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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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Two CLA Athletes Named to All-BigSky Conference First Team

Mar 21, 2017

Chris Santini (Communication Studies)
Cal Poly linebacker Chris Santini was named to the All-BigSky Conference first team last fall.

Santini, who notched a team-leading 106 tackles, 12.5 for lost yardage, also earned the team’s most valuable defensive player award.

Santini, a graduate of Leland High School in San Jose who transferred to Cal Poly from Boise State prior to the 2015 season, made 68 solo tackles, including 2.5 sacks, and also was the team leader with his five quarterback hurries.

Santini also earned the team’s Mel Kaufman Award, given annually to the Cal Poly player who most exemplifies the virtues Kaufman became known for on and off the field.


Joe Protheroe (Sociology)
Cal Poly junior fullback Joe Protheroe has been named to the All-Big Sky Conference first team for the second year in a row.

Other postseason honors for the 20th Mustang to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a single season include first-team All-America honors from STATS FCS and his team’s most valuable offensive back.

Protheroe finished first in the Big Sky in rushing with 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns in 11 games. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry and121.3 yards a contest.

A graduate of Clayton Valley Charter High School in Concord,Calif., Protheroe has surpassed the 100-yard mark in a game 13 times in his Mustang career. He also has nine career receptions.

Protheroe's career high for a single game is 217 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns in Cal Poly's 38-31 win at South Dakota State in September. He also rushed for 168 yards at Sacramento State in late October.

Protheroe is No. 8 in career rushing yards at Cal Poly with 2,297 yards while his 1,334 yards this season is No. 5 all-time. His longest run is 76 yards for a touchdown at South Dakota State and Protheroe's longest reception is 55 yards, also for a touchdown, against Montana in September.

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Paul Bittick Recognized as Journalism Educator of the Year

Mar 14, 2017

The California Journalism & Media Affiliates recently named Paul Bittick, Cal Poly’s Mustang Media Group general manager, as the 2017 Journalism Educator of the Year in the 4-Year Division.

The award recognizes leadership and support that goes beyond the journalism program and has impact across campus, community and local or regional associations. Only one educator from all California campus media associations earns this prestigious honor each year.

As general manager, Bittick has been proactive in developing new revenue streams such as special sections, events and video services. He recently worked with faculty and students to create the first student-run "native advertising" agency within Mustang News. “This award for Paul is most noteworthy because: (1) there's only one given out each year in the whole state and (2) the recipient is selected by their peers,” said Mary Glick, Journalism Department Chair and previous Educator of the Year award recipient.

Bittick came to the Journalism Department in 2002 with more than 25 years of experience in the newspaper industry. He served in a variety of roles for daily newspapers and worked as a freelance writer for the Associated Press for more than 20 years, covering college and professional sports.

Barbara Kingsley-Wilson, the 2016 honoree, presented Bittick with the award at the California College Media Association Awards Banquet on March 4 in San Francisco. Previous educators of the year nominate current contenders for awards at the university, community college and high school level. The awards are funded by the California Press Foundation.

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Sociology Alumnus is First Mustang to Sign with NBA

Mar 13, 2017

David Nwaba, 24, is the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers and the first Cal Poly alumnus to sign with the NBA. 

Nwaba graduated in spring 2016 from Cal Poly with a degree in Sociology. Just months after commencement, he signed a contract to play for the Lakers' Development League (D-League) team, the Los Angeles Defenders.

"It's been a great experience," Nwaba said. "Every day I feel like I'm getting better being surrounded by great talent."

Nwaba's success in the Development-League caught the attention of the Laker front office. In 40 games with the Defenders, Nwaba averaged 14.1 points per game and 6.9 rebounds.

The Lakers signed Nwaba to a 10-day contract on March 1, during which Nwaba played in six games. During those games, Nwaba averaged 3.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in just 12 minutes played per contest.

Nwaba raves about the competitiveness in the NBA, saying it is exactly what he expected it to be. "The NBA game moves at a much faster pace than the Development-League," he said. "At the end of the day, it's still basketball, and I've always believed I could play at this level."

So far, Nwaba's confidence has paid off. Luke Walton, Lakers Head Coach, was quoted in an article by Laker Nation's Corey Hansford saying Nwaba deserves more time with the team.

"He's done, in my opinion, everything he can do to deserve another 10-day [contract]," Walton said. "I like his character as a person. I like his work ethic. Those are types of qualities that we want around our locker room."

Nwaba credits his work ethic to his sociology studies at Cal Poly. "Sociology has helped me learn to work with others," Nwaba said. "Being a team player and learning to adjust to certain situations - I believe it has made me a better person mentally."

On March 11, the Lakers signed Nwaba to another 10-day contract, and he was signed to a two-year contract on March 21. 

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Philosophy Department Sends Team to National Competition

Mar 1, 2017

On Feb. 26, five Philosophy students went to Dallas, Texas to compete in the intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, a philosophy competition for colleges and universities with the best analytical and argumentative teams in the country.

Cal Poly's Philosophy Department sent one team to the national championship in Dallas for the first time in the program's short history. The team members are fourth-year Richard Shea, third-year Derek Diemer, third-year Ruby Allen, fourth-year Zackary Dackawich and third-year Ryan McGuire. The team earned their trip to Dallas after finishing in second place at the regional philosophy competition at Chico State on Dec. 3.

"Philosophy competitions are applying what you understand about moral theory to real world issues," said Shea.

At Ethics Bowl, teams are posed ethical cases by a moderator. The teams are then scored by a panel of judges based on their responses to the cases, arguments for a moral framework and practical recommendations as solutions to the problem.

At the Ethics Bowl in Dallas, the Cal Poly team defeated Indiana University in the first round, tied Lynchburg College in the second round, but ultimately lost in the third round to Youngstown State University.

"The team that beat us in the third round was in the finals both this year and last year, so we were up against the best of the best, and we held our own," said Diemer.

The Ethics Bowl has existed on a national level since 1997, but Cal Poly has only competed for three years.

"Some of these teams have four or five coaches, huge budgets and more time to prepare, and we still beat them in Chico," said Shea. "This says a lot about how awesome our instructors are."

The two coaches for the Cal Poly team are Professor David Zoller and Professor Ryan Jenkins of the Philosophy Department. “Even though our department is small we have some really great professors that really do an amazing job training us in philosophy," said Shea.  

“It was fun and exhausting," said Diemer. "There were lots of early mornings and long hours discussing cases, but ultimately it was rewarding."

The team returned to Cal Poly the day after the competition in Dallas and is already meeting to discuss preparation for next year's Ethics Bowl.

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Psychology Major Organizes TEDx Event

Feb 27, 2017

Last fall, fourth-year psychology major Cameron Wiese co-organized Cal Poly's first TedX event, TedXCalPoly 2016, which featured talks from Cal Poly students and professors, as well as a host of other accomplished individuals from across the country. Speakers presented to a sold-out audience in the Performing Arts Center on campus.

"Hands down, it was the best learning experience I've had so far," said Wiese, who co-organized the event with his partner, economics student, Eli Burch. The pair worked hard to find accomplished speakers whose stories adhere to the TED mantra: Ideas Worth Spreading.

“A couple of us spent days digging through local newspapers, Cal Poly publications, and talking with as many people as we could asking them, 'who do you know that's working on a big idea'," Wiese said.

Wiese and his team eventually came across worthy speakers. Many had ties to the College of Liberal Arts, including sociology senior Luke Fox, CEO of drone defense company WhiteFox, psychology professor Don Ryujin and philosophy professor Ryan Jenkins. 

All the the speakers for TEDxCalPoly 2016 presented topics or stories that fit the event's theme, "Plot Twist." Wiese said, "Most [students] are at a point in our lives when we're experiencing dramatic change, and it strongly resonated with the team, so we decided to roll with it."

Wiese says that serving as a TEDx organizer helped him learn about himself as a person and a worker. In addition to finding speakers, Wiese solicited sponsorships, hosted a preview event for sponsors and coordinated the logistics. "From TEDx, I learned where some of my strengths and weaknesses lie, as well as the types of people I work well with," he said. "It's these experience-based lessons that will certainly shape my path moving forward."

Wiese is currently honing his entrepreneurial skills on a new startup called PolyRents, a website that helps landlords organize tenant applications.    

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Mustang Minute: Amanda Lovely From Cal Poly Women's Basketball

Feb 23, 2017

Cal Poly women’s basketball senior forward Amanda Lovely and the Mustangs play at UC Davis at 7 p.m. Wednesday, before returning home to host Senior Day in Mott Athletics Center vs. Cal State Fullerton at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 1.

Amanda has played in 55 games over the past two years, with career totals of 512 points and 488 rebounds while also making the Big West Conference All-Academic Team as a psychology major from Palo Alto. What’s been your favorite memory as a Cal Poly student-athlete?

Amanda: In the summer of 2015, the team took a trip to Costa Rica where we played three local teams, enjoyed the beautiful outdoors (zip lining, snorkeling, and river rafting), played with children at a local after-school program, and embraced the Pura Vida culture.

It was such an amazing bonding experience for our team and made me feel very grateful for all of the traveling opportunities I have experienced through basketball. Why did you choose psychology as a major, and what are your career plans?

Amanda: I’ve always been interested in the inner workings of human relationships and behavior. I like to think of myself as a helper and definitely wanted to be in a field of study related to helping people.

I have been interested in many different career paths but most recently have considered going on to become a nurse sometime in the future. As for now I want to take a break from school and do some fun traveling! How do you balance being a student and athlete at Cal Poly?

Amanda: In both academics and athletics, Cal Poly has a very high standard for excellence, which can make the load difficult to manage at times. I have not always been the best at balancing both school work and basketball but I’ve worked hard at prioritizing my responsibilities to make sure I maximize my time off the court to get school work done.

Since this lifestyle can be very exhausting, rest and relaxation is a huge part of the formula for success. I always leave plenty of space in my schedule for naptime throughout the week. What have been your favorite classes at Cal Poly, and how would you describe the university’s Learn by Doing approach with regard to your experience majoring in psychology?

Amanda: Cal Poly’s Psychology Department has a tremendous faculty that have all inspired me in one way or another to continue in the field of helping. Each course has an experiential learning experience that embodies the Learn by Doing philosophy to the fullest.

The Helping Relationship class [PSY 323] with Elizabeth Barrett gave me the opportunity to learn basic-level counseling skills and put them to use through counseling sessions with Cal Poly students seeking help on mid-level life stressors. Professor Barrett was able to mentor the students in the class and oversee our progress as we grew more confident in our helping skills. You’re 15-for-18 on free throws this year and the team as a whole is on pace to break the all-time school record for free-throw shooting percentage in a season, ranking No. 25 nationally (.758). What advice would you give to young basketball players on the keys to making free throws?

Amanda: The free throw line is a perfect place to take a deep breath. No matter the score, take your time at the free throw line and have confidence. Everyone should come up with a free throw routine that works for them and stick to that every single time at the line.

No one is guarding you so this is a perfect opportunity to remember your shooting fundamentals and regain composure. You have almost 500 career rebounds, and have had five games in the past two seasons with at least 10 rebounds. If you were coaching younger players, what would you tell them are the keys to being a successful rebounder?

Amanda: Rebounding is all about heart. I have seen players who may not be the tallest or strongest player who come up with the most rebounds. I just try to tell myself that the ball is mine and I don’t care if I have to run someone over to get it; I’m going to get it. You’ve played for Greece’s Youth National Team in the past. What was the experience like? How did it add to who you are as a person & player, do you have dual citizenship, and is it something you might try again?

Amanda: In the summer of 2012 after getting my dual citizenship, I was selected to play for the U18 Greek National Team. The experience was one that I am so grateful for and will never forget.

My mom is a first-generation American and her father immigrated to the United States from Greece. My grandfather passed away before I really got the chance to know him so it was so special for me to honor him by playing for his home country.

Most of my learning experiences had nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with me growing as a young adult. I learned both how to be independent but also how important my family is to me and to not take them for granted. I would go back to Greece in a heartbeat but probably just to visit family and spend time on the beautiful beaches.


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Cal Poly Orchesis Dance Company Presents ‘Synergy’

Jan 19, 2017

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21-22, and 2 p.m. on Jan. 21

Spanos Theatre (Bldg. 44)


The Cal Poly Theatre and Dance Department will present the Orchesis Dance Company’s 47th annual concert, “Synergy.” The concert will feature the choreography of guest artists Amanda Leise, Ryan Corriston, and Mark Haines with Rita Chenoweth, as well as the work of five selected students.

Bach In the Mission VII Concert

Jan 19, 2017

8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21

Mission San Luis Obispo


Cal Poly’s Early Music Ensemble, members of the Cal Poly Symphony and faculty members join professional guest artists to perform the music of Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach.



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