Fall Conference week
Cal Poly's week-long kick-off for the academic year includes sessions for faculty and staff, President Armstrong's keynote Convocation message as well as awards honoring excellence on campus.
September 13, 2021. Doors open at 2:15 p.m.
Emcee Keith Humphrey will begin the program at 2:30 p.m., which includes a keynote from President Armstrong as well as remarks from the ASI President, California Faculty Association (CFA) President, California State Universities Employees Union (CSUEU) President and Academic Senate Chair.
Provost Jackson-Elmoore will wrap up the afternoon by honoring distinguished Cal Poly faculty and staff.
We will be live-streaming this event for those that can't be with us in person.
2021 Convocation Program
Vice President for Student Affairs
Tess Loarie | ASI President
Tom Randall | CSUEU Labor Council President
Lewis Call | CFA SLO Chapter President
Thomas Gutierrez | Academic Senate Chair
Jeffrey D. Armstrong
Presentation of University Awards
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Performing Arts Center outdoor plaza beginning at 4 p.m.
Awards and Recipients
We are pleased to honor these exceptional members of our campus community.
2019-20 Award Winners
Distinguished Scholarship Award
- Foaad Khosmood
- Diana Stanton
- Scott Hazelwood
Outstanding Staff Award
- Christina Wolf-Chandler
- Kari Roose
- Jessica Hunter
Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award
- Nishi Rajakaruna
Learn by Doing Award
- Javin Oza
- Katharine Rose Watts
- Carmen Trudell
- Robert Arens
- Brian Osborn
Distinguished Teaching Awardees are recognized for their excellence in teaching, contributions to student engagement and achievement, innovative instruction and commitment to student success.
Computer Science and Software Engineering Department, College of Engineering
Aaron Keen is highly regarded as an effective teacher who is “extremely organized, very knowledgeable, adaptable in his teaching style and empathetic to student needs.” One student wrote, “Aaron Keen's teaching style is beyond exceptional. I took my first course with him during my third year and have jumped on every opportunity since to take others with him. Currently, I’m taking my third course with him.” Although he teaches difficult material, students find his lectures engaging and straightforward. “His teaching is great because he makes difficult concepts appear simple by breaking large concepts down into smaller, understandable parts. Dr. Keen is one of the most prepared and knowledgeable professors that I've had.” Students cite Keen’s ability to translate challenging course material into manageable, understandable concepts. “I've had late nights working on his projects, but they only help solidify my true understanding of the concepts that he teaches,” wrote a student. “I'm always surprised and proud of what I accomplished during Dr. Keen's courses.” Students also praise him as “genuine and kind.” One student wrote, “He cares about teaching to the best of his abilities and helping students learn what they need to. Cal Poly is very lucky to have him.” Keen was hired as an assistant professor in 2002. Six years later, he earned tenure and was promoted to associate professor. He was promoted to full professor in 2015.
Aaron Keen earned a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering and master's and doctorate degrees in Computer Science from the University of California, Davis.
History Department, College of Liberal Arts
Matthew Hopper is recognized as a passionate professor known for his “refreshingly unique and helpful” approach to the classroom. “With Professor Hopper, it’s hard to feel that the classes and work are only for a grade,” wrote a student. “Instead, he assigns research papers in a way that students feel they are contributing to the historical base of knowledge on a given subject.” Wrote another student, “He genuinely does his best to engage with students' ideas. There is no pretension.” Hopper enthusiastically involves students with his research projects and helps them with their own. “If a student is short on sources, Hopper gives them access to his private collection of historical sources,” wrote a student. “Or he'll help them find more through public databases or take the time to help students organize their thoughts into a coherent essay.” Students praise him for providing detailed, clear research guides and instructions, walking students through the research process, and encouraging students to visit his office for additional help. “He assigns difficult work, but he does a wonderful job helping students rise to the task,” wrote a student. Hopper gives students a sense of purpose. “The work we do is not meaningless,” wrote one. “We are actually contributing to the historical record.” Hopper joined the Cal Poly faculty as an assistant professor in 2006. He earned tenure and was promoted to associate professor in 2012 and full professor in 2016.
Matthew Hopper earned a bachelor's degree in History and Philosophy from Pepperdine University, a master's degree in History from Temple University, and a master's degree in African Area Studies and a doctorate in history from UCLA.
English Department, College of Liberal Arts
Brad Campbell, an associate professor of English, creates Learn by Doing experiences through creative class assignments and excursions that give his students a deeper understanding of the material — traveling to Big Sur and Monterey for his Literature and Landscape of the American West seminar, for example, to experience the landscape as John Steinbeck and Robinson Jeffers did. Campbell’s teaching and research interests include American and African American literature, environmental literature, transatlantic modernism, and the literature and history of madness. One student described him as a “once-in-a-lifetime” type of professor, “that rare educator who somehow expands your view of the world and subtly shapes you into a more understanding, empathetic and educated individual.” Campbell creates an inclusive, respectful space for intellectual inquiry, allowing students to engage in difficult discussions over complex texts. “Incredibly eloquent and insightful, he has a remarkable ability to lead students to a clearer, more fully developed understanding of their own ideas,” the student nominator wrote. “Dr. Campbell creates a more honest and more challenging intellectual environment in his classroom. He does not expect students to have all the answers, but he does expect students to actively participate in the search for meaning.”
Brad Campbell holds a bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s College and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Philosophy Department, College of Liberal Arts
Philosophy Professor Francisco Fernflores challenges students by connecting science and philosophy through real-word examples, crafting lectures that appeal to philosophy majors as well as STEM majors taking his courses. Fernflores’ professional interests include philosophy of physics, logic, Latin American, Latinx, Chicanx, and Mexican philosophy. He has recently taught a seminar on epistemic injustices and is currently leading an undergraduate research project on Latinx, Chicanx and Mexican philosophy that will inform his upcoming course in this area. As Fernflores guides students through unpacking difficult material, he dedicates time to ensuring they understand the content, encouraging students to stay after class or attend office hours if they have any questions. “Professor Fernflores has a natural care to see the success of his students day in and day out,” one student nominator wrote. In spring 2020, as the pandemic and stay-at-home orders continued and massive protests against racial injustice followed the murder of George Floyd, Fernflores led his class in a discussion of current events. “The ensuing discussion was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed and taken part in at Cal Poly,” the student wrote. “Professor Fernflores took on the role of a mediator and gave us the floor to discuss what had been building in our minds. It was cathartic, uplifting, and showed me that this professor was more than happy to see how his students could learn by contributing and lift their voices to be equal.”
Francisco Fernflores holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and physics from the University of Toronto, Canada, and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Biological Sciences Department, College of Science and Mathematics
Jenn Yost, associate professor in the Biological Sciences Department, exemplifies Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing mission as she teaches students to tear plants to pieces to understand the intricacies of their design, climbs on a table to act out the difference of decussate versus distichous (types of leaf arrangements), and celebrates the student's “plant find-of-the-day.” She leads students into the wild places of California, hiking, camping, cooking, and doing belly-botany to see the small details of nature. While teaching her Field Botany course virtually due to COVID-19, Yost quickly adapted. “It became clear that her purpose as an instructor in the middle of a pandemic was not to add stress to her students’ lives but to create a community (through Zoom) where thoughts, feelings and ideas could be fostered in a safe space through the Zoom screen,” a student nominator wrote. Yost’s research interests include botany, plant evolution, and climate change effects on flowering times for California’s flora. She studies local rare plants and is the director of the Cal Poly Hoover Herbarium. “Her classes are always challenging,” the student wrote. “The material itself is not easy, but she breaks it down into easily conceptual material. She often challenges her students to think beyond the material presented and to ask questions about the world around us.”
Jenn Yost holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal Poly and a doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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.
Associate Professor, Enology & Sensory Analysis
Wine and Viticulture Department, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
Federico Casassa brought his passion for wine and curiosity about the science of growing and harvesting grapes to Cal Poly’s Wine and Viticulture Department in 2015, the same year that the 14-acre campus vineyard was replanted and transformed into a teaching and production vineyard and small pilot winery. Casassa has helped establish the department — the nation’s largest undergraduate program with 300 students — as a key research hub in California. Over the past six years his research has spawned 19 manuscripts, two book chapters and more than 30 conference proceedings. His work with students has been singled out: Seven of his published papers list his graduate students as co-authors. Casassa has overseen 46 senior projects, with 27 of these students conducting research projects he supervised, and nine who have also published work from research under his guidance that now work at world-renowned wineries. He has secured nearly $550,000 in grants supporting undergraduate and graduate student research. Casassa has helped burnish Cal Poly’s reputation through 40 wine industry presentations and workshops in the U.S. and internationally. His outreach to the wine industry has helped Cal Poly become a major player in investigating best practices and new frontiers in the industry. He earned his doctorate in food science from Washington State University in 2013.
Frederico Casassa earned master’s and undergraduate degrees in viticulture and enology from the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina, in 2007 and 2004 respectively.
Stephen F. Hamilton
Stephen F. Hamilton
Orfalea College of Business
Stephen Hamilton has stood out as a teacher-scholar in agricultural and resource economics and in public policy and as an internationally recognized leader in environmental economics since his arrival at Cal Poly in 2004. He served as Economics Department chair from 2005-2017 and from 2016-2019 as director of graduate studies for the quantitative economics master’s program. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles on improving economic outcomes for renewable energy, climate change policies and material waste at such leading journals, as the American Economic Review, RAND Journal of Economics, Journal of International Economics, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, and the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. He secured $5 million in grants at Cal Poly and uses this funding to involve student researchers. He has 13 publications with student co-authors. Results of his studies have brought international recognition to Cal Poly through his presentations at economic association meetings, in keynote addresses at prominent international conferences and his work on the editorial boards of prominent journals. His research earned the Atlas Award from Elsevier Science Press for research with a social impact in 2018, and the Quality of Research Discovery Award from the European Association of Agricultural Economists in 2020. Hamilton received his doctorate in agricultural and resource economics from UC Berkeley in 1996, and a master’s there in 1994.
Stephen Hamilton earned dual bachelor's of science degrees in economics and environmental studies from UC Santa Barbara in 1991.
School of Education, College of Science and Mathematics
Briana Ronan joined Cal Poly’s School of Education at the start of the 2014-15 school year teaching in the Multiple Subject credential and Spanish Authorization for Bilingual Educators (SABE) programs. Her research focuses on culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogies for emergent bilingual students. She has published in several peer-reviewed journals, edited volumes and presented annually with Cal Poly students at academic conferences. She is principal investigator of the Teaching for Inclusivity and Equity Residency (TIER) program, which funds and trains K-12 Bilingual and Special Education teachers to serve in the Santa Maria and Lucia Mar school districts. The program is funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, as co-PI on the 2018 Teacher Quality Reform grant, Ronan works with colleagues in the School of Education to recruit and support future educators from underrepresented groups. “Dr. Ronan is dedicated to uplifting the perspectives and experiences of teacher candidates of color enrolled in teacher credential programs at Cal Poly,” wrote one such student nominator. Alongside fellow members of the Central Coast Coalition for Undocumented Student Success, she co-organizes the annual Central Coast Social Justice Education Conference. The award review committee said her scholarship elevates the education of emergent bilinguals, addresses a key societal problem through collaboration with local schools and improves communities throughout the Central Coast.
Briana Ronan holds her bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from The University of Texas at Austin. She earned a master’s in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from the University of Alcalá near Madrid, and her doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2014.
Outstanding Staff Award winners are selected based on their dedication, loyalty, expertise and contributions to Cal Poly.
Executive Director, Emergency Management
Public Safety, Administration and Finance
Anthony Knight is credited with leading a highly effective team to plan and coordinate Cal Poly’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is known for thinking and planning ahead, qualities that served him well as he began monitoring the pandemic in the middle of January 2020. In March, he fully activated the Emergency Operations Center, working countless hours to steer efforts in planning and responding to the pandemic. This included the creation of myriad task forces to: provide virtual learning and technology support; develop isolation and quarantine plans; conduct COVID testing; create a distribution strategy to provide personal protective equipment to faculty, staff and students; determine how employees can safely return to work; support the county’s alternate care site at the ASI Recreation Center; and consult with other universities on best practices. Throughout the pandemic, Knight coordinated with San Luis Obispo County and the state on response strategies. “Since Day One, he has performed selfless acts of assistance to ensure all members of our department are supported in anything they need, regardless of whether it is related to emergency management. He makes sure that Public Safety and the campus have whatever they need to succeed,” said a colleague.
Anthony Knight is a graduate of the National Emergency Management Executive Academy and U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy.
Operations Manager, Catering Concessions and Mobile Food Concepts
Cal Poly Corporation, Campus Dining
Cynthia Stocker is described as a dedicated, loyal, highly productive staff member with a willingness to assist anyone in need. Early in 2020, while she was overseeing catering, food trucks and concessions, the department recorded its highest sales and best customer-service ratings ever. Then COVID hit, literally canceling all events. Stocker had to quickly pivot to create a system to feed COVID-positive students in quarantine and isolation. She and her team personally delivered meals, making students feel comfortable and helping them understand the process. Her empathy often translated into late hours to ensure students in isolation had the nutrition they needed, regardless of the time of day. At the peak of students in isolation, Stocker worked seven days a week to prepare and deliver meals. “She frequently returned to campus after heading home to make sure students had meals for that evening,” said a colleague. “She stepped up at a most needed time and has proved what it means to be Cal Poly Proud,” said another. Stocker plays a major role in some of the biggest events on campus, such as Evening of Green and Gold, WOW, and commencement, working collectively with a wide range of people to deliver great events and experiences.
Cynthia Stocker earned a bachelor's degree in home economics from Cal Poly in 1988.
Interim Associate Registrar
University Scheduling, Office of the Registrar
Michele Kekaha is recognized for her expertise and for making herself available any time, any day to ensure faculty, staff and students encounter a seamless class registration process. During her nearly 14 years on campus, Kekaha has become the “go to” expert on PeopleSoft Student Administration modules and the campus Master Calendar. Always looking to streamline processes and make systems more user friendly, Kekaha trains department schedulers and advisors on 25 Live, Schedule Builder and CLSS (Course Leaf Section Scheduler) scheduling software systems. She is a member of multiple campus working groups, including the University Strike Team, a hand-selected group of key employees seeking to improve and increase lecture space for additional course offerings to benefit students’ time to progress toward degree. She launched Cal Poly’s Master Calendar tool, 25Live, which dramatically expanded campus space accessibility and availability for events. She implemented the new class scheduling tool CLSS, replacing a much more cumbersome process. Kekaha took over the task of first-year block scheduling, which creates schedules for all 4,500-plus first-time freshmen their first year at Cal Poly. “If asked, she will drop what she is going to help you with any project,” said a colleague.
Michele Kekaha earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural business with a concentration in marketing from Cal Poly 2011 in and a master’s in agriculture with a specialization in recreation, parks and tourism management from Cal Poly in 2014.
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.
Associate Professor, Spanish and Applied Linguistics
World Languages and Culture Department, College of Liberal Arts
Silvia Marijuan, an associate professor of Spanish and applied linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts, also serves as a world languages single subject credential advisor and faculty leader for the Cal Poly Global Summer Program in Spain. In her advising statement, she articulates her commitment to student success, which stems from her own experience as a first-generation university student. “Mentors and advisors were crucial in helping me achieve my goals,” she said. “As a professor, I strive to give back and help students like me — underrepresented and first-generation students — navigate a system that might seem scary and stressful, especially at the beginning, reaching out to them when I see them struggle and consistently communicating my support. Being a mentor and advisor, for me, means cultivating both a growth mindset and a sense of belonging. Having a growth mindset entails being resilient, and we have all learned a lot about resilience during the pandemic. A sense of belonging has to do with knowing that our feelings and perspectives are heard, listened to, and valued, and that we are recognized in decision-making processes.” Marijuan said working with students on research has been especially rewarding, as she introduces them to different research methodologies and tries to inspire a love for science. “In every case, I do everything I can to ensure that everyone I work with has the best educational experience possible,” she said.
Silvia Marijuan holds a Licenciatura en Letras from the University of Buenos Aires and master’s and doctorate degrees in Spanish Applied Linguistics from Georgetown University.