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History 100 - Researching in the Archives

This guide is designed to help HIST100 researchers locate University Archives collections and materials.

Topic Ideas for Research Papers




What were the experiences of women on campus and how did it reflect broader national trends and changes?

Cal Poly was originally a coeducational school, but in 1930 women were prohibited from enrolling. They were allowed to reenroll again in starting 1956-1957. What did the return of women to campus in 1956 and 1957 reveal about expectations of women and men students in their academic and/or social lives?

What was the 1963 protest on the suspension of women students? How did President McPhee's response reveal his approach toward students?

Were majors gendered at Cal Poly? What majors were women participating in? For example, what were the experiences of women in engineering?

What about all these Queens-- Homecoming queens, Poly Royal Queens, Engineering Week Queens, Printing Week Queens, etc.

How did Title IX impact women on campus?


  • Week of Welcome - development, challenges and opportunities, what didn't work, why it stuck
  • Poly Royal (which was later rebranded as Open House) - what was the messaging the campus put out at this mega open house? What were they telling the local community? What was the purpose of Poly Royal, the themes we chose each year, how it changed over time?
  • Homecoming - campus relationship with alumni


How does the architecture of campus reveal the time and goals of that time? Brutalist architecture of the UU, Library, Architecture Building, etc.

How do the Campus Master Plans reveal campus and administrator priorities of the curriculum and student life? Compare master plans from different years

Why are buildings named after people? Who are those people and what does it tell us about campus?

How is the campus laid out? Why? Why does it matter?


Pick a campus club and analyze their activities and purpose on campus.

The Gay Student Union was not permitted as a ASI- and campus-sanctioned club in the 1970s. How did the students respond? Why did the president and dean of students deny the club?

What was the purpose of the Faculty Wives' Club (now known as the Cal Poly Women's Club?) We have a large collection of their records, so you may want to browse through and see what questions are raised.

How did the Pushing Hubby/Honey Through transform with the time? What was it like to be a married student at Cal Poly?

  • ASI Clubs
  • Faculty and Wives of Faculty Women’s Club
    • Women's’ Club 384.02
    • Pushing Hubby Through (1958-1980)
  • Gay Student Union
  • Greek Life
    • ASI club records- Interfraternity council, Panhellenic
    • Student Newspapers (all digitized)
      • El Rodeo
      • El Mustang
      • Mustang Daily


What was the impact of Title IX at Cal Poly?


When did Cal Poly start allowing co-ed dorms and mixed gender housing?

What was the "open door policy" and what did it reveal about administration's expectations of students?

How did the campus attempt to control the students residential life? How does 2018 compare to the 1960s and 1970s?

Recreational drug use and alcohol on campus


How do Kennedy and McPhee compare in leadership, response to student activism, choices about curriculum, relations with faculty and staff, relations with students...

  • for example, you could specifically compare each of their responses to a protest.
  • How did the president interact with faculty? What does the Academic Senate reveal about the relations between presidents and faculty?

“TOWN AND GOWN” relationship between SLO and Cal Poly

  • What relationships did the town have with the campus?
    • Mustang Daily
    • San Luis Obispo Tribune
    • McPhee Papers


  • Enrollment Records
  • 151.05 Quarterly Internal Reports on Enrollment (1937–1990s)
  • 612.03 Foreign/International Students
  • MS098 Box 6 - Scrapbook of newspaper clippings documenting Chicano and Latinx protests by students and faculty.


  • Iranian students arrest during Poly Royal 1970
  • Napalm Protest
  • Cold War Protests
  • Vietnam War Protests
  • Dow Chemical Protests
  • Diablo Canyon Protest
    • For more information about protests, look at the Mustang Daily
    • Look at the President’s papers for more information about protests


  • ROTC and protests against ROTC during Kennedy's time
  • Veterans on campus - Vetville/Poly Ninos and Silver City


  • Communism
    • McPhee Papers
    • Student Newspaper
  • Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy
    • Mustang Daily
    • 141.03.01 President Kennedy Speeches
    • 141.03 Kennedy Papers
  • Civil rights act of 1964
    • 141.03 Kennedy Papers


  • Programs Cal Poly collaborated with: AID, Point IV, etc.
    • check President's papers, Cal Poly Report for Faculty involvement, Mustang Daily for student perspectives.
  • International students at Cal Poly
    • 612.03-Foreign Student Enrollment
    • 1012.05-Foreign Students
  • Cal Poly students studying abroad