Open House

Women in Engineering Open House Panel

Traditionally this event has been held in person during Open House, and this year we were excited to have you join us on our switch to a virtual Women in Engineering event. This panel is to:

● introduce you to some of the support programs that are available to you here at Cal Poly,

● provide you with some advice from women who have gone before you, and

● answer any questions that you might have.

Below is the recorded webinar from April 17th, 2020.


During the Women's Engineering Webinar we received many questions and we have worked hard to get answers from all different women in different majors, years, and backgrounds to accurately represent Cal Poly. 

  1. Will this webinar be available to re-watch after this is over? If yes, how/where? 

    Yes, the webinar was sent as a link to those who RSVPed to the panel or SWE Welcome. It is in the process of being posted on the WEP website. 
  2. What are somethings that you guys do as a club? 

    Cal Poly SWE hosts professional development events, social events, and outreach events. Some professional development events CPSWE hosts include general meetings with industry sponsors, networking events like Evening with Industry, and a year-long interdisciplinary technical project called Team Tech. Social events include Big/Little bonding, midterm and finals study sessions, and movie nights. Outreach events reach students from Kindergarten through community college, showcasing the different types of engineering majors, and doing hands-on activities. 
  3. Does SWE offer scholarships for incoming freshmen? Where can I find more information on them and apply?  

    The SWE Central Coast Professional Section offers two scholarships for Cal Poly incoming freshmen/transfers in the fall and CPSWE also offers need-based membership scholarships. CPSWE also gives out tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships at Evening with Industry. More information about CPSWE scholarship opportunities is sent out in the weekly SWEmail and announced at general meetings. National SWE also offers lots of scholarships available to members. Information about those scholarships is sent to members via email and is also available on national SWE's website,  Freshman applications close May 15th. 
  4. How many students are in the WEP currently? 

    WEP doesn’t have a specific number it is an extra resource for women in engineering. WEP supports Cal Poly women engineering students through a variety of academic, leadership, and social activities. These activities help students connect to their peers while concurrently providing alumnae, faculty, and industry representatives as role models and assisting them in achieving their educational goals. Past on-campus support activities have included: scholarships, academic counseling and referrals, pre-registration counseling, big sibling program, study aids, SWE meetings, and community service. 
  5. How does Cal Poly engineering compare to other engineering programs? 

    Cal Poly is very hands on focused with our motto “Learn By Doing” from the start. Cal Poly is a smaller campus which means are class sizes are not huge lectures, our professors can get the chance to know you and are very reachable in office hours or through email/phone. Cal Poly professors do seem to care for their students, it is very common for students to be able to ask professors if they can get involved in research and professors agreeing. 
  6. Is it typical for students to apply for and attend internships after the summer of their freshmen year? Where can I find access to resources on summer jobs or internships? 

    It might be a little harder as a first year to get an internship, but it is not impossible or unheard of. Especially as a Cal Poly student, industry recognizes our hands-on approach and appreciates that. Some great resources Cal Poly offers to find jobs and internships are the quarterly Career Fairs, MustangJOBS and Cal Poly Career Connections which you can find in your portal, and the great Career Services which you can make appointments with your advisor to talk about what your goals are and how they can help achieve them. 
  7.  Would you recommend living in the engineering dorms? 

    I’ve heard great things about the engineering dorms and how it is super helpful because you live with people who are taking the same classes as you so you all can come together and study together. I’m an EOP student and CP Scholar so I lived in that living learning community, any dorm is great you should try to go out in the common rooms and meet new people! 
  8. What difficulties do students face when completing a degree in 4 years? 

    There are several factors and not everyone goes through the same thing. For some people, it could be financial worries, family matters, trying to stay motivated, retaking classes if you failed any, or adjusting to the transition from high school to college. Before anything, make sure you always take care of yourself first and take advantage of all the resources Cal Poly offers. 
  9. Is it difficult to get the GE classes that you want? How about major classes? 

    Every first year student at Cal Poly is “blocked” into classes, which means they are given for all three quarters of their first year. This makes getting into classes very easy for first years because their seats are reserved. I did not had difficulty getting into classes until I switched my major. This was because as a second year I was trying to take classes that first-years in my new major were taking. Registering for classes after your first year is based off major standing and how far along you’re completed with your major. So, it was difficult at first after the switch because I didn’t have as many credits as other students. Now, I don’t struggle to get my classes because I have higher standing as a third year. Also, Cal Poly has a system where they ask you what classes you are hoping to take, and then they create the number of classes needed, based on the demand. So overall, no it is not difficult but be wary if you decide to change your major. Lastly, keep in contact with a counselor from Engineering Services and they will help you sort out all your classes when you need to take them.  
  10. Do you start your Engineering classes day one in your Freshmen year? 

    You will have an introduction class for your engineering major your first year (example: BMED 101 and 102), I suggest looking up “Cal Poly flowcharts” then putting in your major and year you will enter Cal Poly to see what classes you will need to earn your degree. This flowchart gives a good reference for the classes you need to complete, but it is not required you take those classes in that specific way! 
  11. How difficult is it to change majors within the college of engineering? 

    Changing majors is very common at Cal Poly, with one third of our graduates having changed their major at least once. The process is very straightforward and there is not a limit on the number of students who can switch into any major.  I suggest going to for major specific information. 
  12. Is there an opportunity to speak with a counselor to make sure you are taking the right classes? 

    Yes, you can go to Cal Poly’s “Academic Advising” website then click “Advising Centers” and go to the College of Engineering, or College of Architecture and Environmental Engineering (for Architectual Engineering) or College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (for BioResources and Agricultural Engineering) and call to set up an appointment to talk to your major's advisor. Also, if you are in the Multicultural Engineering Program (MEP) I highly suggest you reach out to the counselors and schedule an appointment. First years are blocked into their schedules their first 3 quarters, but if you’d like to swap classes and talk to an advisor beforehand that is great too. 
  13. Do you feel out of place in Cal Poly engineering as an ethnic/gender minority? 

    It’s a matter of building your community and support system. We have several different clubs on campus, such as: National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Women in Software and Hardware (WISH), MultiCultural Engineering Program (MEP), and more that are focused on serving minority STEM students. There are also other clubs you can check out to build community (like Pilipino Cultural Exchange (PCE), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán  (MEXA) or going to the MuliCultural Center on campus. There are a lot of groups and organizations you can try out and meet people who make you feel like Cal Poly is home. 
  14. Advice for incoming students? 

    Advice for new students is to prepare for the ratio of women to men, it can be intimidating but do not let it get to you. Sometimes when working with men you must fight twice as hard and advocate for your intelligence, do not let them tell you that you are wrong or belittle you if you are right. Also do not treat women down, the engineering world is very competitive, women should work together to build one another up, especially in this field. Lastly, please go and find your place on campus! Get involved and find a group that makes you happy and always try to improve yourself, college is a place for growth. 
  15. What is something you wish you knew before you first started at Cal Poly? 

    As a first year coming into Cal Poly, I felt a lot of culture shock. I wish I had researched more about the student body, because I had naively imagined that the school was going to be more diverse. However, I am glad I did not because that probably would’ve swayed my choice for picking a university. Coming from a high school where everyone had the same background, first-generation and low-income, it took me a lot to be able to connect with other students in my classes. I felt out of place a lot of time in the beginning. I was lucky enough to live with TRIO, a program with similar entrance requirements to my high school, because this became a large part of my support system. I think it is important, no matter where you come from, to find a strong support system. I did this with not only TRIO but also by joining a multicultural sorority on campus, and clubs related to my major. Looking back now I couldn’t be happier for choosing Cal Poly and choosing to be involved on campus.  
  16. How does Architectural Engineering and BioResources and Agricultural Engineering work at Cal Poly since they are in different colleges? 

    Architectual Engineering and BioResources and Agricultural Engineering are under a different college, but WEP and all other engineering clubs are welcoming of all majors even outside of the College of Engineering. Both majors still take similar support classes as those majors in the College of Engineering so you will still have that engineering community.
  17. I am considering pursuing my engineering degree at UCSB or Cal Poly. Would you give me a comparison, in terms of internship and career opportunities, student resources and class size?

    ​​​Cal Poly’s is a predominately undergraduate institution, with a focus on smaller class sizes yielding better student to faculty ratios. Not only do professors get to know their students more because of our smaller size, professors also prioritize undergraduate teaching first and their research second.  At Cal Poly we are a “Learn By Doing” campus that stresses the importance of undergraduate students receiving preparation that gets us ready for industry. Industry highly regards our Cal Poly hands on background, making finding internships very common. Since there are not PhD students at Cal Poly, students often have the opportunity to work in research labs starting their first year.  UC’s are focused on graduate research programs and undergraduate education is generally more theoretical and often in large lectures.

  18. Has having an online learning affected the way in which you learn engineering this quarter?

    Having an online quarter has affected the way many are learning. I personally like it because I work two jobs so I can watch class lectures when I have the time. I also love being able to rewind if I didn’t catch something or speed up the video if it's more of a review. However, with Cal Poly being a “Learn By Doing” school it has impacted that aspect. I’m currently taking a lab where I would run experiments and collect data but since campus is no longer open, we must watch videos of the lab being done and read about it. I believe Cal Poly has done an excellent job at converting to an online platform on such short notice. The College of Engineering is working extremely hard on how to fix the lab aspect and are keeping all their students in the loop of things. 

  19. What are the concentrations for the different engineering majors? 

    If you’d like to see the available concentrations and classes, you’ll have to take to complete your degree go to: select the catalog year 2020-2021 since that’s the year you’ll be starting, pick the major, and then it’ll show the list of available concentrations. Some engineering majors don’t have “concentrations”, but you choose which classes you want to take so you can have more knowledge in that area, so it's basically concentrating without the name. 

  20. I was wondering about taking classes within other majors, for example, a CE major taking a class in architecture or electric engineering. Is it common/easy to do? 

    You can take any class as long as you do the prerequisites for it. I’m a BMED major and took a welding class that’s not needed for my major (usually for Mechanical, Civil, etc.) and it was no issue signing up because there was no prerequisite for it. 

  21. Is it possible to dual major? 

    It is possible to double major at Cal Poly and it is an easy process to get approved! I know engineering students who also are majoring in Math, since it's only a couple of extra classes. There are also engineering majors getting a double major with non-STEM majors such as Ethnic Studies. 

  22. Do you need a higher performance computer as a freshman engineering major? 

    A higher performance computer is not necessary for all engineering majors, check with your department for specific recommendations. 

  23. Which engineering major is most impacted at Cal Poly? 

    All engineering majors at Cal Poly are impacted.  It is recommended that you research the disciplines offered here and select the one that fits you best.  It is common to change your major, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure about your choice. 

  24. What percentage of women in engineering at Cal Poly graduates? 

    Women in the College of Engineering at Cal Poly have a graduation rate of 85.5% 

  25. Are the examples for the internships that all the panelists have had the opportunities to have standard/common for Cal Poly students? 

    Yes, it is very common for students to have internships similar to those that the panelists had. 

  26. Can anyone speak to the experience of transfer students in engineering? Any advice for transfer students?

    Some majors in engineering have more women than others so I'm mostly speaking from the EE/CPE/CS/SE side. If I could go back to when I first transferred, I would tell myself not to be so naive about women in engineering. Because I honestly didn't want to believe there was such a huge divide or that it would impact me in any way. It's important to acknowledge the fact that you are outnumbered and may even continue to be outnumbered by men in the workplace after graduation, it's important to learn how to navigate uncomfortable or difficult situations.

    The key is to be strong and open about your discomforts. Get support from other women because they're probably going through similar issues. Don't be afraid to talk to supportive male friends to help. And if you're up for it, don't be afraid to tell people that what they're doing is hurtful or offensive to you as a woman. Don't go through being a minority alone. Reach out to people that share and acknowledge the challenges you face, and you will find yourself strong and able to navigate through the male dominated world. 

    A lot of workplaces are better at supporting women in engineering. But many still haven't caught up. I've been in really difficult situations especially in my last internship where I was literally the only woman. And I also witnessed sexist harassment. It's really an awful feeling watching it happen in front of you and not feeling like you can do anything about it. But you can do something about it. At the very least speak up and be supportive to the person that was harassed and/or talk to someone with authority about it.

    The most important thing is to have supportive people around you. Not everybody has to be an active participant but if you're up for the challenge, empower yourself and other women by letting people know they're being inconsiderate. Sometimes they just don't know or weren't thinking about how it comes off. 

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