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Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies Program

Freedom to Choose / Freedom to Create / Freedom to Travel

About Us

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The Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES) degree is a hybrid BS program that combines the study of Engineering with the study of the Arts and Humanities. The program encourages students to see Engineering, the sciences, and humanistic study as interconnected and as equally necessary for solving our planet’s most important problems. The program has the same entrance requirements as the School of Engineering at Cal Poly, thus requiring a strong grounding in physics and math, as well as the same writing, communications, history, culture, ethics, and reasoning requirements of the most demanding degrees in the College of Liberal Arts.

The LAES degree was created in response to students who wanted to amplify their Engineering coursework with in-depth study in the visual arts, narrative, design, psychology, and culture. It was also developed to allow Liberal Arts students to add demanding technical and/or scientific components to their studies in art and culture. Based on continual student input and faculty guidance, the LAES Program has developed a number of popular hybrid concentrations that intermix Engineering and Liberal Arts to create specializations in the study of sound and electronics; theater arts and computer game design; psychology and computer system development; art and aesthetics with industrial design; environmental stewardship with power systems management; community development with project design principles; and computer programming with technical communications. The LAES degree allows students to combine the most challenging aspects of the Colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts at Cal Poly, while creating a hybrid study program that prepares them for their chosen career.

The LAES curriculum allows students to participate in multi-disciplinary development teams that work on real-world, national and international technology and culture projects. To foster high-level leadership and communication skills, LAES student projects are always run in collaboration with other Cal Poly majors from Engineering, Liberal Arts, Architecture, and the Sciences, while also working one-one-one with our program’s commercial clients and partners from California and overseas. To further prepare students for the global marketplace and provide them with intercultural communication skills, the program strongly encourages students to spend at least one quarter studying or working abroad (LAES provides credit and partial funding for these trips). Additionally, many of the projects that LAES students work on during the year are directly connected to larger commercial and academic endeavors throughout Asia, Europe, and the South Pacific.

The LAES degree, with its emphasis on project-based learning, leadership development, and commercial partnership, provides students with hands-on training and in-depth study that prepares them for a wide range of innovative technical careers and entrepreneurship in the arts, design, management, production, and community support.

Since the program began in 2007, LAES graduates have been highly successful in obtaining technical, design, and management careers in companies such as Warner Brothers Studios, Disney, Tesla, Apple, DTS, Universal Studios, Microsoft, as well as a wide range of progressive high-tech and creative design companies throughout the world. The LAES degree has also served as the foundation for a number of our graduates who are currently pursuing graduate studies in well-respected MA, MS and PhD programs in Psychology, Engineering, Education, and Business.

Faculty Testimonials

"The LAES program is an engaging and academically challenging program that contributes not only to Cal Poly's mission, but most importantly towards its emerging vision as a comprehensive Polytechnic University." (Ignatios Vakalis, Chair, Computer Science)


"The projects we work on are real, there are no simulations or mock situations, we work with actual organizations and companies. LAES is the program where the “learn by doing” motto is upheld highly and proudly." (Evan Nickel, LAES Alumnus 2013)

"The LAES program is an engaging and academically challenging program that contributes not only to Cal Poly's mission, but most importantly towards its emerging vision as a comprehensive Polytechnic University." (Ignatios Vakalis, Chair, Computer Science)

"Since I've joined LAES I've learned so much. The program has allowed me to unlock potential in myself that I had never even realized I had." (Brigit Hawley, LAES Alumnus 2012)

"I believe the interface of the two colleges is a brilliant idea. The LAES program fosters a cross-pollination of ideas between individuals and programs, each with their own specific strengths, that serves to create a deeper, more well-rounded understanding of modern technology and the application of this powerful knowledge in a responsible and truly inspired manner." (David Thayer, President, Aspect Studios)

"After graduating from Cal Poly, I made the big decision to move to China to start my enrich my life with the best of both worlds: an attractive field of engineering and an up-and-coming global language and culture." (Jason Stine, LAES Alumnus 2011)

"Providing our students with strong backgrounds in both technology and the liberal arts will position them to be innovators and leaders in the twenty-first century." (Kathryn Rummell, Professor and Chair, English)

"LAES granted me the freedom to take a more holistic approach to development and pursue internships that provided invaluable field experience. Moreover, the program has given me the support and confidence to choose my own path, aim high, and grow." (Deb Go, LAES Alumnus 2010)

"LAES students were critical in the language development and the documentation of a ground-breaking opportunity to provide affordable and sustainable housing here in San Luis Obispo. Their ability to communicate and express honestly what they need and what they want, has been refreshing and is an acknowledgement of the success of their education and major." (Matthew Linden, CEO and Founder, ConsciousBuild, Inc.)

"During my time at Cal Poly, I received a technical background without compromising my creativeness. This helps me everyday in everything I do. I am very proud to be a Mustang and to have a degree in LAES." (Michael Robotham, LAES Alumnus 2010)

"Students from both disciplines benefit from these collaborative endeavors. I am impressed with the knowledge and technical skills LAES students bring to the table as we work on these production-based projects. They have the kind of knowledge and skills that are in demand." (Tim Dugan, Chair, Theatre and Dance)

"This unique program is a valuable method of fostering strong thinking and motivated doing." (Hannah Chatham, Art Alumnus 2009)

"This program is a wonderful way to harness the energy and imagination of gifted students (and faculty) who find themselves drawn not to one discipline, but to a bridging of disciplines." (Dr. W. Terrence Spiller, Chair, Music)

"We are meeting an unfilled need in our world. We, the LAES graduates, are finding places in society both nationally and internationally, where we may serve and contribute to our world." (Donovan Loomis, LAES Alumnus 2009)

"LAES is one of the most promising new ideas at Cal Poly. " (Alypios Chatziioanou, LAES Co-Director 2009-10; Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering)

"Students are not always simply left-brain or right-brain, but often an eclectic mixture of both with a number of talents in both areas. This kind of cross-disciplinary thinking is vital to a healthy academic environment, and LAES' real-world, project-focused curriculum is exactly what is needed." (Bill Trammel, LAES Alumnus 2009)



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