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Cal Poly to discontinue its noncredit Life and Culture classes 

Spring 2020 will be the last semester to enroll in one of Cal Poly's noncredit Life and Culture classes—courses in art, religion, and food that the university plans to cut in an effort to further align its programs with industry and vendor certifications.

The Life and Culture classes—drawing and painting, food and wine, metal arts, beer brewing, world religions, photography, and writing—are part of Cal Poly's Extended Education offerings, which include a number of noncredit courses open to community members not already enrolled at Cal Poly.

click to enlarge SO MUCH FOR WINE APPRECIATION After the spring 2020 semester, Cal Poly will no longer offer its noncredit Life and Culture classes, courses like California Wine Appreciation that are open to community members not already enrolled at the university. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF DUANE HALL
  • File Photo Courtesy Of Duane Hall
  • SO MUCH FOR WINE APPRECIATION After the spring 2020 semester, Cal Poly will no longer offer its noncredit Life and Culture classes, courses like California Wine Appreciation that are open to community members not already enrolled at the university.

Mike Botwin taught at Cal Poly full time for years before he joined the school's Extended Education department to teach wine appreciation courses in the '80s. Since then, Botwin said he's never had a problem with low enrollment.

"Classes are full," Botwin told New Times, "so it's hard to understand why they're killing these classes."

Cal Poly's assistant director of Professional and International Training Programs, Dianna Previs, broke the news about the coming changes to Botwin in an email on Sept. 4. Previs wrote that while Botwin's wine appreciation courses have been popular, the university is going in a different direction, and "noncredit classes as a whole do not generate enough income to keep the program viable."

Other courses will continue to be offered through Extended Education, according to information included in the email, courses like Cloud Academy, Project Management, and Salesforce, which can be offered online or align with industry certifications. The university will also be working to make other courses available to non-student community members more accessible, according to the email, while adding graduate and undergrad special session degree programs and continuing education units.

Botwin said the discontinuation of Cal Poly's Life and Culture classes could deepen tensions between the university and the rest of San Luis Obispo's non-student population. His classes are largely filled by retirees, who have the time and money to do things they never could before, and residents hoping to get a foot in the door of the wine industry. Noncredit classes are fun for those community members, Botwin said, and they give SLO locals an opportunity to get familiar with Cal Poly's campus and to continue learning all through life.

The courses allow community members to learn for the sake of learning, without some big end goal in mind, and Botwin said that's what Cal Poly will lose with this decision.

Matt Lazier, Cal Poly's media relations director, said the decision to end the school's Life and Culture courses was a strategic one.

"They are not financially self-supporting, and they do not fit within Extended Education's primary focus on innovative educational programs, technical education, and workforce development," Lazier wrote in an email to New Times. "Community members are able to find a wide range of Life and Culture programs at San Luis Coastal Adult School, Cuesta College, and Allan Hancock College." Δ

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