Faculty and staff had the opportunity to build their own Signature Polytechnic Experience (PolyX) and share it with their colleagues at a recent institute.
The Learn Through Discovery Initiative (LTD) hosted its 7th faculty and staff institute virtually on Jan. 19 and 20, with 28 Cal Poly Pomona staff and faculty in attendance.
Institutes are a chance for faculty and staff to learn about innovative pedagogies they can take back to the classroom. Historically, institute themes have varied during the summer and winter events. Past themes include:” Design Thinking;” “Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity;” and multiple Institutes in partnership with the First Year Experience (FYE) program.
“Our goal is to infuse teaching and learning with innovation and creativity. Well, how do you do that? You can’t just tell faculty members to just show up, you have to train people! So, I see the role of the institute as providing faculty and staff new techniques that enhance the experience of students in the classroom,” said Olukemi Sawyerr, associate vice president for the Office of Academic Innovation.
The theme for the most recent LTD Institute was “Develop, Design, and Deepen Your PolyX.” Attendees were treated to presentations from a wide variety of guest speakers all focused on helping craft the best PolyX experience possible for Cal Poly Pomona students.
Attendees at the institute learned about examples in the PolyX Hub, criteria for submitting to the Hub and available tools and resources. They were given opportunities in real time to work on their own PolyX. In addition, CPP students engaged in PolyX were invited to participate in a panel to speak about their involvement in the various learn-by-doing experiences on campus.
“I heard over and over again from faculty and staff how the institute helped clarify what the criteria are for a PolyX. People read things on the website, but it’s different when you hear people actually talking about how the criteria are applied or interpreted in an actual project,” said Winny Dong, faculty director for LTD.
PolyX helps students discover the opportunities and challenges in their field and aids in the development of creative and innovative solutions to those circumstances. Through collaborative learning and intense mentoring, PolyX engages students beyond the classroom and prepares them for professional and civic success.
“In a very simple way, PolyX is the formalization of Learn By Doing,” added Sawyerr.
During the LTD Institute, faculty presented on current PolyX opportunities, including Model UN and the Pineapple Club.
Professor Marc Scarcelli is the faculty advisor for the Model United Nations (UN) Team. As part of this PolyX, CPP students represent different countries and tackle real-world problems, ending in a trip to the real UN Headquarters to talk with actual diplomats.
Scarcelli elaborated on why students are interested in PolyX, citing the opportunity to bond with other students.
“Students are often seeking more than a resume-booster. Many are looking for ways to become part of something. They want a sense of camaraderie, and they want something more than just a standard classroom experience,” Scarcelli said.
Professor Ann Lara started the Pineapple Club as a First Year Experience opportunity in the Collins College of Hospitality Management. This club gives incoming students the chance to work toward their academic and career goals and includes peer and faculty advising, general meetings and an annual industry immersion trip.
Lara encourages other faculty and staff to submit their PolyX, noting how many opportunities on campus already meet, or are close to meeting, the criteria for PolyX, and would benefit from being shared with the greater community.
“We always say we have the best-kept secret. ‘The best-kept secret in engineering is this, the best-kept secret in history is this,’ but why are we keeping all the secrets? The PolyX Hub is a great way we can share all the secrets with everybody and get students involved in these amazing experiences,” Lara said.
The LTD Institutes will continue to offer CPP faculty and staff training on relevant topics. The next institute will occur in summer, with multiple tract options. Instead of one core theme, like PolyX, the event will run more similarly to a conference with attendees selecting their focus.
“It’s like having a buffet! A buffet of opportunities that staff and faculty can pick and choose what they’re going to learn about, what excites them, that they can embed in their course,” said Sawyerr.