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Cal Poly Art Historians Contribute to World-touring Getty Exhibition

Dec 20, 2018

Two Cal Poly art and design professors contributed to the world-renown touring art exhibition The Renaissance Nude, currently on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Featuring more than 100 works by some of history’s best-known artists — Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Dürer, and others, The Renaissance Nude is the first exhibition of its kind to focus on themes of nudity, morality and beauty from the period in depth. From paintings to sculptures to drawings to prints, the exhibition brings together a wide range of objects from the Renaissance period. The exhibition will be on display at the Getty from Oct. 30, 2018 – Jan. 27, 2019 before it tours internationally.

Professor Thomas Depasquale was one of the key developers of the exhibition and contributed his expertise in Italian Renaissance art. For five years, Depasquale worked closely with the Getty’s Senior Curator Emeritus Thomas Kren to bring the exhibition together from its inception. Depasquale also contributed as an art historian to its accompanying catalog, The Renaissance Nude, which is available for checkout at Robert E. Kennedy Library.

“Tom DePasquale played an important role in the exhibition, especially in its formative phase,” curator Kren said. “Hired as a research assistant, he helped me to conceptualize the show and to devise the organization of art works within the galleries, which was fundamental to the exhibition’s argument and the public’s experience of it.”

Art and Design Department Chair Giancarlo Fiorenza also contributed his expertise to the exhibition’s accompanying publication. Fiorenza will travel to the Getty to give lectures to the public and attend conferences surrounding The Renaissance Nude.

“Both Giancarlo and Tom have both been generous and accessible colleagues,” Kren said. “The Getty feels fortunate to have had such outstanding scholars of the Italian Renaissance nearby to work with.”

Students in Depasquale’s class ART 371 Topics in Renaissance Art learned about the exhibit and its themes throughout fall quarter. Along with students in the Italian studies program, the students had the opportunity to travel on a field trip to the Getty in Los Angeles to view the exhibition for themselves.

“That, for me, is one of the great satisfactions,” Depasquale said. “Having been a part for many years of the planning of this exhibition, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about art that I didn’t know before. My understanding of the period, culture and art has expanded enormously thanks to the work on the show. And what do you do with that? You only get satisfaction out of that if you can teach it, if you can pass it on to other people. For me, the biggest reward is to be able to pass on this fascinating aspect of art to my students.”

And his students have responded enthusiastically. Many opted to attend the voluntary field trip to enhance their understanding of the topics discussed in class.

“It’s a wonderful learning experience for all involved: those involved in the show, and those who are seeing it,” Fiorenza said. Some of the exhibition talks, including one given by Fiorenza, are available online. Learn more on the Getty’s website.


Story originally appeared in the Art and Design Department fall 2018 newsletter

Julie Garcia Named Interim Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

Nov 20, 2018

Julie A. Garcia has been appointed interim associate vice president (AVP) for Diversity and Inclusion for Cal Poly's Office of University Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI), effective June 29. Garcia, who has served as associate chair for the Psychology and Child Development Department since 2014, has been involved in diversity and inclusion work throughout her 11 years at Cal Poly.

In her role as AVP, Garcia will lead the BEACoN mentoring program, the Collective Impact initiative, and help with strategic planning around campus-wide diversity and inclusion efforts.

As associate chair, Garcia facilitated the internship program, took a leadership role in department diversity efforts and a successful program review, and introduced a new course, "The Social Psychology of Prejudice." At the college level, she served on the College of Liberal Arts Faculty Diversity Committee. University-wide, Garcia has she has led trainings for the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology and was selected as the faculty speaker for the TEDxSLO conference, where she gave a talk on tangible ways people can challenge their implicit biases.

Garcia has also led numerous Cal Poly faculty and staff associations, including serving as past president of the Chicanx Latinx Faculty and Staff Association, and a founding member of the Pride Faculty and Staff Association.

On the national level, Garcia has served as a member and chair on diversity committees for Divisions 8 and 9 of the American Psychological Association.

Garcia's teaching and research excellence have been acknowledged at Cal Poly. She received the California Faculty Association Distinguish Educator Award in 2011, and the College of Liberal of Arts Richard K. Simon Outstanding Scholarship Award in 2012. Garcia's research on stereotyping, prejudice, intergroup relationships, social identity and underrepresentation in STEM has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation.

Garcia earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from California State University, San Bernardino and her master's and doctorate degrees in social psychology from the University of Michigan. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, and a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. She joined Cal Poly in 2007 as an assistant professor, was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 2011, promoted to full professor in 2016, and selected as a faculty associate with OUDI from 2017-18.

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Recent Journalism Grad is Finalist for CSU Media Arts Festival Award

Nov 5, 2018

Recent Cal Poly grad Nikki Petkopoulos (Journalism, ’18) is a finalist for the prestigious CSU Media Arts Award for her film Young American.

The film tells the story of a biracial college student as he becomes a sugar baby for an older couple. What started out as a means to an end develops into a terrifying situation which he struggles to extricate himself from. This was loosely inspired by the varied stories friends shared with Petkopoulos regarding their escort experiences, as well as her own reflection on being biracial in a world that still fetishizes ethnic minorities.

The CSU Media Arts Festival is a celebration of films, videos, and other new media created by students of the California State University. It is an opportunity for students to showcase their work before a panel of distinguished faculty and entertainment industry professionals. The 28th Annual CSU Media Arts Festival will be presented at the Digital Hollywood media conference on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

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Cal Poly Professors Partner with Artificial Intelligence Pioneer to Publish Innovative Research

Nov 5, 2018

Two Cal Poly professors and Unanimous AI presented a new study showing that business teams, when connected by AI algorithms and operating as an internet-linked “swarm,” functioned with significantly higher social intelligence than individuals working alone.

Entrepreneurship Professor Lynn Metcalf and communication studies Professor David Askay spent the summer on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence technology. In collaboration with AI pioneer Unanimous AI, a Silicon Valley-based technology firm that amplifies the intelligence of groups through special AI algorithms, they recently published research examining the effectiveness of business teams functioning as a “hive mind.”

This innovative Swarm AI technology allowed teams, connected over the internet, to combine their individual insights in real-time to accomplish tasks and make decisions.

The presentation at the first Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Artificial Intelligence for Industries held in Laguna Hills, Calif., will showcase their study, which asked 60 small teams to take a standard social intelligence test known as “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” (RME). Prior studies have proved the RME test as a strong predictor of team effectiveness and overall collective intelligence. As individuals, participants averaged 68 percent accuracy on the test, but, when working together as an AI-powered “hive mind,” the teams averaged 85 percent accuracy — a significant improvement.  

“This is an exciting result,” Metcalf said. “It suggests that business teams can be significantly more effective at making group decisions if they work together, connected by Swarm AI algorithms.” 

Swarm AI technology connects distributed human teams into real-time intelligent systems modeled after swarms in nature, emulating the way birds flock, fish school and bees swarm to amplify their collective intelligence. It builds a real-time “hive mind” over a communication network, moderated by AI algorithms, to combine the group’s knowledge, wisdom, insights and intuition into an optimized output. 

Metcalf has a broad spectrum of research expertise — including qualitative research methods, package design for marketability, innovation and entrepreneurship, and international business negotiation — but she’s found this venture into AI particularly exciting.
“Swarm AI technology has can absolutely change the way we utilize and think about teams, specifically in the business world,” she said. “This research is just the beginning.”

Metcalf, Askay and the team see many potential applications of Swarm AI technology among business teams, from making optimized decisions to more accurately forecasting how consumers will react to marketing messaging, product features, or sales tactics. Cal Poly and Unanimous AI are currently continuing research that further explores Swarm AI’s potential benefits.

Unanimous AI founder Louis Rosenberg, a former faculty member in Cal Poly’s College of Engineering, is excited by Swarm AI’s potential as a business tool. “We’ve seen Swarm AI technology be extremely effective at amplifying the intelligence of large groups,” he said. “But this study is the first to explore the use among small teams. The results were stronger than we expected, opening many new business applications.”

“When it comes to decision-making technologies, most uses of AI are aimed at replacing people with algorithms,” said Askay. “What is most exciting about this study is that we’re not replacing people — we’re keeping them in the loop, using AI to optimize their knowledge, wisdom and collective intelligence in real time.”

About Cal Poly 
Founded in 1901 and part of the renowned California State University system since 1960, Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, four-year, comprehensive polytechnic public university located in San Luis Obispo, California. Known for its Learn by Doing approach, small class sizes and open access to expert faculty, Cal Poly is a distinctive learning community whose nearly 22,000 academically motivated students enjoy an unrivaled hands-on educational experience that prepares them to lead successful personal and professional lives. For more information, visit
About Unanimous AI
Unanimous AI has pioneered Swarm AI® technology, a new form of AI that combines real-time human insights and AI algorithms modeled after natural swarms. In 2018, Swarm AI technology won “AI Innovation of the Year” at the SXSW Innovation Awards. For more on Unanimous, visit


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Won't Be Erased

Oct 26, 2018

Dear CLA Students, 

The College of Liberal Arts stands with the Cross Cultural Centers' message in support of transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students, faculty, and staff. We support the right of all in our Cal Poly family to be a part of our vibrant and diverse campus. We ask all of our students, faculty, and staff to look out for one another during times like these and to reach out to each other if help is needed. Below please find a few resources on our campus and in our community. 

We see you. 



The College of Liberal Arts Deans Office
Dr. Rummell, Interim Dean
Dr. Teramoto Pedrotti, Associate Dean for Diversity and Curriculum
Dr. Valencia-Laver, Associate Dean for Administration 
Dr. Bennett, Associate Dean for Student Success 


Cal Poly Counseling Center

SLO Community Counseling Center

Gender Equity Center

Tranz Central Coast

Kathryn Rummell
Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0322

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Social Sciences Department Receives $5,000 Donation from PG&E for Learn By Doing

Oct 25, 2018

Two award-winning Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) employees have donated $5,000 to the Social Sciences Learn by Doing fund.

For the last 10 years, students participating in Dr. Terry Jones’s Archaeological Field Methods class (ANT 310) have learned excavation techniques working on PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant property near Avila Beach. Cal Poly has partnered with PG&E to conduct salvage excavations at sites on their lands that are being undermined by erosion and other impacts. The arrangement provides a perfect Learn by Doing opportunity in which students practice real hands-on skills while salvaging irreplaceable prehistoric artifacts and faunal remains.

In 2015, students discovered an exceptionally important find: the remains from a Chumash village identified in records from Mission San Luis Obispo as Tstyiwi. Once the importance of the site was recognized, Cal Poly and PG&E decided to shift priorities, and focus on protection and conservation. PG&E representatives Mike Taggart and Kelly Kephart (Forestry and Natural Resources, '06) were particularly determined in their attempts to change land use practices in the site area to eliminate impacts; they terminated agricultural activities and initiated an innovative project to stabilize site soils with native grasses.

In recognition of their hard work, PG&E awarded them the company’s Richard A. Clarke Environmental Leadership Award that honors individuals and teams whose efforts best demonstrate environmental leadership. Richard A. Clarke was PG&E's chairman and CEO from 1986 until his retirement in 1995. He led the company's efforts to build its reputation as an environmental leader.

The award comes with a $5,000 stipend that is donated to any organization selected by the awardees. Taggart and Kephart elected to have the funds donated to the Cal Poly Social Sciences Department. 

PG&E, Terry Jones and the Northern Chumash Tribe will also receive a 2018 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award in November for this project. The annual awards recognize individuals, organizations, companies and public agencies whose contributions demonstrate notable achievements in preserving the heritage of California.


Story originally appeared in the fall 2018 Social Sciences Department newsletter

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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 and 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 their 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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