Cal Poly Students to be Honored by Lawmakers at State Capitol on Feb. 11

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Nineteen Cal Poly students will be recognized for their awards and other accomplishments by state lawmakers on the floors of the state Assembly and Senate in Sacramento on Monday, Feb. 11.

“These fine young men and women are among our best and brightest students,” said university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, who is accompanying the group to Sacramento. “They will share the value of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing education with our state lawmakers and university boosters.

“Our faculty, staff and I take great pride in their accomplishments and know that they will bring to their careers the same energy, determination and creativity that they have displayed in their studies and extracurricular activities.”

The group will be introduced to the Senate by Majority Leader Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and to the Assembly by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, R-San Luis Obispo. Both men represent San Luis Obispo County.

Ceremonies will be held in each chamber Monday afternoon.

The majority of the students call California home — from the Bay Area to San Diego — including Samantha Galicinao from the Central Coast. Two are from outside the Golden State —Nevada and Washington.

The students represent five of Cal Poly’s colleges: four from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design; three from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Services; six from the College of Liberal Arts; five from the College of Engineering; and one from the College of Science and Mathematics.

Each has distinguished himself or herself, as an individual or on a team that has received a national industry award or in other high-profile events. These include the Tournament of Roses Parade, with its worldwide TV audience of 100 million; the concrete canoe team that won the national championship; and the prestigious Walt Disney Imagineering design competition.

The group also will greet family, friends and alumni at a reception in Walnut Creek on Sunday and another at a Sacramento law firm later on Monday.

Participating Cal Poly students are:

Abraham Ahmed
Oakland, California
Ahmed, a business and construction management major set to graduate in spring 2020, was a member of an interdisciplinary team that was the runner-up in the 2018 National Association of Home Builders’ Residential Construction Management Competition held in Orlando, Florida. The team made up of a dozen Cal Poly students presented the results of their four-month proposal to acquire — or decline to acquire — a 72-acre parcel for a proposed housing project in Okemus, Michigan. The competition at the annual NAHB International Builders’ Show gives students the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to a real construction company by completing a management project/proposal. The proposals are reviewed by a panel of judges made up of construction company executives. “To be selected to represent the (College of Architecture and Environmental Design) and the university means that I can give back to the school that has truly shaped me as an individual,” said the 21-year-old, who decided to attend Cal Poly after a campus tour. “Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto resonated with me because throughout my life nothing really taught me more than when I actually did something. By actually doing something, you’re challenged with figuring out how things work in the real world. Through that challenge you see how things are connected beyond that individual task, you learn more, and you become a problem solver.”

Brandon Almeida
Hilmar, California
Almeida, a dairy science junior also studying agriculture business, was part of Cal Poly’s award-winning dairy judging team that earned the highest ranking at the 2018 Fort Worth Stock Show Dairy Judging contest in Texas. Fourteen teams representing many of the top college dairy programs in the nation competed, with Cal Poly placing as the High Team Overall. The team also placed first in reasons, first in the Jersey breed, second in Brown Swiss, and third in Holsteins. In addition, Almeida took home the High Individual Overall honor by placing first in Jerseys and fifth in oral reasons. Going to the state Capitol is a first for the 21-year-old, who plans to graduate in 2020. “It will allow me to experience something I’ll never get to do again,” he said. “I am very excited to be able to make new connections and form new relationships with people outside my major.” Almeida, who plans to become a dairy geneticist, is the product of a family of Cal Poly alumni. “After a few visits with the Dairy Department during my time in high school, I knew Cal Poly was where I ultimately wanted to end up,” he said. “The Learn by Doing motto has allowed me to get a hands-on experience within all my courses rather than being stuck in the classroom.”

Lauren Arendt
Poway, California
Arendt, a journalism senior, was part of the Mustang Media Group that received 15 national Pinnacle Awards at the 2018 College Media Business and Advertising Managers Annual Awards Ceremony in Kentucky. In addition. Arendt’s team was the best social media strategy honor out of more than 75 participating college news organizations. The 21-year-old, who will graduate in June, said representing the university and the College of Liberal Arts “is one of the most amazing honors I can think of to top off the nearly four years of intensive learning and work I have put into Cal Poly. I am extremely proud of the college and major I belong to, so having a moment to make them proud, too, is something I am really grateful for.” She was attracted to attend the university because of “its emphasis on practical learning from the moment you walk on campus — aka Learn by Doing. This empowerment from the university to put learning into action, combined with the tight-knit community feel of the university, were my main drivers.” Arendt, who has a concentration in public relations, is also studying integrated marketing communications and entrepreneurship.

Kyle Branch
San Diego
Branch, an art and design major, is a member of a four-person, multi-university team that has advanced to the finals of Walt Disney Imagineering’s 2019 Imaginations Design Competition. Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative force that imagines, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions and cruise ships worldwide, sponsors the competition to nurture the next generation of diverse and talented Imagineers. Branch’s team includes students at the University of Southern California, Savannah College of Art and Design, and the University of Florida. Their project is a reimagining of the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The students describe their Port Pharos as “an explorative and heuristic resort formed by fleets of ancient ships traversing waters surrounding a reborn Lighthouse of Alexandria, creating the floating city the harbor once was.” The project design honors the history, architecture, and ecosystem around the ancient lighthouse that reportedly stood more than 30 stories tall. Branch, 22, will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree that includes a concentration in graphic design, and media arts and technologies. “It is great that Cal Poly acknowledges the achievements of its students,” he said. “I look forward to sharing my experiences in the Walt Disney Imagineering competition and passion for themed entertainment with fellow students and state lawmakers.” Branch served as president of the Cal Poly Amusement Park Engineers and Designers. He said he was initially attracted to the university because of its highly ranked architecture program. “Architecture ended up not being the right fit for me, but I have been able to build a strong portfolio during my time as a student in art and design,” he said.

Thomas Brandt
Reno, Nevada
Brandt, a civil engineering major, was part of the College of Engineering’s Steel Bridge Team that was second at the 2018 National Streel Bridge Competition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign last May. It was the eighth consecutive year Cal Poly placed in the top 10 of the finals. The contest, which tests teamwork and project management, challenges students to produce a scale-model bridge that satisfies requirements in several categories, including construction speed; lightness; display; stiffness; economy; and efficiency. “It’s an honor to represent Cal Poly Engineering,” said the 22-year-old, who plans to graduate in June, “because I’ve worked so hard to become a leading member of the community I love.” Brandt is the design captain for the 2018-19 Steel Bridge Team. He was attracted to the college and the university because of the “superb civil engineering program, the nationally recognized project teams and the weather.”

Cody Capella
Nevada City, California
Capella, an art and design major, and a teammate tied for first at the 2018 National Collegiate Honors Council Publications Board Newsletter Contest. The NCHC recognized Cal Poly last November in the Student Electronic category, which included 27 entries from across the nation. Capella and another student served as editors on the University Honors Program’s publication that highlights student and faculty successes, reflects on past events, and celebrates the program's most recent projects within the campus, local and global communities. The 22-year-old loves working on all kinds of creative projects, from print pieces and website design to photography. “I just feel incredibly lucky and honored to be able to show people outside of Cal Poly how much this school has helped me grow both as a student and a person as a whole,” said Capella, who plans to graduate in mid-2020. “Being able to give back a little to the school that’s given me so much is something I really look forward to, and I think trying to represent Cal Poly as best I can on the tour is a great chance to do so.” Cal Poly, he said, offered him “incredible opportunities” to meet new people, “study things I was truly passionate about and push myself to be the best I could be. I’m really glad I chose to make it my place for these past four years.”

Jasmin Fashami
Mission Viejo, California
Fashami, a political science major, and her team won the 2018 California Secretary of State Ballot Bowl Competition that challenged college campuses across the Golden State to engage their students in the democratic process and register them to vote. Fashami, who is also Cal Poly’s 2018-19 ASI student body president, and her teammates registered 3,178 Cal Poly students over the nine-week contest period between August and October. The 20-year-old is passionate about constitutional law and hopes to attend law school after graduating this spring (in just three years). “In this role, civic engagement has been an incredibly important focus of mine,” Fashami said. Participating and succeeding in the Ballot Bowl contest “has made me feel unbelievably Cal Poly Proud — proud of the students who saw the importance of having a strong voice in local, state and federal elections this last November, and proud to take part in the tour with my fellow student leaders.” She was attracted to Cal Poly by its Learn by Doing philosophy and its small class sizes, which she said allowed her to “develop close relationships with my professors from the moment I stepped onto campus my freshman year.”

Ally Forster
Newhall, California
Forster, a construction management senior minoring in real property development, was part of a team that won four Open National Category awards in the 2018 Associated Schools of Construction Region 3 Competition held last fall in Downers Grove, Illinois. Forster was co-captain of the Preconstruction Services Team. Cal Poly students competed against five to nine teams from schools in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. The 21-year-old will graduate in June and plans to go to work for a general contractor in the Los Angeles area in September. “To be selected to represent my college and the university to state lawmakers means so much to me because it proves that I am an active role model for the student body of Cal Poly,” she said. “This opportunity is a chance for me to give back to the university that has given me so much these past four years by representing the Cal Poly brand on a larger scale than ever before.” Forster, who is president of the Construction Management Honor Society and is team captains of the Cal Poly Cheerleading team, comes from a family of Cal Poly graduates. “I choose to attend Cal Poly because I knew it was the place I was meant to be and the place I would have the opportunity to grow into the person I have always wanted to become,” she said. “The Cal Poly connection is so real and has given me the resources to do great things while enjoying my time as a college student.” Forster is the youngest of three sisters, all cheerleaders, who are all studying construction management.

Samantha Galicinao
Santa Maria, California
Biomedical engineering student Samantha Galicinao and her Society of Women Engineers chapter teammates won Team Tech for the Crew Overboard Alarm System, sponsored by the Lockheed Martin Corp., and five additional national awards at the 2018 National Society of Women Engineers Conference held in October. The campus chapter, which includes 1,000 students and is open to men and non-engineering majors, is “a diverse group of people supportive of women on the cutting edge and focused on creating opportunities for future female engineers to flourish in a male-dominated field,” she said. She is proud to represent the SWE chapter in Sacramento. “Attending this tour is self-fulfilling of my personal passion for engineering outreach,” said Galicinao, who has reached out to teens at her alma mater, Santa Maria High School. “Ninety percent of female engineering students who are attending Cal Poly did not decide to major in engineering until high school. I am part of that 90 percent. I started my involvement with SWE four years ago with the goal of ensuring that the 90 percent were supported and had the necessary information and resources to move forward pursuing a career in engineering.” She describes herself as a “Cal Poly legacy” — her father earned a degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. “I visited the Cal Poly campus to watch basketball games, often peeking over President Armstrong’s head, to compete in engineering competitions, and to attend Building an Engineer Day, an event hosted by Cal Poly SWE — and an event that sparked my interest in engineering,” she said. “I have come full circle. Cal Poly was the right place to begin my career.” The 23-year-old will graduate in June.

Jacky Loh
Azusa, California
Loh, a civil and environmental engineering graduate student, and his team won the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 31st annual National Concrete Canoe Competition held last June in San Diego — successfully defending the team’s 2017 national title and for the fifth time earning the “America’s Cup of Civil Engineering.” Loh, the team’s construction captain, spent countless hours sanding the boat named after Vincent van Gogh, with a design that drew inspiration from the artist’s “The Starry Night.” The colorful canoe with 15 different hues, its hull thinner than the width of a dime, included nods to other famous van Gogh artworks, such as “Irises” and “Sunflowers.” “Being selected for the tour is a grand opportunity to help represent the team I worked with and the school I represented during our team’s competition,” said the 22-year-old, who earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2018. “I am proud to say I have a chance to inspire my peers to also join in the Learn by Doing mentality and actively work on various projects.” He said Learn by Doing “felt like an encouragement to go ahead and get your hands dirty with hands-on projects and learn by actively participating rather than passively listening to theoretical equations and situations in a lecture. I learn a lot better and retain more information if I am allowed to make mistakes in practice and learn from them rather than learn about ideal circumstances and equations that may not even be feasible or used in reality.” Loh will complete his master’s degree in June.

Connor McCarthy
Carlsbad, California
McCarthy, a journalism senior, was part of the Mustang Media Group that earned 11 awards — including three firsts and a trio of seconds — at the College Media Association’s 2017-18 Pinnacle Awards last October in Kentucky. The awards recognize outstanding work in advertising, broadcast, design, online media, photo, sports and writing categories, as well as organizational achievement for newspapers, radio and TV stations, magazines, websites and yearbooks of 2017-18. Journalism was a natural path for the 22-year-old, who plans to graduate in December with the goal of becoming an anchor of a network newscast. He developed a passion for keeping abreast of current events as a child. “I feel validated that I am pursuing the right path,” he said. “I am grateful for all the opportunities Cal Poly has offered me to excel in.” He was attracted to the university because of its Learn by Doing ethos. “I prefer hands-on learning over sitting through lectures about theory,” McCarthy said. “Cal Poly is also a perfect school for liberal arts majors, because the lab experience is practiced in majors like journalism as well. Journalism requires that trial/error experience to learn how to report.”

Natalie Miller
Valencia, California
Miller, a computer science major, received the inaugural Student Award at the Open Education Consortium’s 2018 Open Education Awards for Excellence last March. The nonprofit organization is a global, members-based network of open education institutions and organizations that support education without academic admission requirements. Miller was recognized for her “outstanding endeavors” while a mathematics, physics and computer science student at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. She made “a lasting contribution” thereby “establishing the workflow for creation of open textbooks, and by training other students to work on Open Educational Resources projects,” the school reported. Her efforts resulted in the number of open education courses offered at the college double to 80, saving students an estimated $3 million. The impact at the state’s other 113 community colleges could be even greater. “Natalie’s creativity and dedication have helped to establish open education as a legitimate pathway for over 2 million students,” the organization said. The 23-year-old transferred to Cal Poly because it would provide “the opportunity to be able to interact with my professors similar to my community college experience, and I was excited about the Learn by Doing philosophy — since I learn the most with hands-on experiences. In addition, given my long-term goal to own my own business and my ambition to practice my creative skills, I welcomed the opportunity to get involved in Cal Poly’s entrepreneurship program to complement my studies as a computer science major. Not only have I learned a great deal from excellent professors and programs, I have benefited from the unique opportunity to grow and evangelize the Open Educational Resources program as a student, which has helped me to thrive and achieve awards I would have never imagined.”

Sara Novell
Livermore, California
Novell’s handiwork as a mechanical engineering major over the past four and half years has been seen in person by more than a million people — and, by some estimates, hundreds of millions of TV viewers throughout the world. The 22-year-old was the 2018-19 president of the Cal Poly Rose Float team, which work with counterparts at Pomona’s California State Polytechnic University every year to produce a succession of innovative, beautiful floral creations that drive down Colorado Boulevard each New Year’s Day during the classic Pasadena parade. Cal Poly universities’ 71st float, “Far Out Frequencies,” featuring a pair of astronauts and a handful of animated extraterrestrials on an alien planet communicating through music, received the Extraordinaire Award for the most extraordinary float at the 130th Rose Parade. “It’s the first time we’ve ever gotten this award, so we’re really excited about it,” Novell said. “We did build an extraordinary float from an extraordinary team of students from both campuses.” Like many, she was attracted to Cal Poly because of Learn by Doing, as well as small class sizes “and attitudes of the students,” she said. “When I visited while in high school, I noticed that everyone was Cal Poly proud, and I wanted to feel that way. Now I feel it also. It means so much to me that throughout my years at Cal Poly that I have become a student leader. I feel excited and can’t wait to meet the people that help make Rose Float possible and have been supporting the program for so many years. I am also very humbled to be selected and trusted to represent Cal Poly at the state Capitol.”

Braden Povah
Calabasas, Calif.
Povah, a forestry and natural resources senior, was a part of USA Team 2, the overall winner at the third annual International Soil Judging Contest held last summer in Seropédica, RJ, Brazil. Povah, who placed third in the world as an individual at the competition, and his three teammates, from South Carolina, Utah and Virginia, point out that there’s a major difference between dirt and its more complex cousin soil. Povah was a member of the Cal Poly team that placed 12th overall at the 2018 National Collegiate Soils Contest hosted at the University of Tennessee last March. His ninth-place finish in the individual competition earned him the spot on the national team — the first time a Cal Poly student qualified to compete internationally. “I look forward to making Cal Poly proud,” said the 21-year-old. “I could not have competed at the International Soil Judging Competition without the mentoring and support from my professors and coaches, as well as all of the other natural resource faculty who have taught me over the years.” Povah chose to attend the university because of its Learn by Doing ethos, the reputation of the forestry program “and the academic atmosphere of the school,” he said. “I developed a passion for the environmental sciences through the Scouts of America and high school classes, and I knew that I would need to attend a college that emphasized fieldwork and had access to field labs like the forests on Swanton Pacific Ranch and the Valencia property (in Santa Cruz County).” He will graduate in June.

Alyssa Snow
Galt, California
Snow, an agricultural science major, earned numerous awards as a member of Cal Poly’s Floral Design Team that was third in the nation at the American Institute of Floral Designer’s 2018 Student Floral Design Competition held in Washington, D.C., last summer. The 20-year-old won the wedding bouquet category and placed fourth place in the fashion flower category to place third as an individual in the competition against teams from nine other colleges, including the University of Missouri Columbia, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Ohio State. The AIFD Foundation Scholarship Committee awarded her a scholarship that pays for her 2018-19 school fees. “Our college works very hard to provide opportunities for students to develop their skills and knowledge in a part of the agriculture industry they are passionate about,” she said. “I feel incredibly blessed to be chosen to serve as an example of the impact that hands-on opportunities make on a student’s college education and future career.” She fell in love with the “campus culture, Learn by Doing philosophy and San Luis Obispo as a whole” during the Future Farmers of America state finals competition hosted at Cal Poly. Cal Poly was the perfect match for her with its “on-campus livestock units, greenhouses and devotion to giving students extraordinary opportunities with professionals in the agriculture industry,” she said. Snow plans to graduate in 2020 and pursue a career as an agriculture educator.

Brandon Strong
Davis, California
Strong received a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship last April. It was one of some 2,000 fellowships awarded following a national competition with more than 12,000 applicants. Strong, who is a graduate biology student, will receive $138,000 to cover three years of graduate study. He is working with biology Professor Nathaniel Martinez on a project that uses an electrical field to characterize the physical properties of proteins. They are researching whether this technology may replace some laboratory-based biochemical tests and be used in portable diagnostic devices. “I hope as many students as possible have the opportunity to attend Cal Poly in the future, and I know that in order to make this a reality, we need the continued support of the state Legislature,” the 22-year-old said. “This opportunity is a great step toward ensuring the future success of Cal Poly, as well as demonstrating what its students are capable of achieving.” Strong came to Cal Poly as an undergraduate biology student because of its hands-on learning opportunities. Over the years, his work in the Martinez Lab has resulted in eight scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals, a patent application, more than $200,000 in research grants and awards, and 43 conference presentations in the U.S. and internationally. “Without the supportive Learn by Doing environment fostered by Cal Poly, little of this would have been possible,” he said. Strong plans to graduate with his master’s in 2020 and pursue a doctorate. His goal is a career in academic medicine, which likely will involve both biomedical research and clinical aspects.

Brian Truong
Morgan Hill, California
Truong, a journalism junior well-versed in multimedia reporting, earned an honorable mention at the 2017-18 Associated College Press Pacemaker Awards held last October in Louisville, Kentucky. Truong, who is sports editor for Mustang Media, earned the award for his profile titled “The Relentless Ayzhiana Basallo, How an Undersized Point Guard Found Herself at Cal Poly, Shot, After Shot, After Shot.” The award was among six Pacemaker honors — collegiate journalism’s preeminent awards — that Mustang Media Group collected. “I believe the honors awarded to myself and Mustang Media Group show the quality, dedication and innovation of Cal Poly journalism students,” said the 21-year-old. “I am especially proud that the work I’m being recognized for is a feature on an undersized, Filipino women’s basketball player. I hope to continue to showcase underrepresented people in my future work.” The aspiring broadcast journalist, who plans to graduate in 2020, chose to attend Cal Poly because of the “close-knit relationships in the Journalism Department, where I could Learn by Doing and form friendships.”

Jacob Winter
Renton, Washington
Winter and the Cal Poly Interfraternity Council team won the Best Inter-Fraternity Council in the West award at the 2018 Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values West Conference last April in San Diego. The “Best in the West - Jellison Award” recognizes outstanding performance in council management, philanthropy and community service, public relations, risk reduction and management, self-governance and judicial affairs in its division. Winter, a construction management senior, has served as the chief of staff of the Cal Poly Interfraternity Council as well as president of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, which annually raises $5,000 to $8,000 annually for the family of a 7-year-old boy battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “As Greek life can often be overlooked by others — especially those who weren’t Greek themselves — I am happy to be able to positively represent our organizations and the accomplishments we have achieved over the last several years,” said the 21-year-old. Greek life at Cal Poly includes 36 organizations with approximately 3,600 students — about one in six students on campus. Winter, who will graduate in June, plans to pursue a career as a project engineer at a Seattle-based general contractor.

Sabrina Yerena
San Francisco
Yerena, a second-year architecture major, and her Panhellenic Council team earned the title of “Best in the West” at the 2018 Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values West Conference held last April in San Diego. The council is the governing body of all 10 sororities at Cal Poly. Also known as the Sutherland Award, the honor recognized the council for its academic achievement, council management, leadership and educational development, membership recruitment, public relations, risk reduction management, self-governance and judicial affairs. The 20-year-old said it’s an honor to represent her college, the university and her organization, the United Sorority and Fraternity Council at the state house. The council helps to increase cultural awareness by members of Greek life in the community by presenting the ideals, voices and cultural awareness of underrepresented groups to the campus community. “As a council, we know the struggles we have gone through, especially being in a predominately white institution,” said Yerena, who serves as the council’s internal vice president. “We exist to give students of color a chance to be able to find their home away from home.” Yerena is a member of the Lambda Sigma Gamma multicultural sorority. She was attracted to Cal Poly because of the architecture program’s reputation for excellence. The Architecture Department ranked first in the nation among undergraduate programs in the 2014 DesignIntelligence survey of the best public and private degree programs in the U.S. In the past five years, Cal Poly has remained one of the top three undergraduate programs in the nation. Yerena plans to graduate in 2021.

Contact: Jay Thompson

February 7, 2019

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