The road that leads to Facilities Planning & Management (FP&M) in Building 81 near the outskirts of campus also forms a junction for Cal Poly Pomona’s learn-by-doing ethos and dedication to student success.
Students have flocked to the university for decades to take advantage of learn-by-doing opportunities. This application of knowledge combined with hands-on experiences enrich the principles and theories taught in the classroom.
When students search for jobs on campus, FP&M isn’t the first department that comes to mind. But for students majoring in diverse fields such as mechanical engineering, communications, urban and regional planning, and sustainability, the experiences and insights gained in a professional setting help provide a steppingstone for their career paths.
Enterprising students have utilized FP&M’s work opportunities to help give them a jump-start in their chosen fields, and some have even started their careers in the same department that helped shaped their work ethic.
Several students and alumni working in FP&M share their experiences and offer words of advice to those seeking jobs in the department or learn-by-doing opportunities.
Planning for the Future
Pearl Sungkamee is a junior majoring in urban and regional planning with a minor in regenerative studies. Since the 2022 spring semester, she has been working in the Office of Sustainability and has had the opportunity to conduct research for projects that will help foster a sustainable campus.
“Being able to be surrounded by professionals who are passionate and knowledgeable about the same things I’m trying to pursue has been a great opportunity,” Sungkamee said. “I’ve learned to place value in my ideas and it’s made me more confident.”
Sungkamee’s career aspirations are to work with public transportation and improve city infrastructure. The experience in FP&M has helped jumpstart her goals.
“I highly recommend getting involved in student work or getting involved in anything that would help you gain experience. I’m very lucky to have a supervisor that is super understanding when it comes to school and wants me to prioritize academics,” she said.
Eddie Montoya graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning. He acts as curator of sorts in the Document Resource Center, where blueprints for every campus building are carefully organized and digitally catalogued. Montoya has had the opportunity to learn firsthand the ins and outs of managing infrastructure records.
“Being a student worker here has given me a clear and smooth transition into the early parts of my career, something I don’t feel I would have had without the student worker experience at FP&M.” Montoya said.
Even as an alumnus, Montoya is a big believer in continuing to learn and enhance his skills.
“I never want to be stagnant or stop learning because I’ve reached a certain point,” he said. “I think being here has taught me to connect with professionals and branch off what I’ve learned from them.”
As the keeper of records, Montoya has pondered what the other side of the page looks like. Being in a role where he is the one who requests blueprints and documents for a demolition or renovation is a career move he’s thought about after having had the opportunity to be mentored and guided by professionals in campus planning.
Hung Dinh is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. He has been able to gain hands-on experience in HVAC planning and surveying. With a year under his belt as a student worker, Dinh has been able to secure a summer 2023 internship to further enrich his skills in HVAC controls.
“You get to learn so much more outside of the classroom, and about the industry itself before you have to really put yourself out there in the job force,” Dinh said.
His passion for math and machine technicalities allows him to thrive in his student position and gives him clarity in the direction he wants to pursue after college.
Like many students on campus, Dinh learned about the job posting on the website Handshake. After going through the interview, Dinh was offered the job and is gaining invaluable experience in HVAC control and planning.
“I would say to reach out and find student positions, especially with what you’re interested in,” said Dinh. “FP&M and even CPP have many roles for all kinds of majors.”
Julie Tsang is the senior planner in FP&M and earned her master’s in architecture from Cal Poly Pomona in 2003. She was an intern and student assistant in the department while taking classes.
After graduating from Cal State Long Beach with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in interior architecture design, Tsang started her career at an architecture firm in nearby Ontario. Coming to CPP for her master’s created an unexpected opportunity for an internship at FP&M.
“The flexibility and understanding of my supervisors at FP&M allowed me to stay in a relevant professional position while continuing my studies in architecture,” Tsang said.
Tsang is returning the favor as the supervisor of student assistants in the planning department. Like her predecessors, Tsang fosters that same supportive and intuitive work environment that comes with learn-by-doing.
A piece of advice that Tsang gives student assistants is to try new tasks and explore other fields of study. This was something that Tsang learned when she was a student assistant.
“Don’t be afraid to get different exposures to jobs,” she said. “Sometimes you get to apply what you learned simultaneously as you go through the tasks you accomplish here as a student assistant, and that experience may open different ideas for your future career.”
Hitting the Ground Running
Keith Kittridge earned his bachelor’s degree in plant science in 2018. His road to being the university’s pasture technician started from the ground up while working on a student farm crew.
Tending to the crops and working the fields while earning his degree honed Kittridge’s skills and laid the foundation for him becoming the primary caretaker of the rich pastures where the university’s legacy Arabian horses graze.
“Working on campus while pecking away at my classes has really helped get the best of both worlds of learning in the classroom and gaining real world experience to set me up in the work force,” Kittridge said.
Kittridge was able to capitalize on the smoother transition from student worker to full-time professional because of his student experience.
Building Strong Foundations
Senior project manager Bruyn Bevans attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the sister campus of CPP, and earned his bachelor’s degree in construction management in 1981.
Bevans has overseen many projects on campus, including the construction of the Student Services Building (SSB) and the demolition of the CLA Tower and site restoration. He also puts his knowledge of construction to use after hours as a lecturer at the College of Engineering and the College of Professional and Global Education.
Going back and forth between field work and teaching, Bevans gives students his unique perspective and urges them to pursue learning beyond the classroom. Also, as a former student worker, Bevans has a deep understanding of the importance of early industry exposure for undergraduates who are still deciding on a career path.
“If you have the opportunity to intern or to be a student assistant, take it,” Bevans said. “Get as much exposure in the areas you want to be in after college because it’s going to be helpful for you to further your career and if it turns out you don’t like that aspect you interned for, it’s still early enough to try something new.”
His tasks include ferreting out details for various projects and ensuring that sustainability meetings and workshops run smoothly and effectively.
“I have been able to greatly grow my network and skill set as a student assistant,” Torres said. “It’s helped me be a more well-rounded employee.”
As far as career aspirations go, Torres plans to pursue a job where he can blend his knowledge from both sustainability and engineering. Beyond the office skills he’s gained, Torres is a huge supporter of campus involvement.
“Some of the projects I have worked on have been displayed around campus, and It’s a nice feeling being connected with your school and knowing you’ll be able to leave something behind,” he said.
At FP&M, student worker experiences have enriched the skill sets of students looking to gain that extra leg up before they hit the job market. Small but impactful, the department aims to offer student guidance in different fields and industries.
In this department, learn by doing also comes with a paycheck.