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Ethnic Studies and Sociology Student Receives CSU Trustees’ Award

Oct 9, 2017

A Cal Poly ethnic studies and sociology student from Santa Maria has received the 2017 California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.

The Outstanding Achievement Awards are presented annually to one student from each of the CSU system’s 23 campuses. Jeremiah Hernandez, 29, like his counterparts throughout the state, was selected for superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need. As part of the recognition, he will receive a $6,000 scholarship as the state’s Michael A. and Debe Lucki Scholar.

“I’m honored and humbled,” Hernandez said. “Recognition is not something that I’m particularly fond of. What is more exciting for me is seeing the possibility of being another positive example for my community of Santa Maria.”

That dedication influenced ethnic studies Professor Jenell Navarro to recommend him for the statewide award.

“Jeremiah stands out among the hundreds of students who come through my classes,” she said. “He is an insightful and critical thinker, and he is keenly aware of the importance of experiential knowledge in the academy and the world.”

Hernandez took two courses with Navarro after transferring to Cal Poly last fall. He also works as one of her teaching assistants.

“He is willing to speak up on behalf of underrepresented students and ensure their voices are not pushed to the periphery or represented inaccurately,” Navarro said. “He is a young scholar in his own right who wields his knowledge with purpose and intent to correct social ills.”

The product of a working-class family, Hernandez understands that attending college is an important goal. However, life’s realities — earning a living, getting married and divorced, overcoming health challenges, and being a single father to daughter Savannah — kept him from reaching that goal for many years. Wanting to be a positive example to his daughter, the 2006 Santa Maria High graduate returned to Hancock College in 2012 after several academic false starts — this time more determined than ever.

He became a full-time student in 2014 and worked to raise his GPA from 0.4 to 3.78. The perseverance paid off. Based on his grades, leadership and community service, he was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa 2016 All-California Community College Academic First Team. Only 30 students in the state receive the recognition out of the more than 2.4 million enrolled in California’s 113 community colleges.

Hernandez graduated with an associate degree in liberal arts: social and behavioral sciences and was accepted at three CSU campuses.

“I chose Cal Poly for two reasons: my daughter and being close to our family; and so I could stay involved with the community of Santa Maria,” he said.

Overcoming struggles to succeed in school has inspired him to give back.

“My goal is to work in an educational field, particularly with underprivileged/underserved groups,” he said. “I’ve always kept an eye on being an academic counselor, and I’m planning on completing the single-subject credential program for teaching at a high school in Santa Maria. Ultimately, I’m planning on pursuing a doctorate so I’ll be able to work with students at both the high school and college levels, particularly to help bridge the gap between ‘underachieving’ schools and higher education.”

Navarro said Hernandez’s “life experiences” will benefit others.

“He is an incredibly hard-working student, parent and community member who is deeply invested in changing the educational system so that education becomes a project of freedom for all members of society,” she said. “I believe he will do significant work with his degree, and he will continue to lift up first-generation students of color who need to see themselves represented in institutions of higher education.”


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College of Liberal Arts Recognizes Outstanding Seniors

Jul 7, 2017

Each year, the College of Liberal Arts, its departments and the university recognize outstanding students for their academic performance and contributions beyond the classroom. The students were recognized with certificates of achievement at the 2017 College of Liberal Arts student award ceremony Friday, June 16. 


  Student Award
Habib Placencia Adissi Contributions to the Objectives & Public Image of the University
Camille Lethcoe Contributions to the Objectives & Public Image of the College
Nicole Hayashida Contributions to the Objectives & Public Image of the College
Caroline Rein Service to the Community
Emma Annabelle Welden Academic Excellence


  Student Graduate Program
Shonna Davis English MA 
Crystal Smith-Knighton History MA
Jessica Gates Psychology MA
Nicole Angelini Masters of Public Policy (MPP)                       


  Student Major
Stacy Olson Anthropology and Geography
Habib Placencia Adissi Art and Design
Anna Kei Black-Hogins Child Development
Erica Claybrook Comparative Ethnic Studies
Laura Parker English
Lindsay Mitchell Graphic Communication
Benjamin Aster History
Leah Pezzetti Horner Journalism
Jasmine Elliott Modern Languages and Literatures
Carolyn Tingzon Philosophy
Luana Mello Political Science
Kaylene Lindsey Co Psychology
Jennifer MacMartin Sociology
Antonio Mata Theatre Arts


  Student Department Award
Kate Meissner Art and Design Excellence in Original Work
Sabrina Orro Theatre and Dance Excellence in Original Adaptation
Antonio Mata Theater and Dance Service to the Arts


The CLA Club Council presented three achievement awards for the 2016-17 academic year.

  • Student of the Year: Nicole Hayashida (Sociology)
  • Club of the Year: Communication Studies Club
  • Professor of the Year: Kelly Bennion (Psychology and Child Development)


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English Faculty Member Earns 2017 Learn by Doing Scholar Award

Jul 7, 2017

Catherine Waitinas, an associate professor in the English Department, earned the 2017 Learn by Doing Scholar Award.

Administered by Kennedy Library and a cross-college faculty committee, this award recognizes outstanding scholarship within Cal Poly’s signature Learn by Doing pedagogy.

Waitinas received $1,000 for her in-progress research, “Flipping Whitman: Collaborative Learn by Doing in the (Digital) Humanities.” Her work explores how digital manuscripts give students unique historical insights into Walt Whitman’s writing, comparing manuscripts with published poems.

The unification of digital humanities with hands-on literary study has already received praise from the Modern Language Association and promises to expand applications for other new instruction methods.

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Alumni Update Spring 2017

Jul 7, 2017

From new jobs to writing awards, read about what several CLA alumni have been up to recently.

  • Ann Neumann (English, '80) won the 2017 Ingrid Reti Literary Award for her essay that addresses a sense of natural and/or cultural place.

  • Tracy Ruiz (English, ’95) was featured in an article by The Reporter for receiving the Vacaville Unified School District Teacher of the Year award.

  • Ephraim Scott Sommers (English and Political Science, '06) published a new book of poems called “The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire,” which won the 2016 Patricia Bibby First Book Award from Tebot Bach Press.

  • Cory Morgan (History, ’03) was featured in an article in The Santa Clara Weekly for his position as a SCPD sergeant.

  • Silas Lyons (Journalism, ’96) was mentioned in a Record Searchlight article about his promotion to regional editing role in North Central California, leading the Record Searchlight as well as the Salinas Californian, Visalia Times-Delta, and Tulare Advance-Register.
  • Michelle Van Der Linden (Journalism, ’94) has been appointed the new spokesperson for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. An article in The Voice of OC covers the story.
  • Mike Annuzzi (Music, '09) is a Silicon Valley-based music professional, who visits the Central Coast regularly. He was a featured artist at the 2017 NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention at the Anaheim Convention Center.
  • Rose Doylemason (Music, ’16) is in the Wind Ensemble, Philharmonia and Brass Ensembles at UCLA while studying for her Masters in bass trombone performance. She will also be teaching two sections of "African American Music of the 60's: Motown."

  • Alexis Rubell (Music, ’16) accepted a full-time choir position at Edgewood Middle/High School in West Covina.

  • Corrie Stallings (Music, ’09) won first prize ($10K) in the Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition and third place in the 2017 Giulio Gari Foundation International Vocal Competition that was held in New York.
  • Christina Lefevre Latner (MPP, '14) presented her paper, “Varieties of feminism in elections: The case of California,” at the 2017 Western Political Science Association conference in Vancouver, BC.
  • Katie Hoselton (Political Science, '14) is graduated this spring with her MA in International Economics and International Law from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) program.

  • Carlos Villacis (Political Science, '14) is now a federal contractor for the Department of Energy's Technologies Office in Washington, D.C. He graduated with his MA from George Washington in 2016.

  • Mitchell Haniger (Social Sciences, ’12) was featured in an article by Fan Rag Sports Network on his baseball career.
  • Kimberlee Vandenburg (Theatre, ’16) was accepted into Ohio University’s MFA Production Design & Technology program.


To be featured in the next Alumni Update section of The Link, email CLA Online Communication Specialist Krista Smith at with news you'd like to share. 

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Art and Design Students Help Cal Poly Sweep Awards at Packaging Competition

Jul 5, 2017

For the second consecutive year, four teams of Cal Poly students took first-, second- and third-place awards and an honorable mention in the 2017 Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) Ameristar Student Packaging Competition.

Interdisciplinary teams combined industrial technology and packaging students with art and design students to create packaging solutions for a variety of consumer needs. Each team developed a physical prototype of their product complete with branded graphics.

Industry experts judged entries on environmental impact, marketing, product protection and economics. Award-winning teams will be honored at the PackExpo industry conference in November. Top entries will also represent the United States in a global design competition, the WorldStar Student Awards, hosted by the World Packaging Organisation.

Organizers called these honorees “tomorrow’s packaging leaders.”

Cal Poly’s first-place award was given to “Tea Stems,” a convenient alternative to tea bags. The tea stem is a cylindrical wooden dowel attached to a polymer mesh material filled with tea leaves functioning as a tea bag and stirring stick. The stems are packaged within a die-cut paperboard folding carton that “blooms” when the box is opened. The package was designed by industrial technology and packaging students Brendan Smyth (San Jose, Calif.), Simeon Comanescu (Pleasanton, Calif.) and Ryan Marrs (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), and art and design students Alexandra Rosado (San Francisco, Calif.) and Lucia Astiazaran (Valencia, Calif.).

Second place went to SticKit, a two-in-one packaging system that dispenses insulin syringes and safely houses used syringes. A pull tab on the bottom of the secondary container dispenses a boxed syringe while a flap on the top of the container can be opened and locked for safe syringe disposal. A durable plastic divider separates the compartments, moving down with gravity as syringes are dispensed. The entry was designed by industrial technology and packaging students Paul Woodman (Atascadero, Calif.) and Michael Lowe (Pleasanton, Calif.), graphic communications student Dana Shell (San Ramon, Calif.), and art and design students Gina Agapito (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Ashley Vong (San Jose, Calif.).

Vera Cruz Surf Wax earned the third-place award. The packaging integrates a wax comb, a protective shell to minimize sun exposure of the wax and a discrete compartment to store the user’s car keys. The design is made of injection-molded compostable PaperFoam. Its unique triangular shape offers an ergonomic grip. The dispensing mechanism was inspired by ChapStick packaging, which can contain and reshape a melted product. The package was designed by industrial technology and packaging students Brooke Billmeyer (Solana Beach, Calif.), Grant Badstubner (Danville, Calif.), and Sai Domanico (Hillsborough, Calif) with art and design students Daniel Blenkinship (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Zach Baker (Rocklin, Calif.).

La Habra Avocado oil earned an honorable mention. The oil is housed in a recyclable plastic pouch encased by two paper pulp shells molded in the shape of an avocado. A pour spout with a drip return prevents the oil from spilling on the package. The product was designed by industrial technology and packaging students Katie Exum (Torrance, Calif.), Michael Moorehead (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and Patrick McCaffrey (Irvine, Calif.), and art and design students Jessica Ferguson (San Jose, Calif.) and Deric Shindledecker (Temecula, Calif.).

The student projects were developed in Professor Javier de la Fuente’s IT 435: Packaging Development class and Professor Mary LaPorte’s ART 437: Graphic Design III class. De la Fuente and LaPorte served as student advisors.

For more information about this year’s teams, visit IoPP’s website at

Story above originally appeared on the Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business website:

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Cal Poly Debate Team is One of the Top-ranked Teams in the Nation

Jun 28, 2017

For the fourth consecutive year, the Cal Poly Debate Team is one of the top-ranked teams in the nation. History students Salar Malik from San Ramon, Calif. and Ryan Hund from San Diego, Calif. finished as octofinalists at the US Universities Debate Championship (USUDC) April 15-17 at the University of Denver.

John Patrick, communication studies lecturer and the assistant debate team director said, “The whole team put in a ton of work to prepare for this elite tournament, and the students who sparred with Malik and Hund did a great job of contributing to this success.”

Out of 220 teams at USUDC, only 32 advance beyond the preliminary rounds. Cal Poly finished the prelims as the 15th seed, outperforming many teams from private and Ivy League schools. Going into the championship round, Cal Poly was in the top three of only five public schools that are in a five-year ranking.

“I cannot stress enough how rare it is for public institutions to perform at the level our students have for the past four years,” Patrick said. “This success cements the Cal Poly Debate Team's status as an elite debating institution in the British Parliamentary format, upholding a tradition of debating excellence that has lasted for more than a century.”

Back in January, the Cal Poly Debate Team placed as finalists at the Steeltown Invitational hosted by Los Medanos College, before competing at the 10th Annual Pan-Pacific Championships Feb. 24-26 in Hawai’i where they placed as semi-finalists. From there, Cal Poly moved on to compete at USUDC.

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Donation Funds HD Upgrade to Student-Run TV Studio at Cal Poly

Jun 27, 2017

Thanks to a $100,000 donation to the Journalism Department from Bill and Cheryl Swanson, the university’s student-run television studio has been outfitted with the latest cameras, switchers and other equipment, allowing students to broadcast in high definition.

“We chose to make this donation because we believe in Learn by Doing, and Cal Poly students deserve the best,” said Bill Swanson, chairman of Cal Poly’s Foundation Board and retired chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Raytheon Company. The total cost of the renovations will be about $125,000. The remodeled, state-of-the-art facility was ready for students to use in spring quarter, in early April.

A formal dedication of the new facility, named the Bill and Cheryl Swanson Broadcast Studio, took place Friday, May 5. Maintained by the Journalism Department and the College of Liberal Arts, the studio is a broadcast laboratory where students produce a live 30-minute weekly newscast, a weekly sports show, and numerous talk and interview shows.

Cal Poly alumnus Bill Swanson learned of the need for an upgraded studio at last year’s Evening of Green and Gold, the university’s annual donor recognition event. When he stopped by the booth for the student-run media group, Mustang News, graduating journalism senior Leah Horner explained the potential benefits for students. Bill Swanson invited Horner to make a presentation at the upcoming Foundation Board meeting. After the presentation, the Swansons offered to fund the studio upgrade.

Article Originally Appeared in the 2017 Journalism Department Newsletter:

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Psychology Student is Cal Poly Great Grad from CLA

Jun 20, 2017

Each June, Cal Poly says goodbye to thousands of graduates who are ready to dive into careers or continue on to graduate studies and address the world’s problems with innovation, technical savvy and confidence earned through their Learn by Doing education.

Each of this year’s roughly 4,500 graduates (one of the largest classes in Cal Poly history) have a unique story of success and perseverance along with thoughts on how their university experience has shaped them as they ready to make their way in the world. Meet the outstanding student from the College of Liberal Arts, Cameron Andrews (Psychology, '17):

A 2013 Paso Robles High School graduate, Cameron Andrews found Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy to be a “tremendous catalyst” as he pursued a psychology degree. “It gave me hands-on experience into what it would be like in the workforce,” said the 21-year-old, “and a better understanding of the things I would like to do in the future.

“Cal Poly impacted me in a way that all colleges should. It helped me grow, mature and expand my perspective. The past four years really has shown me who I am, what I love and where I want to grow.”

Andrews plans to pursue a doctorate in psychology at the University of Michigan. But first he will head to Alaska through the AmeriCorps program.

“I will be working with veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and the homeless population to help to integrate them into society,” he said.

Andrews, who competed on the track team, recalls his pride at representing Cal Poly and “what it means to be a Mustang — our tenacity, spirit and pride.” He was hampered by injuries that affected his development in the long jump and triple jump. A hamstring injury closed the door on his track career, but it did not end his days as an athlete, as Andrews began training to be a weightlifter. 

“Whatever technical skills I lacked as a track and field athlete, I made up with raw strength,” said the 5-foot-9 Andrews. “Pound for pound, I was the strongest person on the [weightlifting] team. I'd give some of the guys who weighed 100 pounds more than me a solid run for their money and in certain lifts beating them. I remember when everyone’s jaws dropped; me — a 155-pound dude — was squatting 405 pounds five times, for sets of five.”

His coach is training him to become an Olympic weightlifter. “He believes I can become an Olympian and that I have what it takes to compete in the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020,” he said. “I believe that I can do it.”

Story above originally appeared as part of a Cal Poly News article:

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Three Top Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus Scorers are from CLA

Jun 20, 2017

200 Cal Poly seniors took part in the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, which assesses a sample of outgoing seniors on their critical thinking and written communication skills. Three of the top four on-campus scorers were students from the College of Liberal Arts.

Tristan Noack, philosophy, came in second; Malamatenia Wilson, English, in third; and Christian Harris, psychology, in fourth. An architectural engineering student came in first place.

Each student had mastery levels of Advanced and placed within the top 99th percentile of all seniors across 157 institutions nationwide! 

The three students from CLA were recognized with certificates of achievement at the 2017 College of Liberal Arts student award ceremony Friday, June 16.

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CLA Students and Faculty Among President's Diversity Award Winners

Jun 19, 2017

Cal Poly President's Diversity Awards 2017
2017 Cal Poly President's Diversity Award winners at May award reception


President Jeffrey Armstrong awarded individuals and organizations with the faculty, staff and student President’s Diversity Awards on Thursday, May 18  in Kennedy Library’s atrium.

The event opened with remarks by President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, who said that Cal Poly is working to make campus more inclusive. President Armstrong’s speech was followed by disability resource center representative John Lee, who discussed the role of inclusive design on campus.

The faculty winner of the President’s Diversity Awards was Jenell Navarro of the Ethnic Studies department. “I am honored to accept this award, but even more delighted to see students of color receiving acknowledgement for the difficult work they do on our campus. My hope is that these awards continue to highlight and lead us toward structural shifts away from all forms of discrimination on our campus,” she wrote in an email to Kennedy Library. Navarro is the first professor to teach Cal Poly’s Beyonce class, Ethnic Studies 470: Racism, Sexism and Feminism. The class highlights police brutality and societal issues relating to the political climate in relationship to African Americans.

The staff award winner was Justin Gomez of the Orfalea College of Business. Gomez is the coordinator for the Multicultural Business Program and Orfalea Travel grants. He provides guidance and programming for Orfalea CP Scholars and advises the Hispanic Business Students Association.“I am humbled to accept this award and to join the legacy of past recipients whom I respect as colleagues and role models in this work,” Gomez said in a statement to Kennedy Library.

The student award went to Zulema Aleman, a psychology major and student program assistant in the Women's and Gender Studies Department. “As a queer woman of color at Cal Poly, it has always been my goal to help make all spaces on campus more inclusive, but I am clearly not the only one doing this work and that is awesome!” she said in an emailed statement to Kennedy Library. Aleman is also a program assistant for the science, technology and society minors program, Triota (a feminist club) president, an undocumented students student liaison, and the lead coordinator for Let’s Talk Sex Series.

The Undocumented Student Working Group also received a President's Diversity award. The Undocumented Student Working Group provides resources for nearly 200 of Cal Poly’s students. The group educates campus and brings faculty, staff, administration and students together to exchange ideas on how to address undocumented students’ needs. “The Undocumented Student Working Group is honored to be recognized by the university as a campus organization that has  and will continue to advocate for undocumented students through diversity and inclusivity initiatives!” CSU STEM VISTA AmeriCorps volunteer Casey McCullough said in a statement to Kennedy Library.

The award for Student Organization went to the American Indian Student Association (AISA). “We are extremely grateful for receiving the award and we hope this recognition will help us in growing our community of Native American and Indigenous students on the Cal Poly campus,” AISA member Tatiana Becerra said.

The afternoon was filled with good company and recognition of the outstanding achievements of students, faculty and staff working to create a more diverse and inclusive environment at Cal Poly. The awards ceremony concluded with handshakes, hugs and friendly conversation outdoors in the library atrium.

This article originally appeared on the Kennedy Library website:

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