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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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Cal Poly Mock Trial Team Earns Bid to Compete at National Championship

Apr 5, 2017

The Cal Poly Mock Trial Team earned a bid to compete at the American Mock Trial Association National Championship Tournament in Los Angeles on April 21-23. This is the first-time Cal Poly has earned a spot in the prestigious national tournament.

Cal Poly’s A Team finished in the top six teams in their Opening Round Championship Series in Fresno on March 25-26. Team members are political science students Deeksha Kohli, Zackery Michaelson and Jesse Quiroz; business student Chloe Loomer; mathematics student Rod Rahimi; and civil engineering student Garrett Rutherford.

“I could not be prouder of our team and their awesome work,” said Elizabeth Lowham, chair of the Cal Poly Political Science Department.

Every year, AMTA publishes a fictitious legal case, and teams from across the country argue the case in front of real judges. Universities field teams that compete during rounds that last about three hours, during which one college represents the prosecution and the other represents the defense.

"We put in hours of practice every day, four days of the week for almost three months in preparation for those trials and I personally am overjoyed that we were so successful," said Michaelson.

During the 2016-2017 season, more than 600 teams competed nationwide in AMTA competitions. Cal Poly's A Team is now one of only 48 teams in the nation that will compete at NCT — the final round of the AMTA's annual national tournament structure. 

The Cal Poly Mock Trial program started in 2006. Lowham says Mock Trial is an activity that the Political Science Department aims to grow and touch all students across all disciplines on Cal Poly's campus. 

"Mock Trial has become this amazing space for co-curricular excellence and opportunity that helps build relationships across colleagues," Lowham said. "I'd love to think that we can continue to play a role in that space."

Under the direction of Justin Cooley, a lecturer in the Political Science Department, 32 students from across the university participated in Mock Trial during the 2016-17 season. The teams competed in five invitational tournaments and two scrimmages, including their first invitational outside of the state of California. Three teams competed in two regional tournaments; one at the Pomona/Claremont McKenna Colleges and one at Arizona State. At the Pomona/Claremont McKenna Regional Competition, Michaelson won a best regional attorney award.

"I think Mock Trial represents one of the best examples of Learn By Doing that the Political Science department has to offer," said Michaelson. "When we are successful in this activity we are displaying the knowledge and skills provided to us by this amazing department." 

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Cal Poly Students Honored by Lawmakers at State Capitol

Apr 5, 2017

Twenty Cal Poly students, including three 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. 13.

“I am so pleased to share with our state leaders the can-do Learn by Doing ethos that this group of dedicated and talented students exemplify,” said university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, who will accompany the students to both legislative chambers. “These fine young men and women from all six of our colleges will be future leaders in their respective fields.”

The students from the College of Liberal Arts were:

  • Naba Ahmed 
    Naba Ahmed, a journalism major in the College of Liberal Arts, was part of the award-winning Mustang News team that competed at the 2016 Associated Collegiate Press/Media Association’s National Convention. The group received 16 national awards. In addition, Mustang News earned first-place honors for Best Social Media Strategy, Online Infographic, Multimedia Feature Story and Breaking News Photo. The team also collected the ACP Online Pacemaker, which is considered the highest honor in college media, for the best design, ease of navigation, writing and editing, graphics and interactivity of a website. Journalism Department Chair Mary Glick credited the Learn by Doing philosophy for the group’s success: “I think the kind of faculty involvement and student interest really drives excellence in what we produce.” Ahmed’s interest in journalism was fanned in high school as a member of the Mira Costa High School’s award-winning  “Hoofprints” yearbook staff. As a member of Mustang News, she worked as the news editor and reporter.

  • Cameron Bones
    Journalism major Cameron Bones in the College of Liberal Arts received top honors and $2,000 at the Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation’s 2016 Student Design Competition. More than 400 students from high schools and colleges across the nation submitted entries in the eighth annual contest. They were to challenged to design and create an engaging infographic — a graphic design that presents complex information quickly and clearly — on a topic of their choice. Bones choose coffee consumption in the U.S. and printed her infographic on a coffee mug. She and her instructor, Daria Matza, received a two-day, all-inclusive trip to Orlando, Fla., for GAERF’s EXPO ’16.

  • Lindsay Mitchell 
    Graphic communication major Lindsay Mitchell studies in the College of Liberal Arts and is working on minors in packaging and integrated marketing communications from the Orfalea College of Business. She was part of the eight-member student team that received the Excellence Overall Award in the Phoenix Challenge Flexo Packaging Competition at the Flexographic Technical Association’s 2016 Forum. The yearlong project challenged students to help a local company rebrand and market its business with materials using the flexographic print process — a technique that uses a flexible plate to print on a variety of materials. The Cal Poly team competed with nine other schools in Fort Worth, Texas. Mitchell and her teammates worked alongside B.R.A.T., a pediatrician-recommended diet drink that combines bananas, rice, applesauce and toast into a medicinal beverage for children and adults who are prescribed this type of diet when ill. As part of the competition, the team redesigned packaging graphics and structures, and created a child-size container with a glow-in-the-dark game on the label for kids, a shrink sleeve bottle for adults and a point-of-purchase in-store display. On campus, Mitchell sits on the executive board of University Ambassadors, known as Poly Reps, is one of three students on the Graphic Communication Advisory Board, and was involved in the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts, New Student and Transition Programs and National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

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Cal Poly Team Wins Grand Prize at TAGA

Mar 28, 2017

Cal Poly Wins TAGA Grand Prize 2017
TAGA winning team from left to right: Peter Schlosser (Advisor), Alan Nguyen,
Mayra Mejia, Jacqueline Luis, Amanda Ornelas, Molly McCarthy,
and Jasper Lim. Photo courtesy of TAGA.

A team of students from Cal Poly’s Graphic Design Department won the Grand Prize Award at the Technical Association of Graphic Arts (TAGA) Annual Technical Conference held March 19 – 22 in Houston.

The winning team was led by Mayra Mejia, president; Jacqui Luis, vice president and treasurer; Amanda Ornelas, production; Jasper Lin, design; Alan Nguyen, digital; Molly McCarthy, marketing; and Peter Schlosser, advisor. This is the first time Cal Poly has won the grand prize, the Helmut Kipphan Cup, in 10 years.

In order to compete, each student chapter submits a high-quality journal to showcase their technical papers. Papers are invited on emerging science, technology, and applications of all forms of graphic technology and printing processes, including offset, flexo, gravure, digital, inkjet, pad, and screen. The scope of the conference encompasses topics such as color management, materials, packaging, curing, process control, data management, workflow, security, nanotechnology, MEMS, electronics, and fundamental science.

“The quality of these student publications is truly impressive,” said Peter Schlosser, Cal Poly TAGA advisor and assistant professor in the Graphic Communication Department. “It’s clear that students from all teams put a considerable amount of time and energy into their work, and we are thrilled and proud that Cal Poly was recognized with the Kipphan Cup.”

Since the establishment of the TAGA Student Chapters in 1985, student chapters have produced technical publications to showcase their student research, and starting in 1993, the TAGA board of directors has given a Grand Prize Award to recognize their efforts in producing their TAGA Student Publications. Renamed in 2006 as the Helmut Kipphan Cup (after Dr. Helmut Kipphan—for his time, support, and advocacy of the TAGA Student Chapters), the award is now a traveling trophy that is presented to the school that has produced a student publication that excels in technical content, print quality, and design.

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Alumna Working for Rights of Homeless

Mar 28, 2017

Alexa Arndt (Political Science ‘15) is currently a second-year law student at Villanova University School of Law. She is putting her political science education to work on behalf of the homeless and those living in poverty with the hopes of becoming a public defender. Arndt has already worked with a number of reputable organizations including the New York Legal Assistance Group, Homeless Advocacy Project and the Philadelphia Defender Association.

Q&A with Alumna Alexa Arndt

What inspires you to work with organizations like the Homeless Advocacy Project?

Homelessness is a very visible issue both here (Pennsylvania) and in San Luis Obispo. I first become interested in homelessness during my first year of undergrad. After taking the Politics of Poverty with Professor Williams during my third year, I really began to study it and look for ideas within the legal profession. One of our class assignments involved spending the night in a shelter to help supervise, make coffee, etc. It was one of the only educational experiences I had up to that point that truly made me uncomfortable. I had never really had to deal with nor look at homelessness, but this experience made me want to focus on the legal problems they faced. Society tends to look away, leaving others to feel like everyone else has given up. Professor Williams supervised my senior project, which examined the perceptions homeless people had of the criminal justice system. I asked about their experiences with judges, public defenders, and police. I conducted my interviews at the Prado Day Center. I remember thinking it was strange how it was hidden behind other buildings by the freeway, completely invisible from the rest of the city. I hoped to use that information to guide my law school experience and learn how I could best attend to their needs.

What was your biggest takeaway from working with the New York Legal Assistance Group?

Honestly, the single biggest takeaway was that there are massive injustices in areas I had honestly never considered. I was placed in elder law by random chance, and I absolutely loved the attorneys supervising me. I was only there for five days, but I was able to get a feel for the issues they were facing. The primary focus of the elder law unit was protecting indigent clients from abusive state-funded care providers. We were inundated with claims of companies reducing the amount of care their patients were receiving. The services rendered involved helping them bathe, dress, and turning them over in bed, among other fundamental tasks. Essentially, these companies would reduce what they were willing to do, to the point that our clients were in danger of bed sores, falls, and other major injuries. I had the opportunity to go to a hearing, where I found that they had hired an attorney to literally sit in the administrative office all day to withdraw the reductions. These companies were reducing the services they were willing to render and hoping no one would challenge the reductions. We didn’t have to argue or make a case of any kind. The rest of my time was spent making a spreadsheet of these hearings and the outcomes. The vast majority were exactly like the one I had seen. I was really shocked to find that this was happening all the time, and I had no idea. People don’t talk about elder care abuse in these terms as often as I feel should be appropriate. You find this in all sides of public interest law, however. There are truly awful things happening all the time, and we all only know the tip of the iceberg in our particular area.

You are the current co-chair of Street Law at Villanova for 2016-2017. Can you tell us more about what you do through Street Law?

Street Law is a student-run organization that visits schools and youth organizations to discuss the constitutional implications of current events and address questions or concerns young people might have. We primarily visit low income neighborhoods, and we allow the conversation to be largely guided by the students. Given that we try to respond to what they are most curious about, we tend to spend a lot of time on the first, second, and fourth amendments. Many of the kids have already had negative encounters with law enforcement, and a staggering percentage have been touched by gun violence. Students in every class we visited have shown genuine curiosity about their rights, and how that translates into their day-to-day interactions. We spend a lot of time in small groups, where the tone can be more conversational than a lecture. We use hypothetical fact patterns to stimulate conversation, and we coordinate with teachers to set topics that are relevant to the class curriculum.

How did your education at Cal Poly help you prepare for your current work? Were there any courses, professors, or clubs that were particularly influential?

I really can’t overstate how important Professor Williams and Professor Den Otter were to my time at Cal Poly and path to law school. Professor Williams’ guidance through my senior project really solidified my interest in poverty and homelessness. I loved working on that project, and I learned so much from her through the process. Like I said, the Politics of Poverty was probably the single most important class I took in undergrad. Professor Den Otter was enormously helpful in the law school admissions process. He was kind enough to be honest about the quality (or lack thereof) of my first personal statement draft, and helped me fix it to be what it needed to be. He set up an internship with a local judge during my third year, and that experience taught me so much about actually being in a courtroom. His Civil Liberties class was one of my favorites, and it was the closest thing to a law school class I experienced at Cal Poly. They are both truly amazing educators, and I am so grateful for their guidance.

Mock Trial was a huge part of my time at Cal Poly. It helped me learn about trial advocacy and how to conduct myself in the courtroom. Currently, I am an intern with the Philadelphia Defender Association, where they have had me cross examine police officers. At this point in my life, I have done mock trial for eight years (four in high school, three in undergrad, one in law school). It certainly helps in a real cross examination when you have been practicing for so long. Being a part of the organization connected me to like-minded students, and many of us have been able to support each other through the law school admissions process. Front Porch was another huge source of support. I spent countless hours studying and praying there in the time leading up to law school.

What are your plans for the upcoming summer?

This summer, I will be working with the Philadelphia Defender Association as a certified legal intern. I began law school hoping to become a public defender, so this experience in one of America’s largest cities seemed like a great fit. Next year, I plan to be working with the Farmworkers Legal Aid Clinic and externing with Federal Public Defenders of New Jersey.

What do you envision doing with your law degree?

I plan to become a public defender. After working with Judge Rita Federman in SLO, thanks to Professor Den Otter, I spent time with local attorneys I had met. Through my time with Judge Federman and time I spent shadowing public defenders, I was fairly confident that I wanted to stick to that career path. Here at Villanova, I am externing with the public defender’s office in Philly. I love the work and the work environment. Every day is interesting, and each client has a story to tell in court. I don’t know where I plan to end up after graduation geographically, but wherever I am, I hope to be a public defender.    

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