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Political Science Major is Cal Poly’s 2017 Panetta Representative

May 17, 2017

Political Science junior, Maryam Quasto, was accepted into the 2017 Panetta Institute's Congressional Internship Program. She will join representatives from other CSU campuses for two weeks of training on the Monterey Bay campus in August, followed by 11 weeks in Washington, D.C. The representatives will work full time in the office of a congressional representative.

Quasto successfully advanced through the campus interview process and was selected for nomination by President Armstrong. After meeting with Mrs. Panetta and other institute representatives, Quasto was accepted as the Cal Poly representative. 

The junior, who works part time in the university’s donor relations department, is among 26 students from around the Golden State taking part in the program.

“I look forward to gaining a new perspective on what it is like to actually work in an international hub like Washington D.C., as well as to further my understanding of the American political system,” said Quasto. She hopes to pursue a career in international law and work as a diplomat or U.S. ambassador.

“I think that being in the heart of our nation will provide an amazing Learn by Doing experience, and I am excited to further my education and grow from this opportunity.”

The Panetta Institute awards scholarships to students from each of the 23 California State University campuses, along with one each from Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University.

The program, now in its 19th year, is open to all academic majors. It is recognized as one of the best of its kind because of the rigorous training it provides and because the Panetta Institute scholarship covers all student costs — offering an equal opportunity for all qualified candidates. Quasto is the 17th Cal Poly student to participate in the program since 2001. She emigrated with her family from Baghdad, Iraq, to Silicon Valley when she was five.

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English Grad Student Wins Cal Poly’s Academy of American Poets Prize

May 15, 2017

English Master's student Marissa Ahmadkhani (Gilroy, Calif.) won Cal Poly’s Academy of American Poets Contest for her poem “Only Half,” which investigates her Iranian heritage. Ahmadkhani will receive a $100 award from the Academy.

“Through precise description and gentle repetition, Marissa Ahmadkhani has made a deeply moving poem of origins,” said Maggie Anderson, nationally recognized poet and judge for this year’s contest. “The delicate fruit of the pomegranate (apple of many seeds) is a brilliantly realized metaphor for the poet’s half-heritage.”

Cal Poly English professor Mira Rosenthal said, “In Marissa’s finely tuned short poems, I hear the sorrow of strained relationship, but always tempered by the individual’s belief in connection, as much with others as with the self.”

First honorable mention goes to English major Morgan Condict from Paso Robles, Calif. for “The Shimmer of the Turning Rabbit,” a poem that renders our own mortality through the metaphor of a rabbit turning on a spit over an open flame. Anderson said that Condict’s poem “creates a strange and somewhat unsettling atmosphere. The image is of a rabbit cooking over a campfire; yet, when the poet enters the poem, we are led skillfully from that image to a surprising metaphor for our own ‘mortal’ (and ‘axial’) coil.”

Second honorable mention goes to Jacob Lopez from Huntington Beach, Calif. for his poem “Light on Breathing,” depicting the experience of exploring underwater reefs. “What I admire in this poem,” said the judge, “is the music created by its internal rhyme, alliteration, and phrasing that vividly recreates the act of breathing underwater.”

The Cal Poly English Department and the Academy of American Poets (AAP) sponsored the contest. AAP was founded in 1934 to support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. The University and College Poetry Prize program began with ten schools in 1955 and now sponsors more than 200 annual poetry prizes at U.S. colleges and universities. Ahmadkhani is one of the nearly ten thousand prize-winning student poets since the program’s inception.

Contest entries were judged by nationally renowned poet Maggie Anderson, author of four books of poetry, including Windfall: New and Selected Poems, A Space Filled with Moving, and Cold Comfort. Her awards include two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, fellowships from the Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania Councils on the Arts, and the Ohioana Library Award for contributions to the literary arts in Ohio. The founding director of the Wick Poetry Center and of the Wick Poetry Series of the Kent State University Press, Anderson is Professor Emerita of English at Kent State University.


Marissa Ahmadkhani
Academy of American Poets Prize Winner—Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Only Half

Pomegranates are native to Iran.

Much like my father—

who peeled them on our kitchen counter,

liquid pooling, thinner than

the blood-

red you’d expect.

Much like my blood—

half-steeped in that same soil

and somehow not thick enough.

And I run my fingers through

my coarse hair, half-curly,

and I think about those pomegranate trees.

How they

dig those deep roots,

how I half-cling to those

thin branches.

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English Master's Student Wins Prestigious Fellowship

May 15, 2017

English Master's student Ian Fetters (English, '15) has been awarded the S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship to study the literature of horror-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft.

The fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $1,500 for up to two months of research at the John Hay Library at Brown University — home to the largest collection of H.P. Lovecraft materials in the world. Fetters competed with advanced graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars to be the sole fellowship recipient for 2017. 

“I have been a fan of Lovecraft's work since I was a first-year high school student," Fetters said. "I decided I want to read all his works and write about them. He is really one of the reasons I ended up studying literature." 

Fetters began his two-month fellowship on July 1. The research and findings he compiles during that time will be summarized in a presentation at the conclusion of the fellowship. "The intention is to use archival material to develop a project for presentation at a public lecture alongside a panel with other Lovecraft scholars," Fetters said.

"The project I pitched to the committee this year is titled 'Lovecraft's Dark Continent: At the Mountains of Madness and Antarctic Literature.' I'm interested in looking at why Lovecraft chose Antarctica as the setting for his only novel, 'At the Mountains of Madness.'"

Fetters will spend the majority of his time at Brown trying to answer that question before returning back to Cal Poly in the fall to complete his Master's degree.

Although Fetters' fellowship only lasts the summer, he believes he owes it to himself to keep on studying Lovecraft well after his time at Brown. 

"I think my next step is to actually go to Antarctica," Fetters said. "Lovecraft never made it there, so I feel almost duty-bound to do it for myself."

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Public Relations Students Create Campaign for California Cadet Corps

May 4, 2017

Throughout the past four academic quarters, students from Cal Poly’s Central Coast PRspectives team have been working closely with the California Cadet Corps (CACC) to recreate CACC’s image and how the organization connects to the public.

Central Coast PRspectives (CCPR) is an on-campus, student-run public relations firm founded by Cal Poly students in 2005. CCPR executives and staff members provide services to clients that need assistance in marketing communications, social media and web-based communications and public and media relations.

CACC is a paramilitary organization that aims to create leadership opportunities for students ranging from elementary school to college.

“The goal of Cadet Corps is leadership development — to turn students into tomorrow’s leaders,” said Major Kirk Sturm of CACC.

Two CCPR students headed the campaign with CACC: Audra Wright and Mariam Alamshahi, both fourth-year journalism majors with a public relations concentration.

Wright says CACC was looking to change the public perception of their organization to attract a wider array of youth and their parents.

“When parents hear about California Cadet Corps, they think of it as a stepping-stone into the military or a program that is intended for children with behavioral issues,” said Wright. “We wanted these parents to understand that the choice is not military training or education, the CACC combines the two.”

Sturm says that each quarter the CCPR students have given recommendations to CACC on how to better demonstrate their organization’s goals.

“The CCPR students helped CACC refresh our mission statement and learn how to improve our relationship with students, parents and schools,” said Sturm.

Sturm says executives at CACC were so impressed with the work and recommendations from the CCPR students, that the organization decided to start their website over from scratch, implementing the theories and research the CCPR students urged CACC to utilize.

“Working with the Cadet Corps was very fulfilling,” said Alamshahi.

Cal Poly’s Journalism Department is known for its hand-on, Learn by Doing approach to education. Alamshahi worked with CCPR for a journalism course requirement, and says it was an important experience for her education and professional career.

“This is probably the most hands-on class that I have had for journalism, because this wasn’t a hypothetical campaign,” Alamshahi said. “I actually got to work with the Cadet Corps and implement a strategic plan for recruiting more cadets.”

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Art and Design Students Defining Words With Videos

Apr 20, 2017

Art and Design students from the Art 383 Digital Video course developed creative ways to help people define commonly misused or unknown words. The students worked closely with representatives from to make videos that illustrate the proper use of a word through a unique story.

Sandy Micone is the director of design at and an alumna of the art and design program at Cal Poly. She contacted the department about the project, and Sky Bergman, Art 383 professor thought it would be a good opportunity for her students.

Micone and two other colleagues from met with the students via Skype to explain the purpose of the videos and to brainstorm ideas.

"Our goal with making these is to get visitors of to love us as a brand and not just go to us as a place," said Aileen Morrissey, content strategist from

The representatives emphasized that the videos should be informative but eye-catching — much like the video that helped define "Lumbersexual," a project made by Cal Poly student Roslyn Yeager when came to Cal Poly in 2016. "Lumbersexual pushed the comfort zone of our brand," said Lauren Sliter, head of marketing at

The representatives say "pushing" the brands comfort zone is the goal of the project, but the students have to be very careful that they get the definitions of the words accurate. collaborated with Cal Poly students during two quarters. Watch the the resulting student projects below. 

2017 Videos

2016 Videos

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History Professors and M.A. Student Awarded Fellowships

Apr 20, 2017

History Department professors Sarah Bridger and Kathleen Murphy and M.A. student Crystal Smith were recently awarded fellowships. 

History M.A. student Crystal Smith was awarded the Eugene Cota-Robles fellowship at UC Santa Cruz, which provides five years of guaranteed funding for first-year graduate students whose backgrounds contribute to intellectual diversity among the graduate student population. 

Sarah Bridger
Sarah Bridger

Sarah Bridger, an associate professor in history, received a 2017 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) fellowship and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library for her research Science in the Seventies: Battling for the Soul of a Profession, from the Vietnam War to Star Wars. ACLS is a non-profit federation of 74 national scholarly organizations with a mission for "the advancement of humanistic studies in all fields of learning in the humanities and the social sciences and the maintenance and strengthening of relations among the national societies devoted to such studies." The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers is an international fellowship program open to people whose work will benefit directly from access to the collections at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building—including academics, independent scholars, and creative writers (novelists, playwrights, poets).

Kathleen Murphy
Kathleen Murphy

Associate professor in history Kathleen Murphy won a research fellowship at the Huntington Library for summer 2017 for her book project, Slaving Science: Natural Knowledge and the British Slave Trade, 1660-1807. Located in Los Angeles county, the Huntington Library is one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the United States. 


Political Science Professor Receives Voting Rights Fellowship

Apr 19, 2017

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the nation's leading science-based policy advocacy organization, awarded associate professor of political science Michael Latner its Voting Rights Kendall Fellowship.

This two-year fellowship is hosted at the UCS's newest program — the Center for Science and Democracy in Washington, D.C.

As the Kendall Fellow, Latner will work with UCS staff to identify pressing needs in voting rights research, assess the impact of political disenfranchisement on UCS core strategic goals, help UCS build partnerships with leading organizations working to restore and expand voting rights, and inform proposals to improve public participation in U.S. elections.

The Kendall Science Fellows Program was established to honor Nobel Prize winning physicist Henry Kendall who was a long-time chair of the UCS board. 

Latner has taught in the political science department since 2007, has been recognized with an award in the Common Cause/Election Law Journal Redistricting research competition, and is co-author of Gerrymandering in America: The House of Representatives, The Supreme Court, and the Future of Popular Sovereignty.

Beloved Music Professor Retires After 34 Years

Apr 19, 2017

After 34 years at Cal Poly, Thomas Davies, beloved member of the Music Department, retired in June 2017. Davies had served as the director of choral activities and vocal studies for the Music Department since 1983.

In this position, Davies conducted three choirs (PolyPhonics, The University Singers and Early Music Ensemble) and taught courses on conducting, literature and rehearsal techniques.

“I will miss it dearly," Davies said. "I love Cal Poly. It's been a great place to be."

During his time at Cal Poly, Davies has earned the respect and admiration of his students, who awarded him the Distinguished Teacher Award for 2010-2011. He has been commended on his teaching style, always making an effort to connect with the students on a personal level.

"One of the things that I value about this job is really getting to know a number of the students," he said. "I will get to see a young person start here at the age of 18 and see them graduate at the age of 22, and I've been with them the entire time."

On Davies' office door is a token of gratitude left to him by the graduating class of 2011. It is a certificate that reads: "Most Likely to Rock Out with his Bach Out."

That kind of welcoming environment has always been a part of Davies' teaching philosophy — to create a "family" setting where students can come when they are feeling stressed.

"More than 90 percent of the students that participate in the choral program are not music majors,” he said. "I know for some students, the choir is literally what got them through their education. When a major course was really coming down on them hard, they were able to come over here and sing for an hour a day."

Davies believes having a safe haven where students can immerse themselves in an art they love, even if it's not what they're primarily studying, is a benefit of a liberal arts education. 

"That's the general thing about liberal arts — you come in contact with a wide base of things," he said. "You are required to investigate so many areas, and place the pin down on that thing you love."

Although Davies is moving on from Cal Poly, he will continue to serve as the musical director and conductor of the San Luis Obispo Master Chorale, a community ensemble that performs major works for chorus and orchestra.

Davies' final concert was on June 11 at 2 p.m. in Harmon Hall of the Performing Arts Center on Cal Poly's campus. The concert included important milestones in Davies' tenure at the university. Participants in the program included current students, alumni and faculty.

As Davies reached his final days at the university, he reflected on what made his time at Cal Poly so meaningful: the students.

"The opportunity to be here on this campus with bright students, who really care for one another and care for the university, has truly made a difference in my life."

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Hundreds Attend Unite Cal Poly Event

Apr 10, 2017

Hundreds of Cal Poly students, faculty and staff attended Unite Cal Poly, the university’s inaugural Celebration of Inclusivity and Diversity. Held Tuesday, Jan. 31 from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center’s Harman Hall, Unite Cal Poly featured critically-acclaimed socio-political comedian W. Kamau Bell and alternative-soul musician Allen Stone. 

Bell, known for his Emmy Award nominated docu-series “United Shades of America,” presented “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in about an Hour,” which explored the current state of American racism through a mix of stand-up comedy, video clips, personal stories and solo theatrical performance.

Unite Cal Poly was an entertaining, yet thought-provoking evening focused on creating a positive and welcoming campus environment. The event, sponsored by the Office of University Diversity and Inclusivity and Cal Poly ASI, was free for those with a valid Cal Poly ID card.

Third-year graphic communications student, Sheila Ahi, was the artist behind the Unite Cal Poly event graphics. In making the logo for the Unite Cal Poly event, Ahi aimed to combine the event’s theme (#chooselove) with Cal Poly’s branding standards. “We wanted the Unite Cal Poly brand to reflect a fun, open environment,” Ahi said. “For the logo, I wanted to incorporate a circle to represent unity, which the event was all about, and by using warmer Cal Poly colors in the display, it was not only eye-catching, but welcoming.”

Unite Cal Poly was the keynote event of “Inclusion Starts with Me” week, Jan. 26 – Feb. 2.  

“The campaign, #InclusionStartsWithMe, began in the fall as a reminder to all in the campus community that they have to do their part to make sure they are aware of others, that they are accepting and embracing of differences and that they strive to reach out to each other,” said Denise Isom, Interim Associate Director of the Office of University Diversity and Inclusivity.

Ahi believes the Unite Cal Poly event fulfilled the goals of the “Inclusion Starts with Me” campaign. “When you ‘#chooselove’, rather than staying passive or being prejudiced, you are helping build a supportive environment for everyone in the Cal Poly community,” she said. “When I saw all the people that showed up to Unite Cal Poly, I could feel that unconditional support -- no matter what race, ethnicity, sexuality, or socioeconomic class you are -- you are valued.”

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Three CLA Students to Represent Cal Poly in CSU Research Competition

Apr 6, 2017

Cal Poly will host the 31st Annual CSU Research Competition April 28-29. The competition is held to promote excellence in undergraduate and graduate scholarly research and creative activity by recognizing outstanding student accomplishments throughout the 23 campuses of the California State University. Three students from the College of Liberal Arts will represent Cal Poly at the competition. 

Ten students from each CSU campus are selected to compete in the competition. Of the 10 students selected from Cal Poly, three are from the College of Liberal Arts: Katelyn Tomasello (Music and Psychology ’16); Sayaka Tsugai, a fourth-year political science major; and Emily Matthews, also a fourth-year political science major. The CLA delegates' research projects are each related to their areas of study.

As a political science major, Matthews’s research project aims to define the problems of United States leadership in global politics. “I focus on domestic partisanship and challenge conventional wisdom that ideology drives partisan divides in the area of climate change,” Matthews said.

Tsugai’s research is related to her political science studies, as well as her aspirations for a career in global politics. “My research was inspired from my initial reaction when I moved from Japan to the US and realized the history I knew about WWII was very different from my peers at high school in San Diego,” Tsugai said. “In my research, using Japan as a case study, I look at how hyper nationalism is implemented to shape citizens’ minds to fear ‘others’ through education, rituals, and popular culture.”

Tomasello’s project was a fulfillment of her Cal Poly senior project. She says her research tries to answer the question: How has music been used among juvenile offenders, and what characteristics does that music have? To this end, she analyzed the musical characteristics (e.g., tempo) of pieces successfully used in published reports/music therapy.  

Finalists will make oral presentations before juries of professional experts from major corporations, foundations, public agencies, and colleges and universities in California. They will be judged on their oral presentations and written abstracts.

All three CLA delegates admit to being nervous to speak in front of a crowd, but are excited about their hard work being recognized. “Of course, there are some nerves, but I am more excited than anything,” Tomasello said. “… it is such a joy having the opportunity to present my own research on a topic I am very passionate about.”

Cash prizes will be awarded to students for the most outstanding presentations.

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