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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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Art and Design Student's Work Permanently Displayed in Baker Center

Jun 11, 2018

Art and design senior Anna Teiche left her mark on the Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics through a unique art installation that honors Dr. Phil Bailey, emeritus dean for the College of Science and Mathematics. The commissioned piece, titled “25-35,” honors Cal Poly’s academic goal of encouraging students to study 25-35 hours a week.

The piece is a visual representation of the activities in an average student’s day according to the ‘Study 25-35’ principle. Each of the seven hexagonal panels represents a day of the week, and the smaller, painted hexagons symbolize the hours in a day. The forms are inspired by molecular diagrams used in chemistry, Bailey’s field of study. Just as chemical compounds can be broken down into separate elements, a student’s day can be organized into different areas of focus.

“It was such an exciting opportunity,” Teiche said. “I’m really interested in public sculpture. I took a class on it last year, and it was a cool idea and a great way to involve my education with work. This project showed me the steps involved in getting a permanent piece, while letting me take the lead in creating it.”

The piece was an opportunity for Teiche to try working in a new medium. She learned how to tig weld from a professor in the College of Science and Mathematics for the project.

“I had never been commissioned for a piece of this scale, or with this kind of budget where I could really experiment with materials and make something large scale,” Teiche said.

Teiche graduated in spring 2018 with a permanent installation piece on her resume. Teiche’s creative work is now forever fixed on the walls of the Baker Center.

“It still hasn’t sunk in,” Teiche said.

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Cal Poly Hosts First Spanish-language Civic Debate on a U.S. Campus

Jun 11, 2018

The first Spanish-language civic debate on a U.S. university campus was hosted by the Cal Poly Spanish-language Civic Debate Team March 9-11 in the Advanced Technology Lab. Titled “Los Legados de Valladolid,” which translates to “Legacies of Valladolid,” the topic argued in competition was whether the rise of nativism, an extreme form of patriotism, is a threat to universal human rights.

The inspiration for this debate was the “Junta de Valladolid,” which was the first moral debate held by a colonizing force regarding the legitimacy of colonization. The impact of colonization remains widespread to this day and still provides a forum to examine current political trends, as well as national and international policies and pervasive ideologies affecting modern global climate.

Cal Poly’s Spanish-language debate team extended an invitation to participate and address these issues in a public debate forum format to other universities. Hancock College in Santa Maria took them up on the invitation.

“I really think that civic debate marks a historic moment and responds to the changing linguistic landscape of California, as well as our Cal Poly mandate of Learn by Doing,” said Marion Hart, Cal Poly Spanish-language team coach and a lecturer in the World Languages and Cultures (WLC) Department. “It is the beginning of (fingers crossed) a long tradition.”

The event was successful in drawing an academic competition in Spanish-language debate to Cal Poly and a was learning experience for the team.

“It’s wonderful to be in an environment where everyone is so open-minded and curious about the world, willing to learn, and humble enough to accept that they don’t know everything.” said communications junior Natasha Nguyen. “We definitely hope to have more universities and colleges join us in the near future.”

A video made by Nguyen features highlights from the competition.

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Psychology Alumna Earns Top Presentation at CSU Research Competition

Jun 11, 2018

Staying dedicated to the Learn by Doing motto of Cal Poly, alumna Leah Thomas (Psychology, ’17) earned the top presentation in the undergraduate Behavioral and Social Sciences category at the CSU Research Competition for her presentation and paper, “Meta-Analysis of Internalizing Outcomes in Neurofibromatosis 1.” Held May 4-5 in Sacramento, the 32nd annual competition drew participants from all 23 campuses of the California State University system.

One in 3,000 people across the world has been diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1). Thomas’s research examines the psychological effects of internalizing emotions, such as depression and feelings of loneliness, caused by living with the disease.

“I think [the values of] dedication and patience have paid off the most,” said Thomas. “The families and the individuals [are] invited to this conference, so that they can firsthand experience and learn what researchers have been working on, and the direct communication between the people who are affected and the researchers… has been very, very special.”

Thomas started working in the NF1 lab in summer 2016 and started working on the NF1 internalizing meta analysis in winter 2017. She is especially interested in the intersection of medicine and psychology.

“Not being afraid to say ‘I can do this,’ dedicating my time to do it, and asking professors to see the process has helped. That’s what I appreciate about Cal Poly — the aspect of practical experience, whether it’s through classes or through research internships,” said Thomas.

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English Major Wins Cal Poly's American Poets Contest

May 16, 2018

English major Morgan Condict has won Cal Poly’s 2018 Academy of American Poets Contest for his poem “To an Old Coworker,” which investigates the homelessness crisis in San Francisco through a compelling, personal perspective. He will receive a $100 award from the Academy.

Judging this year’s contest, professional poet Rachel Richardson said, “‘To an Old Coworker’ delicately and vividly describes both complexity of feeling and of the world. I was moved by its compassionate observation and the precision of its details.”

Cal Poly English professor Mira Rosenthal said, “Morgan Condict’s poetry provides social critique, but always with a subtle touch and surprising point of view. His often allegorical poetry gives us powerful metaphors for some of our most pressing questions.”

First honorable mention went to English major Vanya Truong (Pacific Grove, CA) for “Diasporic,” a concise poem that deftly explores the effects of immigration. Richardson described it as “a tiny poem that accomplishes a huge feat. Not a single word is out of place or unnecessary, and the solitary metaphor resonates deeply in the empty space.”

Second honorable mention went to Jacob Lopez (Huntington Beach, CA) for his poem “Notes on Bull Creek Trail South.” Lopez’s poem, the judge said, is “gorgeously vivid in evoking its place through sound, smell, taste, and touch. I'm mesmerized by the sounds of this poem and the rich world it creates.”

Rachel Richardson, this year's judge, is the author of two collections, Copperhead (2011) and Hundred-Year Wave (2016), both in the Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series. She is the co-founder of Left Margin LIT, a literary arts center in Berkeley, California. She also directs poetry programming for the Bay Area Book Festival.

Morgan Condict
Academy of American Poets Prize
Winner—Cal Poly, San Luis

To An Old Coworker 

We were mostly voices  
to each other during the eight 
hours in which our eyes 

were fixed on work 
or peering out the breakroom
windows over Potrero Hill 

as midnight came and went. 
We traced with our bleary vision 
the signal from Sutro Tower’s 

four tiers of flashing lights 
into hotel rooms, apartments, 
the manager’s office, 

where it swelled from screens 
in a synchronous flicker 
as you said 

“just to see what it’s like” 
of your coming trip to China, 
before going and staying for good. 

I had told others at work 
the story of the tent 
pitched in the middle of a sidewalk

across from a swanky gym. 
How I’d seen it often walking to work,
but how like a nightmare it was 

when one day from within 
its tenant cursed and howled 
as if in the throes of amputation.

And how plainly the flow 
of foot traffic, tinted rotten
yellow by the wailing, 

festered in confusion before
rechanneling away 
from the noise. 

How brokers on phones maintained
businesslike tones  
with index fingers stuffed 

in their ears practically 
to the knuckle. Only to you 
did I, with regret, 

place myself  
among the flowing 

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Professor Coleen Carrigan Wins Prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Mar 29, 2018

A Cal Poly professor researching why racial and ethnic minorities and women are underrepresented in engineering and computer science careers has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation — one of NSF’s most prestigious awards.

Professor Coleen Carrigan, who teaches anthropology and classes in the science, technology and society program, will use the $571,000 CAREER award over five years to research the cultures of different subfields in engineering and computer science (ECS). She and her student research assistants will systematically compare behaviors and customs in the subfields to better understand why some are more successful than others in welcoming and retaining a more diverse workforce.

Carrigan hypothesizes that the variation is related to the value placed on the technical aspects of ECS in comparison to the value placed on the social aspects and the common bias that dominant groups are better suited for careers in the technical realms.

She will also examine attitudes regarding race and gender and assess the elements of the culture that foster or challenge inequitable power relations.

“My long-term goal is to understand how cultural values and practices allow segregation to persist in engineering and computer science,” Carrigan said. “I will use my findings to develop educational tools that help bring about institutional transformations.”

To gather data, Carrigan will attend academic conferences, conduct life history interviews with women in the different subfields, and talk with leaders at ECS learning institutions. The award also allows Carrigan to expand her “Advancing Cultural Change” research lab, in which students engage in ethnographic research that investigates many of the same subcultures at Cal Poly.

Christopher Kitts, Cal Poly’s interim dean of research, said Carrigan is the first researcher in Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts to receive the highly coveted honor.

“Coleen Carrigan’s NSF CAREER Award places Cal Poly at the leading edge of applying social science research to understanding workforce equity issues in engineering — an entirely appropriate cross-disciplinary effort at this highly collaborative university,” Kitts said.

“CAREER Awards are a recognition by the National Science Foundation, and the eminent scholars who review applications, that our early career faculty have the expertise, training and scientific insight to merit five continuous years of funding as a launch pad for their future careers in science,” Kitts added. “NSF is making an investment in the future of the nation by investing in these young scholars.”

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