Message from the director
Lizabeth Thompson, PhD, PE
Director, General Engineering
Professor, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
This is my first year in the director’s role, but I have been at Cal Poly for nearly 30 years. I am so excited to continue the excellent work of the past directors and to shape a future for GENE that is inclusive and equitable with an emphasis on the wellbeing of staff, students, and faculty.
Just a little bit about me: Although I have been in engineering for nearly 40 years, my area of research is engineering education and institutional change to create a more just and inclusive world. I have three active NSF grants that all contribute to this goal. 1) ENGAGE, 2) EcoSTEM and 3) and a very new ADVANCE grant.
This year I will be working with you all on the following goals:
- Creating a welcoming GENE Community
- Making GENE more transfer friendly
- Development of a strategic plan for the GENE Program
If you are interested in hearing more about the activities in GENE or would like to share some ideas, please come by or contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
GENE is designed for students who are interested in pursuing a course of study whose scope reaches beyond the established curriculum of any single existing department at Cal Poly. This can be accomplished through the Individual Course of Study concentration (ICS) in GENE. Examples of some of the courses of study pursued by GENE majors include chemical engineering, sustainable energy, engineering entrepreneurship, peace engineering, product design, audio engineering, education, and pre-medical studies.
GENE is also intended for students who desire a broad-based education in engineering that covers several major engineering disciplines in detail. This is done through the General concentration: see flowchart (PDF).
GENE is also ideal for first time students who are undecided as to which engineering discipline they want to major in. You will be able to take your first quarter at Cal Poly and explore various majors without falling behind in most majors. If you are planning on changing majors, it is best to initiate the process at the beginning of Winter quarter of your freshman year.
For those who decide to major in GENE, there are two official concentrations in the program:
- General concentration: The curriculum for the General Concentration (PDF) is designed for students who want a broad-based education in engineering that covers several major engineering disciplines in detail. Note: A GENE major is assumed to be pursuing this concentration by default, unless (s)he declares an individual course of study concentration.
- Individual Course of Study (ICS) concentration: The flexibility of the curriculum for the ICS Concentration (PDF) allows students to create – in consultation with the GENE Director – a plan of study that enables them to reach their individual academic and professional goals. The curriculum for the ICS concentration includes more than 40 units of technical electives in order to provide students with the latitude to develop depth in their particular area(s) of interest. Examples of emphasis areas pursued by GENE students under the ICS concentration include audio engineering, chemical engineering, sustainable energy, engineering entrepreneurship, peace engineering, product design, education, and pre-medical studies. To select the ICS concentration, an ICS form must be submitted to the GENE office and approved by both the GENE Director and Engineering Advising. It is best if you complete an ICS as soon as possible so you are guaranteed that the courses you take count toward your degree. It is always possible to change the ICS as long as you get the correct approvals.
The General Engineering (GENE) program at Cal Poly evolved from the Engineering Science Program, which was established in 1960. The program name was changed to General Engineering in 1996, and existed at the college level under the direction of an Associate Dean until 2006, when the Biomedical and General Engineering Department was established. The BMED program became a department in 2015 when the GENE program also became independent.
The mission of the General Engineering Program is to provide students with the highest quality technical and professional engineering education, with a particular emphasis in new or evolving interdisciplinary areas, while allowing the students to participate in designing their own programs of study.
- An ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
- An ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors.
- An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
- An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
- An ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.
- An ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
- An ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
One of the trademarks of the GENE curriculum is its flexibility, which enables self-motivated and focused students the freedom to create their own course of study. A trade-off for this flexibility is accreditation: Because GENE students pursue widely different courses of study, it is dificult to guarantee to an accreditation board that all GENE students have studied certain topics. However, because Cal Poly is well regarded, a General Engineering degree from Cal Poly will also be well regarded despite its lack of accreditation.
GENE’s lack of accreditation may have an effect in positions where Professional Engineer (PE) licensure is required. These positions are mainly those where the government is a major customer (e.g., government contractors, expert witnesses for legal testimony, etc.) The main effect is that it can take longer to receive PE licensure for a graduate from a non-accredited program, chart summarizing the PE licensure process ; more information about what it means to be a PE can be found on the NSPE website.
If you are planning to work for an organization where the government is not a major customer (e.g., most companies) or go to graduate school, the main effect is that it can take longer to receive PE licensure for a graduate from a non-accredited program (see chart summarizing the PE licensure process.) More information of what it means to be a PE can be found on the NSPE website.