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Alumna's Video Production Company Produces Viral Video with Important Message

Feb 23, 2018

Brownieland Pictures was started more than 10 years ago by Robyn Kranz (Journalism, ’90) and her partner Randy Frostig with the goal of giving back to their community through video production.

Based in Atlanta, Brownieland Pictures works with nonprofit clients specializing in healthcare, education and community. Clients include Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Tech School of Industrial Design, and Atlanta Women's Foundation, to name a few. The company strives to share its clients’ stories and encourage people to give back and become philanthropically involved.

Videos from Brownieland Pictures have recently garnered nation-wide notoriety – “The Promise” for Rollins Center for Language and Literacy was shared at the White House Conference on Education and “Every Opportunity” for Atlanta Speech School went viral last year. “Every Opportunity” was created to show teachers and parents how systematically ignoring children and not hearing their voices can have disastrous effects. “It was a universal message that we really felt reached so many people and that was part of its success,” said Kranz. The video has over 1.5 million views and counting.

Following graduation from Cal Poly, Kranz worked as a promotions producer and community affairs director for local NBC affiliate KSBY, which she says planted the seed for giving back through her career.

“Cal Poly's Learn by Doing philosophy has really influenced my work,” said Kranz. “It resonates so much when you are hands-on in any environment, and in the nonprofit world, really learning about what an organization stands for and the work it does can only truly be done by volunteering with that organization.”

Kranz has brought that Learn by Doing approach to her work at Brownieland Pictures. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Brownieland Pictures launched the #10in10 Volunteer Campaign. The team volunteered with a different nonprofit each month for ten months. On Dec. 8, 2017, one of the nonprofits was randomly selected to receive a free one-minute video. The lucky winner was Literacy Action, the Southeast’s oldest and largest nonprofit of adult literacy.

Inspired by their time volunteering through the #10in10 campaign, the team at Brownieland Pictures is continuing to volunteer at different non-profits each month and sharing the experiences on social media with #StoriesfortheGreaterGood.

Brownieland Pictures is interested in expanding its reach into the southeast and hopefully beyond, including in San Luis Obispo County. “San Luis Obispo is the place I consider home, and I still have ties there with family and friends,” said Kranz. “Coming back would truly be coming home.”


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Cal Poly Students Honored by Lawmakers at State Capitol

Feb 15, 2018

Nineteen Cal Poly students, including five from the College of Liberal Arts, were recognized for their awards and other accomplishments by state lawmakers on the floors of the state Assembly and Senate in Sacramento on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.

The five students from the College of Liberal Arts were:

Cara Benson
Cara Benson is a senior journalism major from Folsom, California. As part of Mustang News, her team won nine first place wards from the Associated College Press and the California Media Association at the Midwinter National College Media Convention. 




Jeremiah Hernandez
Ethnic Studies & Sociology
Jeremiah Hernandez is a senior transfer student from Santa Maria, California. He is majoring in ethnic studies and sociology. Hernandez was individually awarded as the Michael A. and Debe Lucki Scholar at the 2017 CSU Trustee's Awards for Outstanding Achievement.  




Colton Marino
Political Science
Colton Marino is a senior political science major from Lincoln, California and a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Marino and his team won the Best in the West Jellison Award-Interfraternity Council at the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values Conference. 




Mayra Mejia
Graphic Communication
Mayra Mejia is a recent Cal Poly graduate (Graphic Communication, '17). She and her team won the Helmut Kipphan Cup Grand Prize at the Technical Association of Graphic Arts Annual Technical Conference.  




Bianka Pantoja
Bianka Pantoja is a junior journalism major from Arvin, California. As a part of Mustang News, Pantoja and her team won five first-place awards and the College Media Design Program of the Year at the College Media Business and Advertising Managers Annual Contest.  



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Professor's Photos Capture 365 Days of Bishop Peak

Feb 7, 2018

Graphic communication professor Brian Lawler captured 365 days of Bishop Peak in a photo series inspired by his daily bicycle commute. 

The display, permanently housed in the Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics (No. 180), was revealed Jan. 23 during an evening reception.

Photos were taken every five minutes, every day for a year by Canon digital camera secured atop Kennedy Library. The camera was protected by a weatherproof box and powered by three solar panels and two motorcycle batteries.

Lawler then selected the best image from each day to feature in the series. The images were printed on aluminum panes, creating a display that measures 22 feet wide and 6 feet tall.


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CLA Associate Dean for Diversity and Curriculum Featured in Cal Poly Magazine's "My 2017"

Jan 25, 2018

Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, associate dean for diversity and curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) talked with psychology senior and CLA Student Diversity Committee member Marcos Ramirez-Santos about diversity initiatives that are shaping campus. The video originally appeared in the winter 2018 issue of Cal Poly Magazine

Teramoto Pedrotti also wrote a letter for the magazine's "My 2017" feature, which included Cal Poly students, faculty and alumni sharing how the year challenged them — and changed their lives for good.

Dear 2017,

As you began in January, I was also at a new beginning in my position as Associate Dean for Diversity and Curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA). It was not a quiet beginning for either of us. In the end of that first month, the college was getting ready to help plan a university-wide gathering with a goal to Unite Cal Poly. This was a daunting task for a new year and pressures were high. Coal starts out as only fuel, but with pressure can be transformed into diamonds, and as we moved through that first month, the pressures at hand began to create beauty in our university as well.

My new position gave me a different vantage point from which to look at our campus as a whole, and I saw many challenges ahead for us. But challenge brings with it an opportunity for growth, and this could be seen from this new view as well. As the month went on, students came together to work on Unite Cal Poly, new relationships between organizations were created. Professors came out of their classrooms for the Teach-In and brought with them a wealth of information about race, gender, immigration and hope for our future with regard to diversity and inclusion. The beauty spread, as the campus came together and united in your first month.

Throughout the rest of your year, we saw other changes, other areas of growth. New learning communities formed. We made plans for new hires in many departments. In the CLA we were hard at work, interviewing applicants for our cluster hire focused on diversifying our curriculum. Multiple presentations were made by these candidates, ranging in topics from Ethnic Literature to Queer Theory to Racial Identity Development in Children. Participants at the UndocuAlly trainings swelled in numbers, and real plans for our Dream Center began to form. Record numbers of students signed up for Intergroup Dialogues and other multicultural opportunities in our Cross-Cultural Centers, large numbers of faculty and staff participated in the Teach-In’s follow up, Teach On, and almost everywhere on campus you could hear the echoes of conversations about love, empathy and respect.

When we came back in fall, it felt as if a shift had occurred on this campus. Welcoming our first Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion seemed like turning a corner for our campus climate. Not the last corner, for there is still much work to be done. But a new life was breathed into our hopes for a truly inclusive campus, and things felt different for many of us.

2017, you will go down in our Mustang history as a difficult year in many ways. One filled with rain at times, and even mudslides, but you will also be remembered as a year that we had in important choice to make: Would we choose to break apart because of these pressures or pull together and unite into something stronger? As a campus, we made the right choice in 2017. But that choice will face us again and we can only hope that the lessons you taught us this year will help us to move in positive directions as we move forward on our journey.


Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti
Associate Dean for Diversity and Curriculum, College of Liberal Arts





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Communication Studies Senior Conducts Research with Carnegie Mellon University

Jan 11, 2018

Communication studies senior Allie Blaising was one of 20 students in the U.S. selected as research intern in the Human Computer Interaction lab at Carnegie Mellon University last summer. She worked alongside a doctoral student and a faculty advisor to conduct qualitative research on the intersection between psychology and human computer interaction.

Blaising had been looking for an opportunity to conduct research to prepare her for graduate school, and communication studies professor David Askay suggested she apply for the program.

“I’m interested in where technology intersects with the social sciences,” said Blaising. “It felt like a perfect fit.”

As the only liberal arts major in the program, surrounded by STEM researchers, Blaising felt out of place. At first, the difference between her communications background and her colleagues’ STEM background seemed daunting. She soon learned, however, that this difference made her an asset to the lab.

“The internship taught me the importance of embracing the ambiguity of my liberal arts classes. I used to be constantly searching for a right or wrong answer in my work. But over the summer, I found that one of my greatest assets according to my research advisor was that I was able to navigate the ambiguity of a complex problem on my own,” said Blaising.

As the only communications major in the internship program, graduate students often called on Blaising for advice on ways to move forward with a project from a liberal arts perspective. Her understanding of how groups function and how organizations work was valuable to the research team.

Askay wasn’t surprised to hear this. “Elite institutions in computer science and engineering value liberal arts. Carnegie Mellon selected her because of that,” said Askay. “Carnegie Mellon is in the forefront of engineering and computer science, and they understand that there’s a meshing of liberal arts and communication psychology that is a part of technological systems.”

According to Askay, the interdisciplinary collaboration allowed for research that was useful across many fields in human computer interaction. “They found some great insights that benefitted both disciplines. I see that model as something that should be emulated and praised. Some of the greatest research and innovations come through these diverse collaborations,” he said.

For Blaising, the experience gave her a better idea of how her education will apply to her future research and career endeavors.

“It’s interesting now to see how what I’m learning in my courses applies to my future. It’s easier now to study and solidify what I’m learning, because I understand how it’s going to be applied in the real world,” said Blaising. “Understanding the purpose has given me a big picture perspective and purpose in my work. It’s taught me that the skills we learn here really are going to apply to the future.”

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History Alumnus Recognized on The Ellen Show for Work as Teacher

Dec 14, 2017

Wyatt Oroke (History, ’13) was recognized on The Ellen Show for his dedication as an eighth grade humanities teacher at City Springs Elementary and Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland.

In just five years of teaching in Baltimore, Maryland, this middle school teacher has already left his mark on the city.

“There have been neighborhoods in Baltimore that have been under-resourced and underserved for centuries based on political decisions, be it segregated housing or redlining certain neighborhoods,” said Oroke. “Our students come from the highest poverty rates out of any school in Baltimore City.”

In the classroom, Oroke has seen the effects of homelessness, gun violence, and poverty on many of his students. He aims to show empathy and find different ways to interact and connect with students.

How it all began

As a student at Cal Poly, Oroke’s senior project was a critique of Teach For America, a national corps of teachers who teach in low-income areas, aiming to provide students opportunities similar to students living and learning in more affluent areas. His research on the program led him to apply upon graduating.

“It seemed like a program that aligned with my overall values and my belief in equal access to educational opportunities,” said Oroke.

When Oroke looked over Teach For America’s regions, he noticed that Baltimore had the highest turnover rate for teachers consistently. There was a teacher shortage in the area.

“I decided that if I was going to do the work and wanted to be a teacher, I might as well go somewhere that needed teachers. So, I ended up in Baltimore,” said Oroke.

City Springs is a community charter school, meaning that Oroke is able to write his own curriculum as opposed to following the city-scripted curriculum. This is one of his many passions in the teaching field.

Oroke said his professors at Cal Poly inspired him in his teaching career.

“The history department is unbelievable and brilliant, and I didn’t have a single class I didn’t enjoy,” said Oroke. “Every professor that I interacted with showed me a different side of the world that I didn’t have exposure to beforehand. It really helped shape the way I viewed the world and the people in it.”

In addition, Oroke’s work as a Resident Advisor for Trinity Hall and Sequoia Hall taught him valuable lessons about lending a helping hand.

“Being able to work in a mentorship capacity helped me better understand how to help others and what that help can and should look like. I think that really prepared me to be a teacher,” said Oroke. “All 120 students are very different people, just like all 300 residents were very different people. The support they needed looked very different.”

Meeting challenges with advocacy

Teaching middle school can be a challenge regardless of the school, but Oroke, known as Mr. O by his students, also sees the challenges his students face in their neighborhood.

As a Women and Gender Studies minor at Cal Poly, Oroke learned how to combat injustice with advocacy. Oroke’s students may not have equal access to resources, but that does not stop him from finding ways to better support his students.

Oroke said that throughout his education, he explored and studied statistics that reflected the inequities that burden marginalized groups in the U.S. He said these statistics were often negative about communities around the world, including his community in Baltimore.

“I have slowly realized that I have a lot of those statistics in my hands now. It’s my responsibility to control how those statistics go and what they look like — like the statistic of how many students go from 8th grade to 9th grade. That’s my responsibility. How many students are on reading level in my community, that’s part of my responsibility. How many individuals end up heading to college or having high-paying jobs or being successful... A lot of those are in my hands now. I feel my role as an educator is to impact those statistics in a way that betters our community and really change those statistics to give our community a better outlook.”

His advocacy has led to the start of Gay Straight Alliance at one of his former middle schools, a new teacher mentorship program at Teach For America, and teacher representation on the board of GLSEN Maryland.

Oroke hopes to continue his advocacy and inspire his students to do the same. His students’ advocacy led to a successful fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey victims, which garnered attention from the media.

The Ellen appearance

When Oroke introduced a lesson in class surrounding Hurricane Harvey, his students were eager to help. The students wanted to hold a fundraiser for victims of the recent disaster in Texas.

“We often avoid fundraisers because that’s not the way our community shows their love. They show it in different ways. But, the students wanted to, because we had done lessons around Hurricane Harvey,” said Oroke.

So, the students set a goal of $500.

Despite coming from low-income neighborhoods, the students doubled their goal, raising over $1,000 for hurricane victims. This caught the attention of local news stations and the city councilman.

Soon enough, the total reached $3,000. After a viral tweet from New York Times reporter Erica L. Green celebrated the students’ accomplishment, Ellen Degeneres caught wind of the fundraiser at City Springs. Oroke was featured on The Ellen Show shortly after.

“A lot of people ask if it was fun to be on the show. I would say it was stressful to be on the show. I felt the weight of my community on me in that moment. I knew I was not just representing myself when I was up there. I was representing all 120 of my kids, all 700 kids at City Springs, all 87,000 students in Baltimore city, and all 600,000 residents in Baltimore. So, I really felt a lot of pressure to make sure what I said in that moment was representative of the entire community I’ve had the opportunity to work with. I have watched that tape about a million times at this point. I felt like I am sitting here, but really, it should be the kids sitting here. While I was humbled and honored to be there representing my community, I also knew it was the students who got me to that place.

“My community has given me a pretty positive response, and it makes me feel good that I tried to represent their voices well,” said Oroke.

Degeneres gave City Springs a gift of $25,000 to go toward resources for the school. Though plans for the money have not yet been finalized, Oroke, along with other teachers at City Springs, asked each class what they would like to see the money go toward. Oroke said common answers were greater access to field trips, books, and athletic equipment.

“Since I was on the show, I’ve gotten thousands of messages and phone calls and emails, some from people I don’t know, and some from people I do. There was one message in particular that I got the day after I was on the show. It was a student I had last year named Nyshae. She goes to Western High School in Baltimore — one of our top high schools, an all-girls school in the city. She messaged me, and it had nothing to do with Ellen. All it said was, ‘I just wanted you to know that my English teacher this year says I’m one of the strongest writers in the class, and all of us who went to City Springs are the top writers in the school. So I wanted to thank you for teaching us how to write so well last year.’

“That was the best message I got because it was like my job had found success. I’m allowing the students to find success in my classroom, which is translating as they leave. The hard thing about being an 8th grade teacher is that you see your kids for a year and then they’re gone. And here, they go to tons of different high schools across the city. So it’s hard to keep track of them and know how they’re all doing. It’s hard to know if the lessons in your room are paying off. So, knowing that, in her eyes that the lesson has paid off, it’s made her a stronger writer, it’s giving her greater access to stronger classes, allowing her to be on track to take honors and AP courses, which will allow her to be on track to go to college… All of those things have a big ripple effect. So, to see that I at least have a small part of that has been really cool for me.”

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KCPR is No. 1

Dec 14, 2017

Cal Poly’s student-run radio station 91.3 KCPR has taken the number one spot on the Great Value Colleges list of 30 Amazing College Radio Stations of 2017-18. Great Value Colleges is a website dedicated to helping students make decisions about college education.

“We have a really great group of hardworking different individuals at KCPR,” said General Manager and fourth-year journalism student Brian Robins. “We use our differences and our strengths, which I think is unique to our organization. Being surrounded by people who share the same love of music is powerful.”

The list of rankings was released in September and also features college radio stations such as Georgetown University and UC Berkeley. According to Great Value College, Cal Poly took the top spot on the list based on their dedication to university students and culture.

“The mission statement of KCPR is ‘where different matters’ and we really embody this as a brand across all platforms,” said KCPR Faculty Advisor Keli Moore. “We’re developing our news and podcasts. We are going to start working with the PR students to get more brand awareness. There’s a lot of opportunity out there and we should be using every part of our team that we can.”

KCPR has been making waves on Cal Poly’s campus for almost 50 years, and has since grown to stream 24 hours a day from station headquarters in the journalism building. A number of structural and management changes within the last ten years have further integrated the station into the Journalism Department curriculum so that KCPR is now part of Mustang Media Group, Cal Poly’s full circle media organization. The Mustang Media Group includes a weekly print newspaper, a news website, a weekly TV broadcast and a business department which markets to the community and manages advertisement sales.

“Our programming has moved to appeal to a larger demographic on the Cal Poly campus,” said Robins. “We’ve really pushed new music in the last three years, and we’ve gotten a lot more structure as an organization. The structure helps preserve the college radio aspect,” he added. “We have a good working relationship with Mustang News, which allows us to have breaking news and be connected to the Journalism Department.”

“What makes KCPR unique is that we’re not just radio,” said fourth year economics major Jesse Hynes, a DJ, online music streaming director, and content team member. “We’re multimedia. We have a website and social media and are present on many different platforms.”

For more music from KCPR, listen live on their website and follow their weekly playlists on Spotify.

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Cal Poly English and Agriculture Professors Win USDA Grant

Dec 13, 2017

Yiwen Chiu, a professor in Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, and Cal Poly English Professor Jason Peters have been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Chiu and Peters will receive approximately $140,000 over three years to pilot an undergraduate curriculum that combines environmental science and rhetoric. One goal of the new curriculum is to teach students how to best communicate about sustainable agriculture.

“Creating sustainable agriculture requires scientific skills like quantitative analysis, sure, but it also requires students to learn to talk to a range of stakeholders in all sorts of situations to get people working together in innovative ways based on what the science is telling us,” said Peters. “And that’s where environmental rhetoric and communication comes in. With the program Yiwen and I are designing, students will learn how to get legislators, farmers, environmental scientists, citizens, and consumers all on the same page and collaborating to make the science of sustainability work.”

The curriculum will consist of required courses in environmental life-cycle analysis combined with courses in public rhetoric and environmental communication. The project is a partnership between professors and researchers in the two academic departments and the University Writing and Rhetoric Center at Cal Poly.

The grants are funded through NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program, which aims to help higher education institutions teach the next generation of food and agricultural science professionals. HEC also seeks to improve local economies by supporting the development of degree programs that respond to emerging employment opportunities.

Chiu and Peters will design and implement the pilot curriculum over the next three years. They plan to publish the results of the collaboration.

“We’ve learned so much from other scholars and teachers working across traditional disciplinary lines on these issues all around the world, and we hope to be able to contribute what we learn from doing this work at Cal Poly,” said Peters.

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Modern Languages and Literatures Department Gets New Name

Nov 15, 2017

The Modern Languages and Literatures Department has a new name – World Languages and Cultures.

In fall 2017, the department officially changed its name to World Languages and Cultures to adapt to current changes and trends among language departments in universities across the country.

According to Department Chair Dr. John Thompson, the department’s name change has not changed the major’s curriculum. 

“Modern languages and literatures reflects what we do because we believe in teaching literature, but we believe that literature is a part of culture,” said Thompson.

The department will continue to teach literature as an aspect of culture, but the department’s former name did not encompass every aspect of culture the department aims to teach.

“We changed the name so it would be broader,” said Thompson. “We want to be more inclusive by including all aspects of culture in the name.”

In addition to the name change, the department also created a new opportunity for bilingual students. The department partnered with the Cal Poly School of Education to develop a new single-subject teaching credential for bilingual students.

Dr. Silvia Marijuan, world languages and cultures professor, helped develop the credential so students would have the opportunity to teach another language in schools.

“When I came to Cal Poly, I thought we needed to create more opportunities for the students and for the world languages and cultures majors,” said Marijuan. “This will help the Latino community on campus because they are bilingual, and they have a lot of linguistic skills.”

Currently, two students are enrolled in the language single-subject credential program. Both students are postgraduate Spanish speakers hoping to pursue a career teaching Spanish.

“It’s becoming more commonplace for people to learn another language because they think it’ll benefit them later to be bilingual,” said Jasmine Elliot, who is currently enrolled in the credential program. “Especially here in California, where a high percentage of our population speaks Spanish, if not some other language. More and more people are taking Spanish in high school, making it a high-need field.”

Students of the single-subject credential work with teachers at Morro Bay High School and San Luis Obispo High School and learn how to teach the language firsthand — yet another way students are practicing Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Marijuan. “We are happy to create new programs and also help the students.”

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CLA Honored Alumni 2017

Nov 13, 2017

2017 College of Liberal Arts Honored Alumnus - Chris Trapani

About Christopher Trapani

Christopher Trapani graduated in 1990 with a degree in political science. He is the founder and CEO of Sereno Group, a residential real estate company generating more than $3 billion in sales annually. Sereno Group was named the “Best Place to Work” by the Bay Area News Group for eight consecutive years from 2009-2016. Trapani is committed to the environment and community development through philanthropy. He created Sereno Group’s 1% For Good program, through which one percent of gross commissions are automatically donated to local charities, resulting in nearly $500,000 in donations annually. For the company’s philanthropic work, Sereno Group was recently honored as one of the top 50 corporate givers in the Bay Area by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Trapani is a member of the Cal Poly President’s Council of Advisors and is playing a lead role in raising funds for space for the Expressive Technology Studios in the new Science and Agriculture Research and Teaching Complex scheduled to open on campus in 2021. Trapani’s wife Kirsten is a Cal Poly alumna and two of their children, Gabi and AJ, are currently Cal Poly students.

Other 2017 Cal Poly Honored Alumni from CLA 

Two other 2017 Cal Poly Honored Alumni are also graduates from the College of Liberal Arts! 


Steve S. Jones
B.A., Political Science, 1992
CEO, Allied Universal

CPAA - Distinguished Service Award

Kelley Bannon Lashley
B.A., Political Science, 1995
Partner Calleton, Merritt, De Francisco & Bannon LLP

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