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CLA Athletes Honored at Big West Conference

Oct 16, 2018

Abi Iriafen (Track and Field/Political Science)

Abi Iriafen won the 2018 Big West Conference triple jump championship with a mark of 41 feet, 7.75 inches on May 12.

Her triple jump mark of 41’ 8.5” on April 28 dominated at the Blue-Green Rivalry regular-season finale vs. UC Santa Barbara, topping the rest of the field by 1-foot-7.

Iriafen ranked 34th west of the Mississippi heading to the First Round of the NCAA Championships, in addition to No. 4 in school history. She was No. 15 nationally among sophomores for 2018, including No. 7 regionally.

A Political Science major from Rancho Cucamonga (concentrating in Global Politics), Iriafen also earned the win at the Cal Opener this season, in addition to taking second at both the UCSB Tri-Meet and Titan Challenge, as well as third at the #ShareSLO Invitational.

Selected as a Big West All-Academic honoree, Iriafen also was named to the 2018 USTFCCCA All-Scholar Team.

Josh Ortlip (Men's Tennis/English)

Ortlip helped lead the Cal Poly men’s tennis team to the Big West championship match this past season after playing in the No. 1 spot all season, finishing with a 14-6 overall record.

His singles success earned him a spot on the Big West All-Conference First Team. During the season, he earned Cal Poly’s Coca-Cola Athlete of the Week twice Big West Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week four times, becoming the 15th men’s tennis player in Big West history to ever do so.

Ortlip was also named to the doubles All-Conference First Team after going 11-6 alongside Axel Damiens primarily at the No. 1 spot.

He was also honored for his performance in the classroom, being named to the Big West All-Academic Team.

Additional CLA/Academic and Athletic Honors

The following Cal Poly student-athletes from the College of Liberal Arts were honored on the 2017-18 Big West Conference or Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (men’s and women’s swimming) All-Academic Team for the winter and spring quarters. To be eligible, student-athletes must be a sophomore academically, maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher and must have competed in at least 50 percent of his or her team’s scheduled events.

  • Allison Scranton, senior, child development, women’s track and field
  • Dan Cardiff, senior, child development, men’s tennis
  • Trent Shelton, senior, communication studies, baseball
  • Abigail Bacharach, senior, communication studies, women’s tennis
  • Caitlin Cox, senior, graphic communication, women’s swimming and diving
  • Gabby Grupalo, senior, graphic communications, women’s basketball
  • Kelly Wong, Senior, graphic communications, women’s basketball
  • Desiree Gillaspy, senior, graphic communications, women’s golf
  • Josh Ortlip, junior, English, men’s tennis
  • Seriana Saltzen, sophomore, history, women’s tennis
  • Alison Epple, sophomore, journalism, women’s swimming and diving
  • Elise Goetzl, senior, journalism, women’s swimming and diving
  • Alejandra Garcia, senior, journalism, softball
  • Abi Iriafen, sophomore, political science, track and field
  • Sophie Bergland, senior, psychology, women’s golf
  • Celine Gruaz, junior, psychology, women’s tennis
  • Chase Worthen, sophomore, psychology, track and field


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Ethnic Studies Course Highlights Hip Hop History and Creates Important Dialogue

Jun 27, 2018

View the Flickr Slideshow

Hip hop studies is an emerging field in academia, and Professor Jenell Navarro has increased its prevalence at Cal Poly.

Navarro has taught Ethnic Studies 310: Hip Hop, Politics and Poetics for the past six years. Additionally, the campus has seen a number of events around campus highlighting the music genre’s rich history.

“Hip hop studies have really taken off in academe,” Navarro said. “There are over 350 classes taught across the nation just on hip hop studies. There’s an entire major in hip hop studies at Arizona State University. The fact that Harvard is curating a hip hop archive really tells us that there is a deep embedded form of knowledge in that culture. It shows the breadth of this area of study.”

Navarro said hip hop studies helps shed light on underrepresented communities in the United States. She emphasized the importance of studying and celebrating conscious hip hop, which challenges systemic oppression.

“We’re really seeing the ways in which scholars are utilizing hip hop culture as a part of our own life experiences, and bringing them into the academy as a way to interrogate and investigate forms of racism, sexism, capitalism, and those ongoing oppressions,” Navarro said.

She said studying hip hop also helps affirm and celebrate the identities and capabilities of underrepresented students on campus.

“I’m trying to give our students of color an educational opportunity where their cultures are centered,” Navarro said. “Authors who look like them, who have experiences like them, who understand their lives, are showcased on the syllabus. That’s what we try to do in the Ethnic Studies Department. It’s my hope that our students of color will feel a deeper level of representation, validation and legitimation of their own scholarly capabilities.”

ES 310 provides a different learning model for students because the voices are from a new kind of source.

“If we want to value multiple forms of knowledge that are not just Western epistemologies, then hip hop is a great way to do that,” Navarro said. “It’s lived, experiential knowledge. It’s knowledge from the actual struggle, from the ground up, not from the top down. That cuts against what most of us read in classes we take in institutions of higher education.”

The 2017-18 school year brought a number of hip hop related events to campus. In addition to the annual Hip Hop Symposium, the culminating event of ES 310, Navarro partnered with Kennedy Library gallery curator Catherine Trujillo to bring a hip hop exhibition to the second floor of the library from April 12 to June 15.

The exhibition, “Don’t Believe The Hype: The Radical Elements of Hip Hop,” featured art created by students that showcased five elements of hip hop: DJing, MCing, breakdancing, graffiti art, and knowledge production. Students learned the history of each element of hip hop as they walked through the gallery.

When journalism junior Isabel Hughes took ES 310, she was reminded of the importance of studies that highlight communities of color.

“This class and ethnic studies classes, in general, are incredibly important to offer at any institution, but especially at a predominantly white institution like Cal Poly because they illuminate the histories of people of color,” Hughes said. “They expose the white supremacy that is ingrained in our society and aim to enhance cultural competency.”

While students may find these conversations about oppression difficult, Navarro said they are necessary to enhance understanding of one another and create an inclusive environment for all. Hip hop creates that conversation.

“Hip hop is kind of a tool and a springboard to have difficult conversations about race and ethnicity,” Navarro said. “Sometimes, they’re uncomfortable conversations. But our campus needs those conversations more than ever right now.”


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Psychology Major Recognized as Cal Poly Great Grad

Jun 25, 2018

Marcos Ramirez-Santos

Growing up, psychology major Marcos Ramirez-Santos never thought much about his education.

“Honestly, I never planned on going to Cal Poly, or even college in general,” said the 22-year-old. “At the time, I didn’t have education as a main priority in my life. After a while, I realized the importance of it and the benefits of earning a bachelor’s. Cal Poly was close to home, and I could actually afford it financially on my own.”

At Cal Poly, he found that the Learn by Doing education challenged and prepared him for his goal of pursuing a doctorate in school psychology. He also found caring professors who inspired him.

“My professors changed my perspectives about the importance of education, and they made me feel that I belong here at one of the top universities,” he said. “My professors have become friends and are always updating me on new opportunities with internships, jobs and experiences.”

The Chico, Calif., resident also had financial support from the Cal Poly Cares Program that provides grants to assist struggling students like Ramirez-Santos, who worked 40 hours a week while a full-time student. The grants help offset core expenses — including housing, meals, academic supplies, unplanned emergencies and other various costs.

“My professors were very understanding of my situation of being an independent student who had to work and go to college full-time,” he said. “Even when my professors didn’t have office hours, they always made time to accommodate my schedule. Through them, I was introduced to many jobs and internships that gave me experiences to make me eligible for graduate programs.”

Ramirez-Santos found time to assist others, like himself, whose struggles weren’t just financial, as a member of the Student Diversity Committee for the College of Liberal Arts.

“Being a first-generation college student and being a transfer student as well, when I first got here I felt a little bit lost because I didn’t know where to go or how to get help,” he said. “When I joined the diversity committee I felt a sense of belonging.

“Through this, I have gained insight and experience on learning about mentoring and leadership.”

In addition, he served on the college’s Underrepresented Students Network, a new peer mentoring program for underrepresented students that provides support and advice about on-campus resources.

Upon graduation, he will work full-time as a behavior technician at the Kids Connections Developmental Therapy Center assisting clients diagnosed with autism. The center (with offices in San Luis Obispo, Rancho Cucamonga, Simi Valley and Van Nuys) provides support to children and families to ensure successful integration and participation in community activities that are meaningful to the families as a unit.

And he will pursue graduate degrees in psychology to “work alongside children and teens to prepare them academically, emotionally and mentally for success,” he said.

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Dance Professor Teaches and Performs in Lebanon

Jun 22, 2018

Christy Chand with Nadra Assaf
Christy Chand with Nadra Assaf

Dance professor Christy Chand had the opportunity to teach dance and perform in Lebanon at the International Dance Day Festival in April.

The International Dance Day Festival is a week-long conference hosted by Lebanese American University. The conference consisted of dance classes, workshops, and performances. It often brings dancers from all over the world to Lebanon. Guest artists from Portugal, Libya, Nigeria, and beyond traveled to attend the conference. This year, Chand taught contemporary dance classes, performed, and created incredible bonds with her students.

Dr. Nadra Assaf, a dancer and professor in Lebanon, organized the first International Dance Day Festival in April 2011. Chand said Assaf’s goal in creating the conference was twofold: to share Lebanese dance culture and to learn about other dance cultures.

“The festival is for the culture and history of Lebanese dance to be noticed, as well as letting those who are in Lebanon interact with outsiders,” Chand said.

Attaining a travel visa in Lebanon is a tedious process, so learning dance from different cultures is a special opportunity for Lebanese students.

“I think it’s really an honor to be able to come in and teach students that are from so many different backgrounds,” Chand said. “Many of them really have to fight for dance. It’s something every single one of them is extremely passionate about.”

Students ranged from age six to 60. Some were students from Lebanon American University, while others came from remote areas of the country. All were welcome to take the dance classes for free. Some dancers auditioned and were selected to dance at a performance on the last night of the festival.

This was Chand’s second year attending the conference. Many students returned from last year’s International Dance Day Festival. “It was so special to be able to see growth in them as dancers over the year,” Chand said. Chand had the opportunity to perform in one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world. Its rich history inspired her.

“It was amazing to see how long concerts and different styles of dances have been really thriving in Lebanon,” Chand said.

She brought many lessons back with her that she will integrate into the classroom. Many of these lessons pertained to dance, but she also learned the importance of the outlook students have when they walk into the classroom.

“The number one thing I’ve tried to bring into my dance classes is the idea of ‘you create your own world,’” Chand said. “A student may think a class is boring or they might be overwhelmed, but what is it that you are doing to make the situation better for yourself? Could you have a better attitude about things? Could you leave whatever may be affecting you outside of the classroom? You have so much power and agency when you walk into a classroom.”


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Julie Spencer-Rodgers Awarded 2017-18 Learn by Doing Scholar Award

Jun 22, 2018

Julie Rodgers, Associate Professor in Cal Poly Psychology and Child Development Department
Julie Spencer-Rodgers

Associate professor of Psychology and Child Development Julie Spencer-Rodgers was awarded the 2017-18 Learn by Doing Scholar Award in the category of planned and in-progress research for “Building Intercultural Competence through Cultural Immersion Projects.” The award is one of only two granted each year and is accompanied by $1000 and formal recognition during Fall Conference 2018.

The long-term goal of her research is to disseminate the results of her study and teaching cross-cultural psychology course materials on various websites devoted to the teaching of intercultural competence and communication.

“I grew up in a bilingual, bicultural home, so I have always been interested in cultural differences and how culture affects our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors,” said Spencer-Rodgers. “We know that intercultural competence can be easily acquired via travel and cultural immersion; it is less evident whether it can be acquired in traditional, on-campus courses. This project suggests that it can.”

Spencer-Rodgers acknowledges that there is currently very little research on this topic, which is why she was inspired to conduct the study. She also seeks to see whether her teaching leads to real-world outcomes for her students beyond textbook knowledge.

The Learn by Doing Scholar Award was established in 2014 and is financially supported by the Library Dean’s Advisory Council with the purpose of acknowledging scholarly research which contributes to the understanding and practice of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto.

View the full list of CLA faculty that were recognized with 2017-18 awards. 


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Alumna Awarded Albert Nelsen Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award

Jun 22, 2018

Gretchen Bataille
Gretchen Bataille

Gretchen M. Bataille (M.A., Education, ’67; English, ’66) was awarded the Albert Nelsen Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who for her leadership in higher education.

Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes highlight noteworthy professionals based on accomplishments, positions held, and prominence in their given field.

During a more than 40-year career in higher education, Bataille held various administrative positions. She served as a university president, department chair, provost, and most recently, senior vice president for the American Council on Education.

Students have been the driving force of Bataille’s dedication to higher education.

“It’s inspiring to be constantly energized by students and their hope for the future,” Bataille said. “Especially because they are the future.”

Bataille transferred to Cal Poly in 1965, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education.

“Cal Poly has always been incredibly student-centered, even back when I attended and got my teaching certification,” Bataille said. “I felt supported by faculty and advisors to be able to get things done. Cal Poly was always there.”

Cal Poly’s student-driven Learn by Doing philosophy was highly valuable to Bataille, and it impacted her family as well. Her son, niece, and nephew all earned degrees from Cal Poly.

“I believe in education as a public good,” Bataille said. “The more educated people are, the better they are as citizens, as members of their community, and the more willing they are to support young people, whatever their ideas may be.”


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Journalism Student Starts Film Festival for Young Filmmakers

Jun 14, 2018

25 Under 25 Film Fest

Journalism senior Michael Frank created a film festival to showcase work created by young filmmakers. The festival, named 25 Under 25, brought in 180 submissions from young filmmakers across California.

The guidelines for submission were simple: the filmmaker must be under the age of 25 and based in California. Twenty-five films were selected to screen at the festival, which was held May 19-20 at San Luis Obispo’s Palm Theatre.

The idea came to Frank after he attended a screening of student-made films from ISLA 341 Media Arts and Technologies: Cinematic Process. Inspired by students’ excitement as their work came to life on the big screen, he set out to create a film festival catered specifically to young people for his senior project.

“I don’t think there are many platforms out there for young artists in general, especially if you’re not living in a huge city,” Frank said. “I wanted to create a platform for young people to show their work to larger groups of community members and to other young people.”

Frank and his friends called every university film department in the state of California soliciting submissions. This ambition led to a cultivation of 180 submissions: some from high school students, and others from graduate students at the renowned film department at the University of Southern California.

One film selected was created by Cal Poly alumnus Ericksen Dickens (Philosophy, ’17) and his brother Soren, a business sophomore. The short documentary film, Rivers of Recovery, highlights the work of Rivers of Recovery, a nationwide program that aims to rehabilitate combat veterans suffering from mental illness such as PTSD and anxiety using the “tranquility of nature.”

“Film allows the audience to have a firsthand look at them as individuals,” Dickens said. “A lot of them suffer from PTSD, and it gave me perspective. It humbled me and made me appreciate them a lot more.”

Dickens now owns a video production company in San Luis Obispo with his brother. Additionally, he is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology online.

Sharing films like these at 25 Under 25 brought together the growing community of future filmmakers. “I wanted to create more of a community of filmmakers, a group of people who make lasting friendships and connections,” Frank said. “These are probably the people who will make up the film industry in the next 25 years.”

ISLA professor and award-winning film editor Randi Barros served as Frank’s mentor throughout the creation of the festival. “He was the face of the festival, and no one could miss his passion for it,” said Barros. “Michael is also a talented screenwriter himself, and he brings this love of character and story to his passion for discovering other up-and-coming filmmakers.”

His journalism classes taught him the importance of creating connections with colleagues. It was through these connections that he attained sponsorship and support for the festival.

“The only way this event was made possible was through sponsorships, through people believing in me,” Frank said. “That’s by far the biggest thing I’ve taken away from journalism: how to find common ground with people, and how to make a bond with someone in just five or ten minutes.”

After graduation, Frank will move to New York City, where he has accepted a marketing and outreach position at a study abroad program. He plans to continue screenwriting, and one day, he hopes to host a large-scale film festival.

“Overall, I learned that when you work really hard at something you’re passionate about, something special will come out of that,” Frank said.

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Political Science Junior Jasmin Fashami Elected ASI President

Jun 14, 2018

Jasmin Fashami, ASI President
Jasmin Fashami, ASI President-elect

Political science junior Jasmin Fashami was elected ASI President for the 2018-19 school year — one of many accomplishments she has achieved as a Cal Poly student.

In addition to becoming ASI president-elect, Fashami founded Phi Alpha Delta, the first pre-law fraternity on campus, during her freshman year. She served as Phi Alpha Delta president during her freshman and sophomore year. Additionally, she served as the ASI secretary for student advocacy.

“The initial reason I wanted to get involved in student government was because of how impactful the Political Science Department and the College of Liberal Arts has been for me,” she said.

She plans to build her platform around opportunity, inclusivity and community.

“A big driving force for me has been opportunity,” she said. “An individual can be incredibly intelligent and have all the drive and passion to pursue a study, but if there’s no opportunity or resource provided for them, then they will always be a step behind.”

Fashami said she wants to ensure students are provided the resources needed to not only find success, but also find a sense of belonging on campus.

“The message I’ve been really pushing is a sense of unity on campus,” she said. “I want to see more collaboration between student groups and make sure that policies we create and initiatives we run as ASI are taking into account all student groups.”

Including all perspectives is an essential part of her platform. She said the small class sizes of her political science courses fostered engaging discussions and taught her the importance of including all voices in policy.

“Having discussions from our own personal perspective and experiences rather than just reading about it in a textbook has allowed me to see what law case, for example, looks like from different perspectives,” she said. “That has benefitted me for the role of ASI president. It has made me take a step back and think, ‘What does this person think about it? What does this group think about it?’”

Fashami was especially impacted by a political science course in which students drafted a bill for the California state legislature to lower the cost of textbooks for college students. The bill was recently recommended for passage by the Assembly Higher Education Committee — a large step in the process of becoming a law.

“We literally took Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy and put it into action,” she said. “A lot of political science students here at Cal Poly love to see what they’re studying come into fruition.”

She frequents political science professors’ office hours to engage in discussions — even if she’s not enrolled in their classes. “I mean it as a compliment when I say that she approaches me as a peer,” political science professor Matthew J. Moore said. “She is always respectful, but she is confident about having ideas and opinions, and our conversations are thinking person to thinking person, not ignorant student to all-knowing expert. I always see it as a sign of intellectual maturity when a student can make that transition.”

Accepting the position as ASI President came with a difficult decision. Fashami turned down an offer for an internship with the United Nations in Geneva over the summer in order to fully commit to her duties as president. There, she would have worked on immigration policy for Syrian refugees. While she is passionate about the issue and hopes to pursue international law in the future, she wanted to start by impacting the Cal Poly community.

“What I came to realize is that I want to start by benefiting the community that I’ve been a part of,” Fashami said. “Cal Poly has given back to me in more ways that I can imagine. It’s a difficult time for a lot of people on this campus. Right now, I want to focus on Cal Poly and do what I can to make a difference.”

Even with her growing list of responsibilities, she is on track to graduate one year early in 2019. She plans to complete an internship upon graduation before attending law school. As for a career, her goal is to pursue international law, specifically working with refugee communities abroad.

“The driving force that motivates me every day is ‘use a law to give a voice to people who don’t have one,’” she said. “That’s why I want to go into international law and specifically help refugee communities abroad. My mom was a refugee fleeing from war, and that has been a big motivator for me, knowing how disadvantaged she was growing up. Although it’s at a much smaller scale at Cal Poly, giving people opportunity, resources and a voice is an intrinsic value of mine.”


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Political Science Major is Cal Poly’s 2018 Panetta Representative

Jun 11, 2018

Philip Abarquez

Political science junior Philip Abarquez has been selected as one of 26 students from the state of California as a 2018 representative to the Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s Congressional Internship Program. This year is the 20th anniversary of the celebrated program. 

The highly prestigious internship awards scholarships to students from each of the 23 CSU campuses along with one each from Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California, and Santa Clara University. To qualify, a student must be nominated by their respective campus president.  

Abarquez is the 18th Cal Poly student to participate in the program since 2001. He will work and study in Washington, D.C. for two weeks in August at the Panetta Institute at CSU Monterey Bay, followed by 11 weeks in the nation’s capital working full-time in the office of a congressional representative.

“I look forward to applying the skills I have learned during my time at Cal Poly in the office of a congressional representative’s office,” said Abarquez. “I also look forward to participating in an internship that offers a unique hands-on experience in the nation’s capital… This internship has a lot to offer, and I can’t wait to make the most of an amazing opportunity.”

The Panetta Institute covers program costs including course registration fees, campus services during orientation, air travel, and housing in Washington, D.C., which makes the program available to interns from all socioeconomic levels.

Arbaquez will graduate in 2019 with a degree in political science, pre-law concentration, and a minor in psychology. He intends to pursue a law degree with the ultimate goal of running for public office.

“My hope is that I attend a distinguished law school and go down that path,” said Arbaquez. “I have enjoyed taking courses in constitutional theory, constitutional law, jurisprudence and civil rights, and I have bold dreams that one day I will be a judge who interprets the constitution.”

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Philosophy Associate Professor to Spend Three Months at Soren Kierkegaard Research Center

Jun 11, 2018

Eleanor Helms, Cal Poly Philosophy Associate Professor
Eleanor Helms

Philosophy associate professor Eleanor Helms will spend three months of the 2018-19 school year researching Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s relationship to 19th century science and philosophy of science.

Helms received a $5,000 travel and research grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation to conduct research at the Soren Kierkegaard Research Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.

She was also awarded an additional $5,000 for her trip from The American Council of Learned Societies, an organization that funds research projects mainly in the humanities. This is a highly competitive award, which is offered only to faculty at teaching-intensive universities like Cal Poly.

“Faculty research is so important, and I appreciate how Dean Epperson maintained support for faculty research and travel even during the recent recession,” said Helms. “It enables us to stay rooted in the ideas that brought most of us to our disciplines, to stay current in our fields, to contribute to new research in the humanities, and of course to bring those new ideas back to our Cal Poly classrooms.”

While at the Kierkegaard Research Center, Helms will write the first few chapters of a book that will draw together ideas she has been working on over the past 5-6 years at Cal Poly with new concepts and materials from her research in Copenhagen.

She will have access to substantial materials including Kierkegaard's works in the original Danish. Helms will also be able to consult and network with Danish and American scholars who teach or conduct their own research at the Kierkegaard Research Center.

“In philosophy, ‘research’ usually means spending time with important and influential texts (and in my area of European or Continental philosophy, often in the original languages), discovering new ideas in texts people often overlook (for example, in Kierkegaard's journals and letters or in the writings of his contemporaries), and then drawing on those ideas to address contemporary philosophical questions,” wrote Helms. “My research question is how thought experiments, which are imaginary, can give us knowledge of the real world outside our minds.”


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