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Annual Faculty and Staff Awards

Distinguished Teaching

Distinguished Teaching Awardees are recognized for their excellence in teaching, contributions to student engagement and achievement, innovative instruction and commitment to student success.

Eric Brussel

Portrait of Eric BrusselEric Brussel


Mathematics Department

Philip and Christina Bailey College of Science and Mathematics 

In Professor Eric Brussel’s mathematics courses, students are inspired by Brussel’s passion for the field and his desire to help them truly understand the concepts and larger implications of his lessons. Brussel is “not only extremely dedicated to his content, but in sharing the joy that his field brings him with all of his students,” wrote one student nominator. Brussel demonstrates high-level problems that mathematicians are currently trying to solve, encourages students to solve problems collaboratively, makes sure that they properly understand concepts and builds an environment in which asking larger questions is emphasized. Another student nominator wrote that Brussel “has helped me find a certain love for the field, a newfound want to pursue it further, and helped me see mathematics as an exciting new frontier.” Brussel shows genuine interest in the lives and hobbies of his students, spends time with students who are struggling academically and makes sure that they are not only able to solve the problems but also grasp concepts in a deep way. His students feel challenged in his classes and find real enjoyment from the nature and difficulty of the problems. As a nominator wrote, “The work that he assigns isn’t artificially difficult but requires students to step back and think about things from a new perspective — it has really caused me to think in a new way.”

Eric Brussel earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Scott Eagon

Portrait of Scott EgonScott Eagon

Associate Professor

Chemistry and Biochemistry Department

Philip and Christina Bailey College of Science and Mathematics

In Professor Scott Eagon’s organic chemistry classes, students appreciate Eagon’s help and support in navigating what can be challenging work. “Organic chemistry is notoriously a difficult subject, but I have never once walked out of Dr. Eagon's classroom feeling totally lost,” one student nominator wrote. “He uses multiple different examples and models to demonstrate concepts and is always willing to answer questions inside and outside of the classroom.” Another nominator added that Eagon “weaves in examples of how what we're learning applies to the real world to the point that I actually remember all of them, looked some up myself and went to office hours to discuss one example in more depth.” While the course material can be challenging, students are put at ease by Eagon’s friendly and positive demeanor and how he gets to know all of his students. “He truly is a wonderful teacher, and it is clear that helping students is something he really cares about and strives toward excellence in,” wrote a student nominator. “On the first day of class I walked in and Dr. Eagon already had all of our names and faces memorized,” wrote another. “Dr. Eagon has single handedly re-ignited my love for chemistry and faith that I actually can attend 8 a.m. classes,” a student nominator wrote. “Dr. Eagon has gotten me genuinely interested in the subject and has easily become my favorite professor I've ever had at Cal Poly.”

Scott Eagon earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Whitman College and a doctorate in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Emily Ryalls

Portrait of Emily RyallsEmily Ryalls

Associate Professor

Interdisciplinary Students in the Liberal Arts Department

College of Liberal Arts

In Professor Emily Ryalls’ classes in interdisciplinary studies, gender studies and media studies, she asks students to critique their prejudices, to question structures that normalize power and oppression and to make the world a better place. A student nominator wrote that Ryalls “is incredibly approachable and interactive when teaching and challenges us as students to think critically about intersectional injustices.” Another nominator wrote, “Dr. Ryalls is one of the best teachers I have ever had. She takes education to a different level, speaking about intersectional injustice in a way that us students can understand.” Another wrote, “As a teacher, she creates social change in the classroom, because she lectures about intersectional topics that most teachers may be intimidated by. I felt so inspired by her and what she does.” Students praise Ryalls for her honest approach in teaching about social justice and her charisma in the classroom. A student noted that she had learned more from Ryalls’ class than any other, and the class was the only one she does not take notes for. “This is because I am so enthralled with her teaching style that I am able to absorb information like never before,” the nominator wrote. “I am grateful to be in her class, and I wish more students could experience her teaching style.”

Emily Ryalls earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from James Madison University, a master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in communication studies from the University of South Florida.

Distinguished Scholarship

Distinguished Scholars exemplify the teacher-scholar model by involving students in their research and applying Cal Poly expertise in direct contributions to our region, state and nation.

Carlos Flores

Portrait of Carlos FloresCarlos Flores


Economics Area

Orfalea College of Business

Carlos Flores’ econometric work has raised the profile of the college and Cal Poly internationally in his 10 years at the university. The field of econometrics uses statistical methods and economic theory to estimate causal effects, model economic relationships and test economic hypotheses. The core set of tools he uses earned the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for three researchers — including two who were Flores’ advisors while at the University of California, Berkeley. He is expanding on what these econometric tools can do to better estimate causal effects, while simultaneously applying such methods to analyze questions in fields such as labor and health economics. Results have been published in top economic journals — 16 publications and a book (co-authored with his former doctoral student). The research is used across the globe to better evaluate government and institutional programs. Grants secured from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, as well as collaborations in projects with the Department of Labor and Inter-American Development Bank — the main source of financing for sustainable, social, economic and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean — underscore the impact his work has outside of Cal Poly. He folds the research into courses and in mentoring students. The Veracruz, Mexico, native has been part of the BEACoN and SURP programs, and one of his students earned second place in the Behavioral, Social Sciences, and Public Administration category at the 2021 CSU Research Competition. His students also have gone on to pursue doctoral programs in economics and publish in top econometrics journals.

Carlos Flores earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico, a master’s degree in statistics and his doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Seeta Sistla

Portrait of Seeta SistlaSeeta Sistla

Assistant Professor

Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science

Seeta Sistla is an emerging national leader in soil science who joined the college as a soil ecologist in 2019. Sistla’s scholarship focuses on understanding how land systems respond to environmental and management changes and how these responses can feed back to affect critical environmental processes like carbon sequestration. Since joining Cal Poly, Sistla has brought in over $1 million in grants funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture supporting diverse research projects that include investigating the ecological consequences of plastics in agriculture, solar array development in rangelands and arctic global change. Sistla collaborates with researchers from across the country and incorporates students from a diversity of backgrounds into research planning and implementation — ranging from conducting field work in far flung locales (the arctic) to collecting and synthesizing data on local issues (e.g., improving carbon sequestration in city greenbelts). The assistant professor has published 32 papers — about half as a Cal Poly faculty member — and four with undergraduate co-authors. She is proud to encourage students to recognize that they can become active contributors to environmental science research and solutions in an era of unprecedented change. 

Seeta Sistla earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, a master’s in ecology and evolutionary biology from the Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, through a joint program with the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and her doctorate in ecology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Clinton Francis

Portrait of Clinton FrancisClinton Francis

Associate Professor Biological Sciences Department

Philip and Christina Bailey College of Science and Mathematics

Since his arrival at Cal Poly in 2013, Clinton Francis has made a name for himself as an international leader in sensory ecology. He has garnered $3 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, National Park Service and NASA for studies on the impact of manmade sounds and street and building illumination on avian songbirds. The resulting three-score papers have appeared in the highest-ranked science journals — Nature and Science among them — as well as major media outlets that include The New York Times, The Atlantic and Scientific American. In addition, he received an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship to work with avian researchers in Germany during his sabbatical. Francis has mentored over 75 students, oversaw more than 30 senior projects and had 17 Cal Poly undergraduate and eight graduate students be first authors or co-authors on nine and 16 peer-reviewed publications, respectively. That student work has been recognized at dozens of regional, national and international conferences, and 15 of his undergraduate co-authors have gone on to graduate school. He currently is working with a postdoctorate fellow and has had several visiting researchers from abroad, confirming the national and international draw that his work elicits. 

Clinton Francis earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and Spanish from Pacific University in Oregon and a master’s degree and doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology, both from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Outstanding Staff

Outstanding Staff Award winners are selected based on their dedication, loyalty, expertise and contributions to Cal Poly.

Dennis Elliot

Dennis Elliot speaking at a podiumDennis Elliot

Executive Director of Facilities Operations

Facilities Management and Development

Dennis Elliot is recognized on campus and beyond as a transformational leader. For more than 35 years, his expertise has been critical to the construction and commissioning of new buildings and utility systems; energy and water conservation programs; renewable energy projects; zero waste programs and the campus's Climate Action Plan. Elliot helped found and still mentors Cal Poly's Green Campus Program of student peer educators; serves on the Academic Senate Sustainability Committee; and chairs the campus Sustainability Advisory Committee. As one nominator wrote, “It’s an understatement to say that Dennis knows the campus like the back of his hand. He knows nearly every heat exchanger, pump, fan and electrical sub-panel on campus.” Under his leadership, Cal Poly earned the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Gold rating and is one of the most energy- and resource-efficient campuses in the state, winning 35 awards for innovative energy efficiency and sustainability design. “It is not an exaggeration to say Dennis has saved Cal Poly millions of dollars over the course of his career,” wrote a colleague. Another said, “In my 40 years as a faculty member, I can't think of another person who has been as transformational for an institution as Dennis Elliot."

Dennis Elliot earned a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly.

Dana Matteson Seawell 

Portrait of Dana Matteson SeawellDana Matteson Seawell 

Director of Presidential Events and Protocol

Office of the President 

Dana Matteson Seawell is highly regarded by her colleagues for consistently displaying “selfless dedication and loyalty” and doing “whatever it takes to benefit Cal Poly.” One nominator wrote, “I cannot think of a more energetic or genuine representative of Cal Poly Pride than Dana.” A respected professional in every aspect of her job, Matteson Seawell takes initiative and finds ways to improve her performance. “As a result, the Office of the President is now more efficient and productive,” wrote a colleague. Matteson Seawell coordinates large campuswide events and outreach opportunities from which the entire campus community benefits. She has singlehandedly transformed routine campus gatherings into “gala quality” events. “The ease with which she handles literally hundreds of dinners, receptions and outreach efforts can only be achieved through her unparalleled efficiency and productivity,” wrote a nominator. Another said, “I cannot think of another person, co-worker or campus resource who is so willing — and enthusiastic — to assist.” Matteson Seawell is also known to be “open and calm and reassuring.” Said a colleague, “She has made her role the most inclusive and user-friendly resource on campus. Her open and collaborative nature has allowed her to develop positive and supportive relationships throughout the campus community and beyond.”

Dana Matteson Seawell earned a B.S. degree in recreation, parks and tourism administration from Cal Poly. 

Daniel Parsons

Portrait of Daniel ParsonsDaniel Parsons

Associate Registrar, Strategic Enrollment Management/Office of the Registrar

Daniel Parsons is a manager known as much for his accessibility and helpful manner as for creating accurate, reliable reports. Parsons is called upon to perform a variety of functions, often working long hours. “When faculty and staff reach out with questions, Daniel drops everything,” said a colleague. “His priority is taking care of the people that work for him and making sure that the processes and reports that the campus depends on are available, accurate and reliable.” Another nominator said, “He is incredibly smart and absorbs information quickly. What is even more impressive, he exemplifies the ability to understand the individual personalities of our teams. He knows when we need encouragement. He knows when we need praise. He knows when we need understanding.” Parsons is also known for his patience, guidance, integrity and honesty. “He is respectful and caring, and this makes for a healthy work culture where we are not only productive, but also happy,” said a colleague. “He has the professionalism that is required of his position, but he is also personable. He makes you feel comfortable.” 

As a supervisor, Parsons is especially mindful how he treats his team. “One of his true strengths is the relationships he forms with people,” wrote a nominator.

Daniel Parsons earned a B.A.A.S. degree in public administration from San Diego State University and an MPA from CSU, San Bernardino.

Outstanding Faculty Advisor

The Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award, established by the Academic Advising Council, recognizes one faculty member annually who has had a positive influence on students through academic advising.

Aubrie Adams

Portrait of Aubrie AdamsAubrie Adams

Assistant Professor, Communication Studies Department

College of Liberal Arts


“Aubrie (Brie) Adams best exemplifies the positive role faculty advisors have on students and their success,” said the 2022-23 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award Committee in their announcement. Students complimented her warm, caring approach, enthusiasm and mentorship — from life-changing recommendations to “the small things” that include quick responses to email queries or just checking in. “As a first-generation transfer student, coming to Cal Poly was terrifying,” one wrote. “Yet, the very first office hour … she made all the difference. Instantly, she inquired about my educational and personal goals. Over these past two years, she helped me work toward each of them.” And when it was time to consider graduate studies, Adams allayed her fears by helping her find programs and universities “fitting for me,” she wrote. Another described Adams as “someone I can feel comfortable bringing successes and challenges to.” Yet another said, “Dr. Brie” helped to focus her ideas about graduate work in four programs “of my choosing” at UC Santa Barbara. The student said Adams reviewed “my statements of purpose” while also “sharing her own experience, advice and feedback about the program and application process.” Adams, also a UCSB alumna, helped provide “points of contact at UCSB … and answered any and all questions I had about her experience in the program, including discussing faculty and research opportunities.” Adams joined the faculty in 2017. 

Brie Adams earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in communication studies at Sonoma State University and Sacramento State University, respectively. She earned her doctorate in communication studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Provost's Leadership Award for Partnership in Philanthropy

Federico Casassa

Portrait of Federico CasassaFederico Casassa

Associate Professor, Wine and Viticulture Department

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Since joining the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences in 2015, Federico Casassa has been a key faculty member in the Wine and Viticulture Department and an integral part of advancement efforts for the JUSTIN and J LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture and the department’s research program. As colleagues noted in his nomination, Casassa is “outstanding in teaching, research, outreach and service; holds multiple professional certifications in enology and viticulture; and is very externally focused.” In addition, two research articles from his laboratory have won "Best Paper of the Year" awards in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, considered the top journal in his field. Casassa maintains a high level of credibility, making him uniquely qualified to connect successfully with donors and industry partners. Casassa’s research has brought leading winemakers from the area to the college, and he has hosted numerous industry advisory council members and other potential donors and supporters for in-depth, immersive wine experiences in the JUSTIN and J LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture. Thanks to his outstanding reputation in the industry and expert advisement to a local winemaker, Casassa helped secure a $2 million donation to purchase a GC-mass spectrometer for wine analysis and experimental wine fermenters to help outfit and establish the advanced research fermentation lab and research winery at Cal Poly. He also serves on the planning committee for the largest viticulture and enology meeting in the world, the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, and sits on the board of directors of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture.

Federico Casassa earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomic engineering and master’s degree in viticulture and enology from Cuyo National University in Mendoza, Argentina, and a doctorate in food science, with a concentration in wine chemistry and wine sensory analysis, from Washington State University.

Learn by Doing Scholar Award

Nuestra Ciencia - Jasmine Nation and Alejandra Yep

Portrait of Jasmine Nation

Jasmine Nation

Assistant Professor

Liberal Studies Department

Philip and Christina Bailey College of Science and Mathematics

Portrait of Alejandra Yep

Alejandra Yep

Associate Professor

Biological Sciences Department

Philip and Christina Bailey College of Science and Mathematics

Project Title: Nuestra Ciencia

Jasmine Nation’s and Alejandra Yep’s Nuestra Ciencia (NC) project is a university-community partnership between Cal Poly and local bilingual elementary schools. College students teach biological concepts in Spanish to elementary students, highlighting the importance of asset-based bilingual instruction in science. The program tackles microbiology misconceptions at a young age, while simultaneously elevating undergraduates as STEM role models. Interdisciplinary Cal Poly student and faculty teams develop experiments and lessons and visit K-6 classrooms to lead activities in Spanish. Conversely, Cal Poly students also teach microbiology lessons in Spanish to students visiting from dual-language immersion elementary schools. NC focuses on documenting perceptions about science and scientists, Spanish language in science, and feelings of belonging to STEM in elementary and college students. Cal Poly students Learn by Doing as they distill complex microbiology concepts into scientifically accurate and engaging bilingual lessons. All materials are generated in English and Spanish, allowing them to be widely shared throughout the U.S. and globally. The reach is further enhanced by “A Day in the Life,” a TikTok series produced by undergraduates in which they describe — in Spanish — their majors and a typical day. They hope to expand their reach with a new YouTube channel, “Nuestra Ciencia te explica” (“Nuestra Ciencia explains”), featuring Cal Poly students explaining microbiology concepts. 

Jasmine Nation earned a B.A. degree in Spanish and Portuguese and a B.S. degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona and a doctorate in Education: Learning, Culture and Technology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Alejandra Yep earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in molecular biology and a doctorate in biological chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina