B-2 stealth program, and continuous growth during a 40-year career. Click the video above to watch the highlights, or the audio below for the full conversation!


Listen to the full conversation with Emitte.

A Quantitative Economics M.S. Student Reflects on the Importance of Career Panels to the Post-Degree Job Hunt—and Other Tips She’s Learned Along the Way


 


By Laniah Lewis

Cal Poly’s amazing economics job placement rate was one of the main reasons I decided to attend the university to obtain my M.S. degree in Quantitative Economics. Now that I’m here, I’ve realized that one large factor for why Cal Poly may have such a stellar economics job placement rate is because of the career panels that are organized by professors in that area.

During the last quarter, I decided to attend three of these economics career panels, as well as a Ph.D. panel, to see if they would open any doors of opportunity for me.

The speakers at the panels were economists that had jobs varying in industry. These included wealth advisors, senior managers, consultants, and senior research analysts from companies such as Lyft, Spotify, KPMG, the World Bank, and the Federal Reserve. The panelists discussed the ins and outs of their positions, the hard and soft skills necessary to be successful, as well as any tricks of the trade that would help us have a competitive edge.

Though my field has specific qualifications, I found a good amount of the advice could be applied to any corporate job environment, so I’ve decided to share it:

1) LinkedIn is one of the best resources when trying to get a job. Through LinkedIn, you can connect with people that have your dream position and add them to your network. If you connect with the right person, they may even be willing to talk to you about the position, which could lead to a referral. If your LinkedIn is up to date, recruiters from companies may even reach out to you and offer you positions.

2) Getting early internships can lead into full-time employment. This is really common for the Federal Reserve.

3) Knowing a foreign language can be a great “in” at many companies.

4) Knowing a coding language is always invaluable.

5) It’s okay if you don’t have a clear-cut career path yet. This is something you can develop along the way. Your first job allows you to build your skillset and helps to determine your career trajectory.

6) In the fields of the panelists, a doctorate in economics was helpful but not necessary. There are people in the same positions that have degrees in economics below a Ph.D. Therefore, their advice was to worry less about degrees and labels and focus more on what skills you have and what skills you want to develop. Also, a Ph.D. may only be worth the time and effort if you are deeply passionate about your research subject.

7) Time management, efficiency, communication, resilience, and consistency are valuable skills that should constantly be developing. Though they frequently aren’t stated as qualifications in job applications, they are necessary to be successful in any position.

8) Breaking your workday into “block times” can help you maximize your productivity while still attending all necessary meetings. This means consistently assigning times on your calendar for you to work individually.

9) Constant learning and development help combat imposter syndrome.

10) Sometimes things fail and you have to reposition yourself and be willing to learn more and then try again with that new knowledge.

Cal Poly’s amazing job placement rate was one of the main reasons I decided to attend the university to obtain my M.S. degree. Now that I’m here, I’ve realized that one large factor for why Cal Poly may have such a stellar job placement rate is because of the career panels that are held.

In addition to these tips—plus serving as a fountain of knowledge about a variety of careers—the panels I attended were a great place for us to network with prestigious economists in our fields of interest. I was sure to connect with each panelist after the sessions ended, which grew my LinkedIn network.

In one conversation, one of the panelists provided us with his contact information so we could stay in touch and ask further questions if necessary. This contact was willing to have a short phone call with me to discuss his position in detail. I learned about the type of projects he works on, what data he works with, what his daily tasks look like, and what the interview process for his position is like.

By the end of the call, we had established a great rapport and he offered to refer me for a position at his company if I was interested. He also sent me practice materials to help me prepare for interview exams in my field. Without the career panels, I wouldn’t have made this amazing connection.

As someone who is currently pursuing their M.S. degree, I’m at a crossroads in life. I wasn’t sure if I should jump into the workforce to gain experience in my field or obtain my Ph.D. to further my knowledge of economics.

With this in mind, and because the career panels had been so helpful, I decided to attend the Ph.D. panel to get more information. I learned the keys to success here were simple: figure out your interests to find the right program(s), develop connections to ask for letters of recommendations, keep your personal statement professional, and apply early.

Studying for the GRE or subject tests is also important, but many programs are not requiring GRE scores anymore. One of the best ways to get into a good Ph.D. program is to attend a predoc program prior to attending the Ph.D. The Federal Reserve, as well as various academic institutions, have great opportunities for this that can give you a competitive edge.

After attending this panel, I decided to apply to predoc programs. Thanks to these career panels, my hard work, and a little bit of luck, I will begin this July as a pre-doctoral research fellow at the Stanford Institute of Economic Research (SIEPR). I am looking forward to continuing my academic journey and further developing my technical skill.

I would like to thank Professor Vasilaky for her dedication in organizing these amazing economics career panels. Prior to these panels, I felt like I was beginning to lose direction. Now, I feel like the knowledge, connections, and new goals that these panels gave me may have changed my career trajectory.


Laniah Lewis is currently a student in the Quantitative Economics M.S. program at Cal Poly. She is looking forward to starting her pre-doctoral research fellowship at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) after graduation.

Cal Poly Teams Victorious at 2020 AmeriStar Package Award Competition



Cal Poly’s Industrial Technology and Packaging Program (ITP) has a long record of achievement. A primary example has been the program’s success in the AmeriStar Package Award competition, an annual event hosted by the Institute of Packaging Professionals, which is one of the industry’s oldest and most prestigious design competitions.

Cal Poly has placed in the top three of the AmeriStar competition since 2016 and has placed first in four of the five last years. True to form, two Cal Poly teams—Centari and Beakies—finished first and third again this year, continuing the excellent run of success enjoyed by Cal Poly’s ITP students. 

Of course, the competition looked quite different this year in the face of COVID-19. Teams were forced to work remotely, and many of the projects focused on global challenges triggered by the pandemic. For example: food delivery, masks, COVID tests, and other practical packaging responses to the pandemic were heavily represented. 

These changes, however, did not hold Cal Poly back, as both teams focused on PPE in their presentations while also overcoming the hurdles of collaborating and presenting virtually.

All Cal Poly students from ITP 485, a course titled “Packaging Development,” have the opportunity for their projects to be entered in the AmeriStar competition. The course is taught by Professors Javier de la Fuente, Irene Carbonell, and Mary LaPorte. A multidisciplinary effort, the course pairs graphic design students from Cal Poly’s Art & Design Department with packaging students to produce projects that are both functional and visually appealing. 

These projects will go on to represent the United States in the World Packaging Organisation WorldStar Student Awards competition, competing against students from all over the world. 

Congratulations to these students—and best of luck in the next phase of the competition! Find more on these teams and their projects below. 


Centauri | First Place


Amber Chiang (ART, Graphic Design)

Caleb Dea (BUS, Consumer Packaging)

John Dizon (ITP, Packaging)

Dane Holst (ITP, Packaging)

Product Description: Centauri is an innovative packaging solution that addresses sustainability and safety concerns identified in current packaging for N95 respirators.The design is infused with silver nanoparticles as a virucidal agent in a cellulose-based package that doubles as a storage unit with “Coronavirus-cleaning” properties. Centauri proposes a more sustainable solution, a paper-based solution that relies on renewable natural resources, and that can be reused several times. The components of the packaging system are all easily recycled or composted. Centauri is marketed to medical professionals and the average consumer. In the retail setting, they stand out among the competition by presenting a new-age theme of high-tech outer space protection. This theme represents protection from the elements of a harsh environment with the newest technology science has to offer.


Beakies | Third Place


Nirav Chhajed (ITP, Packaging) 

Grace Leonard (ART, Graphic Design)

Alyssa O’Halloran (BUS, Consumer Packaging)

Sophia Tamrazian (ITP, Packaging)

Product Description: Beakies is a fun packaging system for facial protection equipment with an easy-to-store and portable primary package and an innovative dispensing box for use in multiple environments. The primary package can be reused to store the mask and doubles as a practical carrying case for on-the-go situations. The dispensing box allows for a non-contact customer experience. The Beakies packaging system is more sustainable than many current solutions in the marketplace. Both the primary packaging and the dispensing unit are made of SBS paperboard, a fully recyclable and compostable material. The package’s structure and graphics help attract consumers as it provides options of different mask patterns and creates a brand identity. The packaging echoes its mission of providing an easy-to-use product with simple geometric graphics and welcoming colors.