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Former Amazon Employee to Lead Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Cal Poly

Tod Nelson, an entrepreneur and former Amazon employee, has been appointed the first executive director of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE). Nelson, who begins his post July 1, will be responsible for representing the CIE to its supporters and alumni while building relationships with the local entrepreneurial community to bolster the program’s growth. “Tod’s extensive industry experience and passion for student success puts him in the perfect position to lead the CIE,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “The CIE is Learn by Doing in action, and its programs energize the entire campus.” Nelson began his career at Amazon in 1995 as one of the company’s first 10 employees. During his tenure, he led the launch of Amazon Music and Video in Germany and worked on the launch teams of Amazon Music and Video in the U.S. As a business consultant, Nelson has spent many years helping new companies navigate through the start-up phase and develop e-commerce and social media marketing strategies. Recently, Nelson has been closely involved with the CIE as the entrepreneur in residence at the on-campus incubator, the Hatchery, and as a lead mentor for the CIE’s student programs. Nelson has also taught introductory entrepreneurship courses in Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business. Read more on Nelson and the CIE.

Cal Poly Removes Prime Ag Land from Development Consideration as Campus Master Plan Process Proceeds

Cal Poly has announced that it will no longer consider development of nearly 43 acres of prime agricultural land just west of its campus core, as the university proceeds with the two-year process of updating its campus master plan. The land in question, much of which is classified Class 1 farmland, had to this point been listed in master plan documents among many possible sites for future development of university housing and other campus infrastructure. The acreage is used now for lemons, grapevines, mandarin oranges, a deciduous orchard and silage for the university’s livestock. It is located along the western entrance to campus, west of Highway 1 and Mt. Bishop Road and just north and south of Highland Drive. “This is the right decision to maintain the high level of our Learn by Doing agriculture education,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “We have heard from our students, our faculty members, and our alumni and industry friends on this issue in recent weeks, and their voices have been unanimous: This land must be maintained for our ag programs.” Find out more.

Cal Poly Students Help Develop Digital Platform for Government Watchdogs

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former state Sen. Sam Blakeslee launched Digital Democracy, a pioneering online and interactive platform that merges cutting-edge technologies to help close the knowledge gap between well-financed groups and small advocacy organizations, giving individuals the tools to transform the relationship between citizens and their government. Developed by students at the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly, Digital Democracy uses voice and facial recognition, data mining and natural language processing to offer Californians access to state legislative hearings with a Google-like search, and allows users to identify key Capitol players and their connections to campaigns, interest groups and other legislative actions. “Technology has radically changed the way society interacts, but government is on the cutting edge of 1973. All of this only increases the gap between people and government,” said Newsom. “Digital Democracy gives citizens the keys to unlock Capitol corridors and assess facts in a way that they can be part of the process of governing again.” Blakeslee said the online resource will open up government. “Right now it is a very closed place, and the public is largely not able to see what happens, unless they are attending legislative committee hearings in person,” said IATPP’s founding director and a former senator from San Luis Obispo County. “With this powerful new platform, Californians will be able to see exactly what people are saying as state laws are being written.” More on Digital Democracy

Voters Show Strong Bipartisan Support for Government Transparency Reform

The Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy (IATPP) at Cal Poly released a statewide poll of 800 likely voters that tested the public’s appetite for reforms that advance transparency in California. Five reform proposals were tested by IATPP, led by director and former state senator Sam Blakeslee. Republican polling firm SmithJohnson Research, together with Democratic polling firm Tulchin Research, conducted the poll and found 90 percent of California Republicans, Democrats and Independents support reforms that make state government more transparent and accountable. “It is clear that the public wants information, and they want it presented in a way that is quick and easy to find, understand and act upon,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, an IATPP advisory board member. “And with the array of political reforms introduced and supported by the Legislature last year, I believe there’s appetite for change in Sacramento too.” Even with record-breaking lows in voter turnout during the November 2014 election, voters’ support for each of the proposed reforms was strong, ranging between 82 percent and 90 percent. More on Survey

Cal Poly Unveils Future Enrollment Proposals as Part of Master Plan Update

Cal Poly has released conceptual maps and enrollment growth possibilities for campus development as part of the master planning process the university began last fall. The master plan will set the locations, sizes and types of land use and facilities needed to support the university’s learn-by-doing mission. The information and maps under consideration are simply ideas and concepts. They do not represent specific proposals. The university will continue to engage the community and solicit input regarding the various concepts, including during two public open houses to be held in May. “We are sharing conceptual maps as part of our ongoing effort to engage the community in our master plan process,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong. “The maps show a number of options and potential concepts for development that we want to discuss with the campus and broader community.” Future enrollment demands are driving the master plan. The university encourages additional community engagement in this process and invites anyone who is interested to attend the open house forums on May 7, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Kennedy Library Atrium on campus and May 9, from 10 a.m. to noon, at San Luis Obispo City-County Library, 995 Palm St. More on Master Plan

Cal Poly’s Open House 2015 Set for April 16-18

Cal Poly Open House — the annual campus showcase for students, their supporters, alumni and the San Luis Obispo community — will take place April 16-18, 2015. The 22nd annual event, themed “This is the Mustang Nation,” will give attendees an opportunity to explore the enriching aspects of the Learn by Doing philosophy at Cal Poly, one of the nation’s top polytechnic universities, while sampling life in San Luis Obispo, which media mogul Oprah Winfrey dubbed America’s Happiest Town in 2011. The three-day event begins Thursday, April 16, for all prospective students and their parents and supporters with a Club Preview Night at Farmers’ Market on five blocks of Higuera Street in downtown San Luis Obispo.Admitted Students’ Preview Day on Friday, April 17, helps incoming students learn about Cal Poly degree programs and courses, hear from the leaders of the university’s six colleges, and meet faculty, staff and current students. More on Open House

Cal Poly and Santa Maria-Bonita School District Receive $1.8 Million Math Education Grant

Cal Poly and the Santa Maria-Bonita School District received a $1.8 million California Mathematics and Science Partnership grant from the state Department of Education to fund a program aimed at improving elementary and middle school student achievement in mathematics.With this funding, Cal Poly will offer a three-year mathematics development program for local teachers called Central Coast STEM Institutes. The program will help teachers develop a curriculum that links mathematics to the real world."What we're trying to do is adapt the Cal Poly model of Learn by Doing into mathematics units for third- through eighth-grade teachers," said Kate Riley, a mathematics professor at Cal Poly who will lead the program.Over the course of three years, 76 teachers from the district will receive substantial instruction in mathematics content and best teaching practices. They will partner with Cal Poly education and mathematics faculty members to construct curriculum modules — a group of lessons that include a hands-on activity — for example, creating scale architectural models to understand ratios and proportions. The curriculum modules will also align with the new Common Core State Standards. More on grant

Cal Poly’s Warren J. Baker Center Receives LEED Gold Certification

Cal Poly’s Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics — the second largest building on campus — has been awarded gold for being green. The 189,000-square-foot structure, which opened for classes in September 2013, earned LEED gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council earlier in January. LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is the national benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Certification means a building has met rigorous standards for sustainability, water and energy efficiency, resource selection and environmental quality. The designation brings the number of LEED-certified projects on the Cal Poly campus to four, representing nearly 30 percent of the campus’ 6 million square feet of building space. “We planned and designed the building for LEED certification and were reasonably confident that gold was accessible,” said Philip S. Bailey, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. “What a joy to have it confirmed.” More on LEED

Parsons Vice President to Serve as Visiting Cybersecurity Center Director

Cal Poly and Parsons today announced that William J. “Bill” Britton, Parsons vice president for Cyber Strategy, will serve as the visiting director of Cal Poly’s Cybersecurity Center. In this role, Britton will be responsible for leading Cal Poly’s cyber initiative into a nationally prominent center that includes educational, research, outreach, and partnering activities. “Parsons is pleased that one of our top cybersecurity experts will be partnering with Cal Poly surrounding its initiative to become the leading supplier of cybersecurity professionals,” said Chuck Harrington, Parsons’ chairman and CEO. “Bill has more than 30 years of national security experience within both government and industry, and his sole purpose for the next two years will be to focus on Cal Poly’s cyber initiative and to help move it into the future.” The goals of Cal Poly’s cyber initiative—which includes hardware and software, facilities, and curriculum development—are to produce qualified graduates in computer science with a cybersecurity specialization as well as to educate them in advanced engineering, science, and business applications of cyber technologies and systems. The initiative is also aimed at preparing students for service in support of the national defense industry and intelligence community as well as for advanced study and applied research.
More on Britton's appointment

Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy Secures $1.2 million grant

The Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at Cal Poly was awarded $1.2 million in support of the Digital Democracy open government platform that will allow the institute to convert video of California legislative hearings into accurate and searchable transcripts that are freely available to the public. “State and local issues have become increasingly significant in today’s gridlocked federal government,” said Kelli Rhee, vice president of venture development at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which awarded the grant. “Digital Democracy provides the tools and information needed to search and follow relevant statehouse legislation, allowing the public to better understand how state policy decisions are being made.” Digital Democracy unlocks an entirely new data source: the full text of negotiations, debates and exchanges occurring within California’s Capitol. Until now, this information has not been available to the public, despite the fact that California’s 120 full-time lawmakers introduce an average of 5,000 bills each legislative session. More on the grant

Cal Poly announces holiday campus closure

Although no classes are in session, Cal Poly will be closing for end-of-the-year holidays. The campus will be closed Wednesday, Dec. 24, through Friday, Dec. 26. Campus is open Monday, Dec. 29, but will close New Year’s Day, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, and reopen Friday, Jan. 2. Emergency services will remain open. Winter classes begin Monday, Jan. 5

Cal Poly’s City & Regional Planning Graduate Program Ranked No. 2 in U.S.

Cal Poly’s City & Regional Planning graduate program was ranked No. 2 in the nation for 2015 by Planetizen, an information exchange for the urban planning, design and development community. The ranking is for graduate programs at institutions that do not offer a doctorate degree. The ranking is part of the fourth edition of the “Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs,” which ranks the top 25 programs nationally. Among all programs, including those with doctorate degrees, Cal Poly was ranked No. 21 in the nation. More on the ranking

Cal Poly’s Barry Williams Appointed to California Architects Board

Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. named Cal Poly faculty member Barry Williams to the California Architects Board. The board regulates the examination and licensing of architects as part of its mission to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. “The position on the board will provide me with the opportunity to strengthen the dialogue between the educational and professional practice sides of architecture,” said Williams, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from the university. He has been a lecturer for the Architecture Department for more than 35 years and has been a member of the College of Architecture & Environmental Design Board since 2006, currently serving as the vice president. His term on the state architects board ends June 30, 2018. More on the appointment

Cal Poly, Professor Earn High Ranks for Research in Accounting Education, Ethics

Cal Poly ranked No. 32 overall for research in accounting education and accounting professor Steven Mintz ranked No. 41 for scholars publishing in accounting education since 2008, according to recent survey in the journal Issues in Accounting Education. The top industry research journals were surveyed to establish ranking for universities and scholars with the greatest contributions to the discipline. Some 1,600 universities across the nation were surveyed including Bentley, Baylor, San Diego State, Ohio State University and Cal Poly. Mintz, who teaches in the n the Orfalea College of Business, ranked No. 5 for coauthor-adjusted articles in business-ethics journals and No. 2 for specific accounting ethics journals. The research also ranked him No. 7 for his research in sole-authored publications and No. 4 for co-authored publications. More on the rankings

Cal Poly Pledges to Help Expand College Access at White House Event
University President Jeffrey D. Armstrong Attends Washington, D.C., Summit

Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong joined President Obama, the First Lady, Vice President Biden and hundreds of other university presidents and higher education leaders today to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college. The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support President Obama’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment. Participants were asked to commit to new actions relating to: building networks of colleges focused on promoting completion; creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness; investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative; and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More on the White House initiatives

Cal Poly Fall 2014 Commencement Set for December 13

Approximately 835 students are eligible to graduate in three ceremonies at Cal Poly’s fall commencementSaturday, Dec. 13. Ceremonies are set for 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the main gymnasium in the ASI Recreation Center. A few new elements will be integrated into the fall commencement ceremonies, including a retrospective slideshow of the graduating students during the processional, the “proud pinning” ceremony, and a celebratory surprise. In addition, a large LED screen will be set up to project the ceremony for all guests to see. The ceremony will be live streamed online with closed captioning for those unable to attend. More on Fall 2014 Commencement

Orfalea College Names Assistant Dean for Advancement and External Relations

Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business recently named Mary Kelting as the college’s new assistant dean for advancement and external relations. Kelting will oversee the college’s communications and fundraising efforts in addition to growing the Dean’s Advisory Council with Dean Scott Dawson. Kelting formerly served for more than two years as the director of development for the university’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE). She was instrumental in building significant financial and community support for the CIE as it introduced new programs. She also successfully rallied a network of entrepreneurs who have supported and advised the CIE and its student entrepreneurs to achieve notable success. More on Mary Kelting

Cal Poly Mustang Mascot Name Honors Past President Margaret Chase

Cal Poly has chosen a name for its live mustang mascot: Chase. This name will be the ceremonial title under which all current and future members of the Cal Poly Mustang Herd will serve the university. The name honors a pivotal figure in Cal Poly history: Margaret Chase, the university’s second president and the only woman so far to hold the post. Chase served on an interim basis for one year, 1924, between the resignation of Nicholas Riccardi and the appointment of Benjamin Crandall. Her impact on the university, though, lasted much longer. Chase came to Cal Poly in 1908 as a member of the English faculty. Under Riccardi, she served as vice president and head of the Academic Department — a position similar to today’s provost, the university’s No. 2 job. In that role, she was instrumental in securing Cal Poly’s accreditation from the University of California. Catherine Trujillo, a curator at Cal Poly’s Robert E. Kennedy Library and the mother of a Cal Poly freshman, submitted the winning entry. She was inspired by two connotations of the word. “It is a metaphor to encourage our community of scholars to always pursue and chase after their dreams,” she said in her submission. “It is also a throwback to our campus history and the powerful women who helped Cal Poly become what it is today.” More on Chase

Cal Poly Adds $1.4 Billion to Region’s Economy, New Study Shows

Cal Poly contributes more than $1.4 billion to the economy of San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara counties, according to a new analysis prepared for the university. “Cal Poly is a vital and positive economic force on the Central Coast,” said university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “It is one of the region’s top employers and most stable employers, helping the area weather economic downturns.” According to the study, Cal Poly students also contribute to the community’s economic vitality. Not only do the more than 19,000 students purchase goods and services from local businesses, they also pay more than $11 million in local taxes while providing more than $2 million in volunteer labor to a host of nonprofit organizations from Paso Robles to Santa Maria. The university “plays a key role in generating, developing and stabilizing the region’s economy,” said the report, which analyzed Cal Poly’s contributions to the region based on economic data collected in the 2012-13 fiscal year. The 60-page study was conducted by San Luis Obispo-based Productive Impact LLC. To read the full report, visit More on the economic study

Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer Pledge $20 Million to Cal Poly — Largest Cash Gift in University’s History

Cal Poly has announced the largest cash gift ever received by the university, a $20 million donation by Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer to the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences. Their gift will be used to build critical new facilities for the college and modernize many of the existing teaching units in the Animal Science Department. The Oppenheimers will also continue to support areas of ongoing need, such as the Cal Poly Scholars program, as well as the university’s meal voucher program and the new Food Pantry to help alleviate hunger on campus.  More on the Oppenheimers' gift

Cal Poly Set to Update Master Plan for Future Campus Development

Cal Poly announced it is preparing to update its plan for developing the campus over the next 20 years to meet student educational needs and the local, state and regional demand for its graduates. The university is beginning a two-year process to update the campus master plan, which will determine physical needs and guide future development of the lands, circulation systems and facilities necessary to support the university’s Learn by Doing mission.   The master plan update process will include extensive engagement of the campus and San Luis Obispo communities and numerous opportunities for public input and involvement. In addition to scheduling several events to encourage public involvement, the university has established community and campus advisory committees. The six committees include a cross section of campus and community representatives and will provide thoughts, ideas and input related to policy direction.The public is invited to attend two initial public workshops to discuss and learn more about the master plan process on Wednesday, Nov. 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kennedy Library atrium on campus and on Saturday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ludwick Community Assembly Room, 864 Santa Rosa St., in San Luis Obispo.  More on the Master Plan

Cal Poly Shares $1 Million Grant to Fund Citizen Science Astronomy Research

Cal Poly and the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., have received a $1 million collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation to continue a citizen-scientist astronomy project in rural communities in the Western U.S. stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. More than 40 towns along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges and down the Colorado River will receive telescopes and training through the grant. The towns in this second phase of the project will join 13 pilot communities to form the Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network (RECON). Scientists John Keller, a Cal Poly physics professor, and planetary scientist Marc Buie will lead the network of teachers, students and amateur astronomers in measuring the sizes of Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) — large, frozen bodies that orbit the sun in the outer region of the solar system. “This project is an innovative and exciting opportunity for students and community members from across the Western U.S. to directly contribute to our understanding of the Kuiper Belt,” said Keller. More on the grant

Landscape Architecture Students Get National Award for Orphanage Project

A team of Cal Poly landscape architecture students has received a national award of excellence for a playground they designed and built at a South African orphanage. The 5,000-square-foot project was honored in the community service category of the 2014 American Society of Landscape Architects Student Awards competition. It was one of only three awards of excellence given out in the annual competition that attracted more than 500 entries from 77 universities across the nation. The awards will be presented at ASLA’s annual meeting in Denver on Nov. 24. “In a year where the jury loved everything that was awarded in this category, this undergraduate team’s project stood out,” says an article in this month’s edition of Landscape Architecture Magazine. “The play space, designed and built for the 350 children in the Ratang Bana orphanage in Alexandria Township, South Africa, is also an open space resource for the whole community.” The team included students Michael Aguas, Alex Clark, Andrew Elias, Alex Henige, Ryan Higginbotham, Alix Kidwell, Joanne Mark, Amanda McCaulley, Erica Monson, Rachel SantaOlalla, Nick Tuttle, Tony Webster, Ryan Higginbotham and Julianna Wild. Professor David J. Watts, interim chair of the Cal Poly’s Landscape Architecture Department, organized the project and traveled to South Africa with the students.
More on the award