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Inquiry-Based Learning Builds Mathematical Confidence

Dec 11, 2018

Shannon Sheehan (Liberal Studies, ’18) took a different kind of calculus class, one that used Inquiry-Based Learning. In this video, she talks about how this method inspired her to appreciate making sense of math problems, collaborating with fellow students, and even getting stuck. 

Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) is a learning-centered method of teaching mathematics. Rather than showing facts or a clear, smooth path to a solution, the instructor guides students via well-crafted problems through an adventure in mathematical discovery. Students are given tasks requiring them to solve problems, conjecture, experiment, explore, create and communicate — skills and habits of mind that mathematicians engage in regularly. 

Liberal studies majors’ mathematics courses are based on IBL so that students can apply the method in their future classroom. 

Mathematics Professor Stan Yoshinobu is nationally recognized for his work in developing IBL workshops to help college math instructors learn to use this teaching method, which has been shown to improve learning, reduce math anxiety and close the gender achievement gap in math classes.

Currently, a limited number of faculty members nationwide have access to IBL workshops each year. With a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Yoshinobu and his collaborators aim to at least triple the number of workshop facilitators and add different types of professional development opportunities to better meet the needs of the math profession.

“I think the point for liberal studies majors is to be open and ready to learn via IBL and be patient with being stuck,” Yoshinobu said. “The rewards are great and will help liberal studies majors become wonderful, impactful teachers."

Letter from the Chair - 2018

Dec 10, 2018

Lola Berber

Greetings from the Cal Poly Liberal Studies Department where our highly motivated students and accomplished alumni continue to be our inspiration. 

I have the privilege of working with some of our 106 new students in our introductory service learning courses. I am impressed with their dedication, their strong high school community service records, and their current involvement in our local community.

They remind me that Liberal studies students and alumni have a strong call to service and to Learn by Doing Good. 
Following their example, the department continues to partner with the local community. We’re helping local teachers implement the Next Generation Science Standards, offering professional development workshops, supporting school STEM nights, and sharing science kits with teachers.

We also have a new partnership with the Performing Arts Center youth program developed by Professor Loraine McCann (Liberal Studies, ‘81). This program allows liberal studies students to attend educational performances at Cal Poly and local schools. 

One of our students said of a recent performance, “It was so fun and entertaining and allowed for the children's creativity and imagination to freely flow. I recommend it. I was in awe of all of the dinosaur costumes and models and the incorporation of technology to create the production.” 

To support our students’ arts education, we welcomed Samuel Shalhoub to the department this year. He brings his passion for and knowledge of music, theater and dance to teaching the performing arts. California is considering adopting the National Core Arts Standards, and Samuel’s expertise will ensure our students will be prepared to implement those standards. 

Speaking of standards, last year we took a good look at our curriculum and found that it is well-aligned with the standards that the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing sets to demonstrate proficiency. Because of the alignment, we applied for the CSET waiver, which means our graduates will not need to take the CSET to continue in a credential program. We’re hopeful and will let you know the results of the review. 
Finally, I want to mention how proud we are that our own Professor Anne Marie Bergen (Biological Sciences, ’85) was a featured teacher for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Congratulations, Anne Marie!

We are so grateful for all the support we receive from our alumni, donors and friends. You help us provide a strong Learn by Doing education to our students every day. Please drop us a line and let us know what you’re up to.


Wishing you all the best,
Lola Berber-Jiménez, Chair
Liberal Studies Department

Continue reading Letter from the Chair - 2018...

Hands-on Course Leads to Humane Society Internship

Dec 10, 2018

Meghan Balderama wearing a Woods Humane Society t-shirtMeghan Balderama (Liberal Studies, ‘18) first visited the Woods Humane Society during Liberal Studies 380, co-taught by Professor Anne Marie Bergen and Jamie Relth, the Humane Education Coordinator at Woods. In the class, liberal studies majors learned how to teach students at local elementary schools how to be safe and humane with animals, specifically dogs. 

Balderama recounts the experience in her own words:

I felt that taking this course would be a fun opportunity for me to combine two of my favorite interests: children and animals.

After training with Jamie during the majority of the quarter, we visited a couple of classrooms. We taught the students how we can help reduce the numbers of cats and dogs in shelters, how to safely meet a new dog, and how to read animal body language. We even got to take a dog from the shelter along with us during our visits, which the children all loved. During spring quarter, we had the opportunity to continue teaching lessons without needing to meet weekly for training.

I loved working with Jamie and having a role with the Woods Humane Society so much that I decided to spend my summer working for their Critter Camp. In this role I continued to combine my love for animals and children. It’s been awesome learning even more about Woods and the animals that are being sheltered there. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the children progress each week as they learn the importance of adopting animals in need of homes and how to treat all of the animals with compassion and care. 

The Woods Humane Society is such an amazing organization with so many sweet cats and dogs in need of a good home and an incredible staff who dedicate everything to help get them adopted. I am so grateful that I have been able to get involved with this organization through the Liberal Studies Department.

2018 Newsletter

Dec 3, 2018

Featured Articles

Listening to Jupiter

Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Inspire the Next Generation Today

Four future teachers listened to the planet Jupiter using two antennas and a receiver that they constructed themselves. Their experience will become curriculum for local elementary school students at San Benito Elementary School in Atascadero.

Continue reading 2018 Newsletter...

Thank You to Our Generous Donors - 2017

Oct 13, 2017

Private support helps provide exceptional Learn by Doing opportunities for today’s students. We are grateful for the support of all the alumni, parents, friends and organizations that donated to the Liberal Studies Department.

Letter from the Chair - 2017

Oct 12, 2017

Lola Berber

The 2017-18 academic year, my ninth as chair of the Liberal Studies Department, is off to a strong start. As always, it’s a privilege to serve our enthusiastic students alongside such dedicated, knowledgeable faculty and generous community partners.

It’s also an honor to have alumni like you who are leading the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and bringing STEM and Learn by Doing into your classrooms. We’d love to see you in person during Mustang Family Weekend.

On Friday, Oct. 20, we hope you’ll share the excitement at our second annual Liberal Studies Reunion. The reunion is a great time to connect with other alumni, meet credential candidates, share ideas and of course relax with a glass of wine and a rooftop view of San Luis Obispo. Check our website for more information or register now.

Taking a quick look back, we want to congratulate our graduating class of 2017. We are so proud of these future educators! Most of them continued on to a multiple subject credential program. A few are pursuing a master’s degree in special education or a single subject credential. We wish them a brilliant career.

We’re excited to have welcomed Dean Wendt, the new dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, in July. The students are getting to know him as Dean Dean. We also want to thank Phil Bailey — who retired at the end of June after 34 years as dean and 48 years at Cal Poly — for his long-running support of our majors and of primary education.

Last summer we launched a new study abroad program in San Miguel de Allende. Twenty students studied Spanish and the cultural and history of Mexico, including five liberal studies students, a couple of students considering a single subject credential, and one bilingual educator from our community.

The group enjoyed field trips to Teotihuacán and Guanajuato, homestays and Learn by Doing activities with local school children. We are planning to offer this opportunity every year and hope that our students take advantage of one of the study abroad opportunities that Cal Poly offers.

Thank you for your continued support and for helping us offer our students excellent educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom.


Wishing you all the best,
Lola Berber-Jiménez, Chair
Liberal Studies Department

Continue reading Letter from the Chair - 2017...

Alumni Mentorship Program Pays It Forward

Oct 11, 2017

Liberal studies student with children in a lab

By Jeanne Stone (Liberal Studies, ‘78)

All liberal studies alumni benefitted from Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy. Once we graduate, there is still a way to be an active part of the Learn by Doing part of the Liberal Studies Program. Become a mentor to a current liberal studies student and share your real-world experiences — in teaching or any other field — and support them as they engage in coursework and fieldwork at Cal Poly.

When you volunteer to be a mentor, you will be connected with a Cal Poly student from your geographic area if possible. The student will email you to introduce herself, and the two of you take it from there. Your exchanges will allow you to share those heart-warming moments that teaching brings, answer questions about fieldwork, provide suggestions about classroom situations, or just talk about the daily life of a teacher.

Mentoring can be what you want it to be:

  • A monthly (or whatever frequency works for both of you) email exchange with your student
  • An occasional phone conversation
  • A student visit to your classroom when Cal Poly is on break
  • Extra help in your classroom when you are setting up in the fall, or possibly dismantling your classroom in June
  • A visit with the student when you are in San Luis Obispo if you visit or live nearby.
  • A meeting at the Liberal Studies Reunion on October 20 from 5-7 p.m. or at event in April (open house) or May (conference) of 2018.

The goal of the mentoring program is two-fold:

  • provide our students with a connection to the real world of teaching or other fields
  • build connections with liberal studies alumni across the state and country to provide feedback and support for the Liberal Studies Program at Cal Poly.

Register now to become a Liberal Studies Alumni Mentor 

Once matched you will receive an email with your Cal Poly student’s name and email, and you can expect an email from her shortly afterwards. If you have any questions about the mentoring program, please contact Lola Berber-Jimenez at or Jeanne Stone at

2017 Newsletter

Oct 11, 2017

Featured Articles

liberal studies major Camille Chabot

Liberal Studies Graduate Beats Cancer Twice to Graduate with Her Class

Two weeks before the start of her sophomore year, liberal studies major Camille Chabot was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Through everything that followed, she remained determined to graduate in four years.

Continue reading 2017 Newsletter...

Volunteer Abroad

Jan 20, 2017

Volunteers with people of Africa and Asia

Village Volunteers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works in partnership with NGOs in Africa and Asia to support the development of community-led and community-owned sustainable development projects.  

Internship and Volunteer Placements

The Village Volunteers experience is true immersion done safely and responsibly. Village Volunteers works with students to create a safe and meaningful internship or volunteer experience that will meet your goals and academic requirements. Build your skill set and broaden your future career opportunities through a variety of projects during your time abroad with Village Volunteers. 

Continue reading Volunteer Abroad...


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