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BioSci Alumni Give Thumbs Up to Cal Poly Education

Survey Says BioSci, MicroBio Alumni are Positive about Their Education

Students in field biology class at Poly PThe Biological Sciences Department surveyed hundreds of alumni to find out what they think of their Cal Poly education, as part of its regular program review process -- and found those who responded were overwhelmingly happy with the education they received.

During fall quarter 2011, the department e-mailed 1,763 alumni (all alumni on record with a valid email address in the university's alumni database), asking them to participate in the survey. Some 330 alumni responded.

Biology Professor Pat Fidopiastis coordinated the survey and reported on the findings. Among them:

  • 97 percent thought their education gave them a "good" or "excellent" broad general knowledge of the biological sciences (of those, 71.8 percent ranked their education as excellent)
  • 94.5 percent said their education gave them a "good" or "excellent" ability to assess and analyze data objectively
  • 93 percent said their education gave them "good" or excellent" proficiency in lab and field techniques used on the job.
  • 90 percent said their education gave them a "good or "excellent" ability to integrate multiple disciplines to answer biological questions using the scientific method.

Among those who responded, 81 percent agreed that their Cal Poly Biological Sciences degree gave them an advantage among peers and co-workers who graduated from other schools. And 83 percent said they would "enthusiastically" recommend Cal Poly's Biological Sciences Department and its programs to prospective students.

Of the 303 who responded, 24 percent were in a graduate academic program; 22 percent worked in private industry in the biotech or other biology-related field; 12 percent worked in a clinical medical setting; 11 percent worked for a government agency (such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, or others); and 7 percent worked as a science educator in K-12 schools or other programs.

A full 79 percent of the alumni who responded said that their current job was their "top choice" among job offers; 92.5 percent said they are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their jobs -- with 56 percent saying they were "very satisfied."

The survey also asked alumni to give input into the Biological Sciences curriculum, and whether or how it should change.

"That feedback is essential to our ongoing efforts to offer a world-class education," Department Chair Chris Kitts stressed.

Alumni who responded to the survey were also asked to look back on their Cal Poly education and evaluate whether there should have been less, the same or more emphasis on several curriculum areas. Among their answers:

  • 77 percent said they would have liked more internships offered in each of the department's concentrations
  • 56 percent thought there should have been more focus on teaching oral communication skills (44 percent said the amount was just right)
  • 44 percent said there should have been more focus on teaching written communication skills (55 percent said the amount was just right)
  • 46 percent said there should have been more focus on developing computer skills (52 percent said the amount was just right)
  • Alumni were most positive about the lecture courses related to their majors (87 percent); the lab courses related to their majors (81 percent) and courses or material that illustrated the historical context of their majors (77 percent).

A full 72 percent said they thought the proper emphasis was placed on the literature-based senior project (BIO 461); 61 percent felt the same way about the research-based senior project (BIO 462).

"We really want to thank all of the alumni who participated, because this gives us a very good picture of the strengths of our degree program -- and areas where we could improve," said Kitts.

Alumni were also given a chance to submit open-ended comments as part of the survey. Their comments, too, were overwhelmingly positive. See a sampling of comments here on the Biological Sciences website.

If you did not receive an email invitation to participate in the survey, the most likely reason is that Cal Poly does not have your current email address on record. Update your current email address and contact information by clicking here.